April 9th, 2008

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Robert Hass

Robert Hass is one of my favorite poets and people, so I am thrilled he won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

Here is just one of his poems I treasure.

A Story about the Body

The young composer, working that summer at an artist’s colony, had watched her for a week. She was Japanese, a painter, almost sixty, and he thought he was in love with her. He loved her work, and her work was like the way she moved her body, used her hands, looked at him directly when she mused and considered answers to his questions. One night, walking back from a concert, they came to her door and she turned to him and said, “I think you would like to have me. I would like that too, but I must tell you that I have had a double mastectomy,” and when he didn’t understand, “I’ve lost both my breasts.” The radiance that he had carried around in his belly and chest cavity-like music-withered quickly, and he made himself look at her when he said, “I’m sorry I don’t think I could.” He walked back to his own cabin through the pines, and in the morning he found a small blue bowl on the porch outside his door. It looked to be full of rose petals, but he found when he picked it up that the rose petals were on top; the rest of the bowl-she must have swept the corners of her studio-was full of dead bees.

Robert Hass

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Spreading the word -

Steve Lareau has a blog on Live Journal.  He is requesting that everyone post the following.   Reading his words might save your life or the life of someone you know.   Note the symptoms.   Listen to what he says and respond.  http://hilltop.livejournal.com/

Steve Lareau:

If ONE of you had known this, and mentioned to ME that I should get it checked out after mentioning I was clogged up, I'd never be going through what I'm going through right now.

I cannot stress this enough- you can save someone's life, or at least, prolong their life by passing on this bit of information that SHOULD be common knowledge.

Since I was diagnosed with COPD, and talking about it here, a friend of mine read the things I found out, she read up on it, realized she had a lot of the same symptoms, she saw the doc, and she's been diagnosed with it.


If you only post one thing, post the following sentence.

Ignoring lung congestion, from any cause, can shorten, and eventually end, your life. It can cause lung failure. See a doctor, or do research on COPD.

COPD isn't a disease you get, then develop symptoms of congestion. Lung congestion can CAUSE your lungs to begin the long process of self destruction if it goes on for a while unchecked.

If you never read another thing from me, let this be the one thing you read and pass along.
Reading this, you will find information that might save someone's life, or your own.
Then, repost this information.
This information is important to know. A simple thing most people ignore can shorten your life.

I learned recently that my life is going to be cut short, and aside from a lung transplant, there's not a damned thing anyone can do for it.
If I had known what I'm about to tell you a couple of years ago, I might have avoided this entirely.
I talked about it here, this shortness of breath following leaf blowing two falls ago.
I chalked it up to nothing more than dust and leaf mold, then allergies.
Actually, that is what happened.
What I didn't know is that by ignoring a simple thing like this lung crud, my life is now being cut short, and let me tell you, I'm freaking out, as this is a really screwed up way to die.

If nothing else takes me out first, I'm going to eventually drown. Or stop breathing in my sleep. Or suffer a heart attack due to lack of oxygen. As it is now, I sneezed this afternoon, and saw stars. I've gotten light headed trying to cough to clear up my lungs. Any exertion I do is risky, if I go overboard, I could easily pass out. I literally can't get enough oxygen to my brain to stay awake. I now risk serious problems if I come into contact with someone with the flu, or a cold. If I get caught by someone close by with excessive perfume or cologne, I'm in trouble. I started to clear out a box that has been in the garage today, and it was dusty. I had to stop. I can't breathe dust, and I'm concerned about the pollen in the air this year. The doc said this will be one of the worst springs in years. I now own a "rescue inhaler" and have to have it with me at all time. I also need to pick up a couple of epinepherine pens. With the allergies to bee stings and nuts, it's now more dangerous with fried lungs.

This is now the reality I'm stuck with. A new clock has started ticking, and now it's all a matter of time.

What you need to know, and what you need to tell everyone you know, is this.
A simple thing like dust in the lungs, or an allergic reaction to pollen or whatever, can lead to death if you don't get it checked out.
If you wheeze or feel congested for more than a week or two, see a doctor, because ignoring it can, and will, eventually kill you.

I didn't know.
It was just wheezing, being an asthmatic as a kid, so what, I'm an ex smoker, so I'm wheezy, big deal.
By putting off seeing a doctor for this, it could have been halted before damage was done, damage that, from now on, will increase, eventually leading to an early end.

I have COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), a touch of asthma, and emphysema.

