October 10th, 2008

tennessee valley

Good Morning!!!

The quality of your life is determined by the focus of your attention.

- Cheri Huber


I am peace this morning, calm.   The storm of fear and uncertainty has washed through.  The tomatoes are still growing.   The leaves have yet to fall.   

We leave for Italy on Monday.   We fly to Frankfurt, and then, on to Rome.  We have no reservations in the moment, other than for the plane, so it is meant to be a trip of spontaneity and exploration, with a few meetings here and there.   Alex will stay in the house for Tiger and Bella, and Yvonne will take care of the yard.  

I hadn't really taken in that we were going until today, and I wake now excited to consider Italian sun, villages, wine, pasta, cheese, art, sanctity, serenity, and cultivation of ease.  It will be good to get a different perspective on the political situation, and to immerse in Roman times and consider contraction and expansion, rise and fall.

calder mobile miniature

Truth -

I thought it was illegal to yell fire in a crowded theater, and yet, Sarah Palin is allowed to call Barack Obama a terrorist, an out and out lie, and get away with it. I don't understand it. I just watched footage of people who support her, who believe her lies.

There is an article on "Verbage" by James Wood in the New Yorker this week.


I remember the childhood saying: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." I never understood it, because words do hurt. They hurt the individual and they hurt the country.

It is embarrassing to see the ignorant responses of those who are attending the Palin rallies. It is embarrassing to see Palin given this kind of power and press. The harm she is doing is about more than the misuse of words. It is a physical attack on us all.

Her words spout out at each of us, the venom of her breath. We are poisoned with her lies, each one of us receives a dart of poison in heart and gut. We are weakened. This election is about more than McPain and Obama-Biden. It is about ethics, truth, compassion, and strength. I do not understand how Palin is allowed to say what is so absolutely untrue.

May truth and honesty survive, and may this country turn around so that it is not an embarrassment in the world.

book lovers

2008 Nobel Prize in Literature -

The French writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, won the 2008 Nobel Prize.  It says something about the state of the world that much of his work is not translated into or available in English.

We are being seen, it seems, as insulated, uneducated, and ignorant.  Palin waving her mouth and fist about in a flurry of anger, hate, and lies only increases that image. 

from the NY Times:

Asked at the news conference if he had any message to convey, Mr. Le Clézio said: “My message will be very clear; it is that I think we have to continue to read novels. Because I think that the novel is a very good means to question the current world without having an answer that is too schematic, too automatic. The novelist, he’s not a philosopher, not a technician of spoken language. He’s someone who writes, above all, and through the novel asks questions.”

In its citation, the Swedish Academy praised Mr. Le Clézio, 68, as the “author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization.”

Book Cover


Not the loss alone,
But what comes after.
If it ended completely
At loss, the rest
Wouldn't matter.
But you go on.
And the world also.
And words, words
In a poem or song:
Aren't they a stream
On which your feelings float?
Aren't they also
The banks of that stream
And you yourself the flowing?
~ Gregory Orr ~


barack obama

David Brooks -

From The Huffington Post:

David Brooks spoke frankly about the presidential and vice presidential candidates Monday afternoon, calling Sarah Palin a "fatal cancer to the Republican party" but describing John McCain and Barack Obama as "the two best candidates we've had in a long time."

In an interview with The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg at New York's Le Cirque restaurant to unveil that magazine's redesign, Brooks decried Palin's anti-intellectualism and compared her to President Bush in that regard:

[Sarah Palin] represents a fatal cancer to the Republican party. When I first started in journalism, I worked at the National Review for Bill Buckley. And Buckley famously said he'd rather be ruled by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty. But he didn't think those were the only two options. He thought it was important to have people on the conservative side who celebrated ideas, who celebrated learning. And his whole life was based on that, and that was also true for a lot of the other conservatives in the Reagan era. Reagan had an immense faith in the power of ideas. But there has been a counter, more populist tradition, which is not only to scorn liberal ideas but to scorn ideas entirely. And I'm afraid that Sarah Palin has those prejudices. I think President Bush has those prejudices.

Brooks praised Palin's natural political talent, but said she is "absolutely not" ready to be president or vice president. He explained, "The more I follow politicians, the more I think experience matters, the ability to have a template of things in your mind that you can refer to on the spot, because believe me, once in office there's no time to think or make decisions."

The New York Times columnist also said that the "great virtue" of Palin's counterpart, Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden, is that he is anything but a "yes man."

"[Biden] can't not say what he thinks," Brooks remarked. "There's no internal monitor, and for Barack Obama, that's tremendously important to have a vice president who will be that way. Our current president doesn't have anybody like that."

Brooks also spent time praising Obama's intellect and skills in social perception, telling two stories of his interactions with Obama that left him "dazzled":

Obama has the great intellect. I was interviewing Obama a couple years ago, and I'm getting nowhere with the interview, it's late in the night, he's on the phone, walking off the Senate floor, he's cranky. Out of the blue I say, 'Ever read a guy named Reinhold Niebuhr?' And he says, 'Yeah.' So i say, 'What did Niebuhr mean to you?' For the next 20 minutes, he gave me a perfect description of Reinhold Niebuhr's thought, which is a very subtle thought process based on the idea that you have to use power while it corrupts you. And I was dazzled, I felt the tingle up my knee as Chris Matthews would say.

And the other thing that does separate Obama from just a pure intellectual: he has tremendous powers of social perception. And this is why he's a politician, not an academic. A couple of years ago, I was writing columns attacking the Republican congress for spending too much money. And I throw in a few sentences attacking the Democrats to make myself feel better. And one morning I get an email from Obama saying, 'David, if you wanna attack us, fine, but you're only throwing in those sentences to make yourself feel better.' And it was a perfect description of what was going through my mind. And everybody who knows Obama all have these stories to tell about his capacity for social perception.

Brooks predicted an Obama victory by nine points, and said that although he found Obama to be "a very mediocre senator," he was is surrounded by what Brooks called "by far the most impressive people in the Democratic party."

"He's phenomenally good at surrounding himself with a team," Brooks said. "I disagree with them on most issues, but I am given a lot of comfort by the fact that the people he's chosen are exactly the people I think most of us would want to choose if we were in his shoes. So again, I have doubts about him just because he was such a mediocre senator, but his capacity to pick staff is impressive.

Book Cover

for CA voters -

Editorial from the NY Times:

Fiscal Disaster in California

Published: October 9, 2008

The mandatory sentencing craze that has swept the country over the last 30 years did little to cut back the drug trade, but it drove up the prison population and pushed corrections costs to ruinous levels. The process was especially destructive in California, where a federal court has placed the prison system’s dangerously decrepit medical services under a receiver who wants the state to cough up $8 billion to bring that system up to constitutional standards.

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alan's marigolds

Numbers -

Richard Feynman died in 1988.   I wonder what he would think of the deficit now.   It is astonishing what has happened under the non-watch of Bush.

There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.

Richard Feynman

barack obama

Watch the spin!

Legislative Panel: Palin Abused Authority

Published: October 10, 2008

Filed at 8:23 p.m. ET

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- A legislative committee investigating Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has found she unlawfully abused her authority in firing the state's public safety commissioner.

The investigative report concludes that a family grudge wasn't the sole reason for firing Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan but says it likely was a contributing factor.

The Republican vice presidential nominee has been accused of firing a commissioner to settle a family dispute. Palin supporters have called the investigation politically motivated.

Monegan says he was dismissed as retribution for resisting pressure to fire a state trooper involved in a bitter divorce with the governor's sister. Palin says Monegan was fired as part of a legitimate budget dispute.