My grandfather died from it, my father is dying from it, I found out my Mother had it, and my brother has it, and now I have it. It's hereditary. But it's also caused by smoking, exposure to nasty chemicals, or ignoring a simple case of lung crud. With me, it's a combination of all of the above, and more.

Now YOU know wheezing and shortness of breath, caused by irritation of any sort, that goes on for a while, can kill you.

Chronic bronchitis is the inflammation and eventual scarring of the lining of the bronchial tubes. When the bronchi are inflamed and/or infected, less air is able to flow to and from the lungs and a heavy mucus or phlegm is coughed up. The condition is defined by the presence of a mucus-producing cough most days of the month, three months of a year for two successive years without other underlying disease to explain the cough.

This inflammation eventually leads to scarring of the lining of the bronchial tubes. Once the bronchial tubes have been irritated over a long period of time, excessive mucus is produced constantly, the lining of the bronchial tubes becomes thickened, an irritating cough develops, and air flow may be hampered, the lungs become scarred. The bronchial tubes then make an ideal breeding place for bacterial infections within the airways, which eventually impedes airflow.

Chronic bronchitis doesn't strike suddenly and is often neglected by individuals until it is in an advanced state, because people mistakenly believe that the disease is not life-threatening. By the time a patient goes to his or her doctor the lungs have frequently been seriously injured. Then the patient may be in danger of developing serious respiratory problems or heart failure.

Emphysema begins with the destruction of air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs where oxygen from the air is exchanged for carbon dioxide in the blood. The walls of the air sacs are thin and fragile. Damage to the air sacs is irreversible and results in permanent "holes" in the tissues of the lower lungs.  As air sacs are destroyed, the lungs are able to transfer less and less oxygen to the bloodstream, causing shortness of breath. The lungs also lose their elasticity, which is important to keep airways open.  The patient experiences great difficulty exhaling.

Emphysema doesn't develop suddenly.  It comes on very gradually. Years of exposure to the irritation of cigarette smoke usually precede the development of emphysema. Of the estimated 3.6 million Americans ever diagnosed with emphysema, 91 percent were 45 or older.

The quality of life for a person suffering from COPD diminishes as the disease progresses. At the onset, there is minimal shortness of breath.  People with COPD may eventually require supplemental oxygen and may have to rely on mechanical respiratory assistance.

More here.

It all boils down to one thing- I really screwed up, because I didn't know. I was addicted to cigarettes for most of my adult life. But I finally quit, hoping it wasn't too late. I lost the gamble. I've been exposed to some pretty intense chemicals over my lifetime, jobs that involved prolonged exposure to adhesives and solvents and asbestos and wood dust. There's no way to know what one thing triggered it, or if it was all of the above acting in concert.

It's horribly unfair. I didn't know. My ignorance is going to cost me dearly. If I had this checked out after a couple weeks, it could have been reversed and I wouldn't be sitting here typing this

I seriously want each and every one of you to repost this information, at the very least, just this one small sentence:

Ignoring simple lung congestion will shorten, and eventually end, your life. See a doctor.

Pass this along. Please, pass this along, so others can know.
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The torch -

I am listening to Gavin Newsom as I type.

I didn't go to the city.  It had begun to seem nothing I wanted to be part of, so I went to Tiburon and looked across.  I was peaceful, and saw only peace from my vantage point, so I am surprised when I finally get back to my computer to read all that occurred.  I feel for those who did not see the torch and I understand too.

I come across these words.   The word “educate” comes from the Latin “educare”, which means “to lead out from” and does not mean “to put into”.  I think it is best to focus on the meaning of education as "to lead out from" and see where we all can go.

Peace and Love - my words for this day -


Comment on Military Conflict in the New Yorker

Military Conflict

by Steve Coll  April 14, 2008

General Richard A. Cody graduated from West Point in 1972, flew helicopters, ascended to command the storied 101st Airborne Division, and then, toward the end of his career, settled into management; now, at fifty-seven, he wears four stars as the Army Vice-Chief of Staff. This summer, he will retire from military service.

In 2004, in a little-noted speech, Cody described the Army’s efforts to adapt to its new commitments. (It was attempting to fight terrorism, quell the Taliban, invade and pacify Iraq, and, at the same time, prepare for future strategic challenges, whether in China or Korea or Africa.) The endeavor was, Cody said, like “building an airplane in flight.”

Last week, the General appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee and testified that this method of engineering has failed. “Today’s Army is out of balance,” Cody said. He continued:

The current demand for our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan exceeds the sustainable supply, and limits our ability to provide ready forces for other contingencies. . . . Soldiers, families, support systems and equipment are stretched and stressed. . . . Overall, our readiness is being consumed as fast as we build it. If unaddressed, this lack of balance poses a significant risk to the all-volunteer force and degrades the Army’s ability to make a timely response to other contingencies.

In 2006, the Army granted eight thousand three hundred and thirty “moral waivers” to new recruits, meaning that it had accepted that number of volunteers with past criminal charges or convictions. The percentage of high-school graduates willing to serve is falling sharply from year to year; so are the aptitude-exam scores of new enlistees. To persuade soldiers and young officers to reënlist after overlong combat tours, the Army’s spending on retention bonuses increased almost ninefold from 2003 to 2006.

In normal times, when an active four-star general implies in public that the Army is under such strain that it might flounder if an unexpected war broke out, or might require a draft to muster adequate troop levels, he could expect to provoke concern and comment from, say, the President of the United States. Some time ago, however, George W. Bush absolved himself of responsibility for his Iraq policy and its consequences by turning the war over to General David H. Petraeus, Cody’s four-star peer, and the champion of the “surge” policy, who will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee this week.

Petraeus, too, is a loyal Army man, but he has distinctive views about military doctrine; he has long advocated a change in orientation by the Army, away from preparations for formal warfare between governments and toward the challenges of counter-insurgency and nation building. (“Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife” is the title of a book co-written by one of Petraeus’s advisers, Lieutenant Colonel John A. Nagl.) To buy time in Iraq, Petraeus has lately argued within the Pentagon that the Army must buck up and accommodate his need for heavy troop deployments, despite the strains they are creating, and he has publicly fostered an unedifying debate about how to most accurately assess failure and success in Iraq, as if such an opaque and intractable civil conflict could be measured scientifically, like monetary supply or atmospheric pressure.

There is, of course, empirical evidence of declining violence in Iraq, which has coincided with Petraeus’s command. The additional troops he requested have certainly been a factor, but not even Petraeus can say how much of one. At best, during the past year he has helped to piece together a stalemate of heavily armed, bloodstained, conspiracy-minded, ambiguously motivated Iraqi militias. Nobody knows how long this gridlock will hold.

A war born in spin has now reached its Lewis Carroll period. (“Now here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”) Last week, it proved necessary for the Bush Administration to claim that an obvious failure—Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s ill-prepared raid on rival Shiite gangs in Basra, which was aborted after mass desertions within Maliki’s own ranks—was actually a success in disguise, because it demonstrated the Iraqi government’s independence of mind.

In this environment, it is perhaps unsurprising that General Cody’s plainspoken, valedictory dissent about the Army’s health attracted little attention. His testimony marked a rare public surfacing of the contentious debates at the Pentagon over the strategic costs of the surge. These debates involve overlapping disagreements about doctrine (particularly the importance of counter-insurgency), global priorities (Iraq versus Afghanistan, for instance), and resources. At their core, however, lies Cody’s essential observation: the Army is running on fumes, but Petraeus and his fellow surge advocates are driving flat out in Iraq, with no destination in sight. It hardly matters whether Petraeus would recommend keeping a hundred and thirty thousand or more combat troops in Iraq for a hundred years, or only ten. Neither scenario is plausible—at least, not without a draft or a radical change in incentives for volunteers.

Flag officers in the Bush Administration’s military have learned that they can be marginalized or retired if they speak out too boldly. The Administration does not romanticize the role of the loyal opposition. Last month, Admiral William J. Fallon, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, announced his early retirement, under pressure from the White House, after he argued privately for a faster drawdown from Iraq, to bolster efforts in Afghanistan and to restore a more balanced global military posture. Publicly, Fallon also described the “drumbeat of conflict” against Iran as “not helpful.”

The suppression of professional military dissent helped to create the disaster in Iraq; now it is depriving American voters of an election-year debate about the defense issues that matter most. These include the nature and the location of the country’s global adversaries and interests, the challenge of a revitalizing Al Qaeda in Pakistan, the conundrum of Iran, the failing health of the nuclear nonproliferation regime, and, to address all this, the need for a sustainable strategy that restores the Army’s vitality and makes rational use of America’s finite military resources. To implement such a strategy, it would not be necessary to rashly abandon Iraq to its fate, but it would be essential, at a minimum, to reduce American troop levels to well below a hundred thousand as soon as possible. In the long run, success or failure for the United States in Iraq will not hinge on who wins the argument about the surge; it will depend on whether it proves possible to change the subject. 

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Bill Moyers

In Praise of Reporting Reality—And The Truth

By Bill Moyers

Ron Ridenhour, who brought the My Lai massacre to the light of day, was courageous. To get the story out, he had to defy the whole might and power of the United States government, including its war machine.

Back then, in 1969, I was publisher of Newsday, having left the White House some two years earlier. Our editor Bill McIlwain played the My Lai story big, as he should, much to the chagrin of the owner who couldn’t believe Americans were capable of such atrocities. Our readers couldn’t believe it either. Some of them picketed outside my office for days, their signs accusing the paper of being anti-American for publishing repugnant news about our troops. Some things never change.

A few years later, I gave the commencement at a nearby university, and when I finished the speech, a woman who had just been graduated came up to me and said, “Mr. Moyers, you’ve been in both government and journalism; that makes everything you say twice as hard to believe.” She was on to something.

After my government experience, it took me a while to get my footing back in journalism. I had to learn all over again that what is important for the journalist is not how close you are to power, but how close you are to reality. Over the last 40 years, I would find that reality in assignment after assignment, from covering famine in Africa and war in Central America to inner-city families trapped in urban ghettos and middle-class families struggling to survive in an era of downsizing across the heartland. I also had to learn one of journalism’s basic lessons. The job of trying to tell the truth about people whose job it is to hide the truth is almost as complicated and difficult as trying to hide it in the first place. We journalists are of course obliged to cover the news, but our deeper mission is to uncover the news that powerful people would prefer to keep hidden.

Unless you are willing to fight and re-fight the same battles until you go blue in the face, drive the people you work with nuts going over every last detail to make certain you’ve got it right, and then take all of the slings and arrows directed at you by the powers that be—corporate and political and sometimes journalistic—there is no use even trying. You have to love it and I do. I.F. Stone once said, after years of catching the government’s lies and contradictions, “I have so much fun, I ought to be arrested.” Journalism 101.

So it wasn’t courage I counted on; it was exhilaration and good luck. When the road forked, I somehow stumbled into the right path, thanks to mentors like Eric Sevareid, Fred Friendly, Walter Cronkite and scores of producers, researchers and editors who lifted me to see further than one can see unless one is standing on the shoulders of others.

The quintessential lesson of my life came from another Texan named John Henry Faulk. He was a graduate, as am I, of the University of Texas. He served in the Merchant Marines, the American Red Cross and the U.S. Army during World War II, and came home to become a celebrated raconteur and popular national radio host whose career was shattered when right-wingers inspired by Joseph McCarthy smeared him as a communist. He lost his sponsors and was fired. But he fought back with a lawsuit that lasted five years and cost him every penny he owned. Financial help from Edward R. Murrow and a few others helped him to hang on. In the end, John Henry Faulk won, and his courage helped to end the Hollywood era of blacklisting. You should read his book, Fear on Trial, and see the movie starring George C. Scott. John Henry’s courage was contagious.

Before his death I produced a documentary about him, and during our interview he told me the story of how he and his friend, Boots Cooper, were playing in the chicken house there in central Texas when they were about 12 years old. They spotted a chicken snake in the top tier of the nest, so close it looked like a boa constrictor. As John Henry told it, “All of our frontier courage drained out of our heels. Actually, it trickled down our overall legs. And Boots and I made a new door through the hen house.” His momma came out to see what all of the fuss was about, and she said to Boots and John Henry, “Don’t you know chicken snakes are harmless? They can’t hurt you.” Rubbing his forehead and his behind at the same time, Boots said, “Yes, Mrs. Faulk, I know, but they can scare you so bad you’ll hurt yourself.”

John Henry Faulk never forgot that lesson. I’m always ashamed when I do. Temptation to co-option is the original sin of journalism, and we’re always finding fig leaves to cover it: economics, ideology, awe of authority, secrecy, the claims of empire. In the buildup to the invasion of Iraq we were reminded of what the late great reporter A.J. Liebling meant when he said the press is “the weak slat under the bed of democracy.” The slat broke after the invasion and some strange bedfellows fell to the floor: establishment journalists, neo-con polemicists, beltway pundits, right-wing warmongers flying the skull and bones of the “balanced and fair brigade,” administration flacks whose classified leaks were manufactured lies—all romping on the same mattress in the foreplay to disaster.

Five years, thousands of casualties, and hundreds of billion dollars later, most of the media co-conspirators caught in flagrante delicto are still prominent, still celebrated, and still holding forth with no more contrition than a weathercaster who made a wrong prediction as to the next day’s temperature. The biblical injunction, “Go and sin no more,” is the one we most frequently forget in the press. Collectively, we don’t seem to learn that all it takes to transform an ordinary politician and a braying ass into the modern incarnation of Zeus and the oracle of Delphi is an oath on the Bible, a flag in the lapel, and the invocation of national security.

There are, fortunately, always exceptions to whatever our latest dismal collective performance yields. America produces some world-class journalism, including coverage of the Iraq War by men and women as brave as Ernie Pyle. But I still wish we had a professional Hippocratic Oath of our own that might stir us in the night when we stray from our mission. And yes, I believe journalism has a mission.

Walter Lippmann was prescient on this long before most of you were born. Lippmann, who became the ultimate Washington insider—someone to whom I regularly leaked—acknowledged that while the press may be a weak reed to lean on, it is the indispensable support for freedom. He wrote:

The present crisis of Western democracy is a crisis of journalism. Everywhere men and women are conscious that somehow they must deal with questions more intricate than any that church or school had prepared them to understand. Increasingly, they know that they cannot understand them if the facts are not quickly and steadily available. All the sharpest critics of democracy have alleged is true if there is no steady supply of trustworthy and relevant news. Incompetence and aimlessness, corruption and disloyalty, panic and ultimate disaster must come to any people denied an assured access to the facts.

So for all the blunders for which we are culpable; for all the disillusionment that has set in among journalists with every fresh report of job cuts and disappearing news space; for all the barons and buccaneers turning the press into a karaoke of power; for all the desecration visited on broadcast journalism by the corporate networks; for all the nonsense to which so many aspiring young journalists are consigned; and for all the fears about the eroding quality of the craft, I still answer emphatically when young people ask me, “Should I go into journalism today?” Sometimes it is difficult to urge them on, especially when serious questions are being asked about how loyal our society is to the reality as well as to the idea of an independent and free press. But I almost always answer, “Yes, if you have a fire in your belly, you can still make a difference.”

I remind them of how often investigative reporting has played a crucial role in making the crooked straight. I remind them how news bureaus abroad are a form of national security that can tell us what our government won’t. I remind them that as America grows more diverse, it’s essential to have reporters, editors, producers and writers who reflect these new rising voices and concerns. And I remind them that facts can still drive the argument and tug us in the direction of greater equality and a more democratic society. Journalism still matters.

But I also tell them there is something more important than journalism, and that is the truth. They aren’t necessarily one and the same because the truth is often obscured in the news. In his new novel The Appeal, John Grisham tells us more about corporate, political and legal jihads than most newspapers or network news ever will; more about Wall Street shenanigans than all the cable business channels combined; more about Manchurian candidates than you will ever hear on the Sunday morning talk shows.

For that matter, you will learn more about who wins and who loses in the real business of politics, which is governance, from the public interest truth-tellers of Washington than you will from an established press tethered to official sources. The Government Accountability Project, POGO, the Sunlight Foundation, Citizens Against Government Waste, Taxpayers for Common Sense, the Center for Responsive Politics, the National Security Archive, CREW, the Center for Public Integrity, just to name a few—and from whistleblowers of all sorts who never went to journalism school, never flashed a press pass, and never attended a gridiron dinner.

Ron Ridenhour was not a journalist when he came upon the truth of My Lai. He was in the Army. He later became a pioneering investigative reporter and—this is the irony—had trouble making a living in a calling where truth-telling can be a liability to the bottom line.

So I tell inquisitive and inquiring young people: “Journalism still makes a difference, but the truth matters more. And if you can’t get to the truth through journalism, there are other ways to go.”

The preceding essay was adapted from the acceptance speech Bill Moyers gave on April 3 upon receiving a Ridenhour Prize. Sponsored by the Nation Institute and the Fertel Foundation, the Ridenhour Prizes recognize those who have spoken out on behalf of the public interest, promoted social justice or illuminated a more just vision of society.

Bill Moyers is the president of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy and the host of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS.