Friday, November 09, 2007

Democracy Denied

I was home sick on the couch flipping through channels one recent Thursday, after the soaps had ended, and landed on The Dr. Phil Show. That day’s show was about the Jena Six incident and Dr. Phil had on as his guests the white boy who was beaten up by six black boys, his parents and some school officials of a Jena, Louisiana, high school. The schoolyard fight occurred in December, 2006, after white students hung three nooses from a shade tree in the school yard after a group of black students asked for permission to sit under that tree. Almost a year later the national media had finally picked up the story. Everyday, bold type-faced headlines like “Jena is America” appeared in publications across the U.S.

What is remarkable, beyond the act of hanging nooses in this age of political correctness, is that the white Jena residents said there was no racial tension before the incident came to the attention of the media. Dr. Phil proceeded to squander the opportunity to help his studio audience and the national television viewers understand why the rage of those black students could be so readily (and violently) ignited by the threatening specter of lynch mobs and the not-so-subtle reminder of their second-class standing in the community.

Copy-cat incidents have occurred in a few other locations around the country since Jena. It happened last month in the university residence hall in which I work. There is some trouble with vandalism every year – writing on the walls, some of it hateful words, like “bitch” and symbols, like swastikas; breaking screens and/or windows; punching holes in walls; stuffing lit firecrackers in oranges and rolling them down a hallway where they explode. But one morning in early October a noose was found hanging from a shower head in a men’s bathroom. When it was brought to the attention of the all-white student hall council, they were unmoved.

But when a group of residence hall managers were informed of the incident during a routine weekly meeting, the only black person in attendance, Jasmine Williams, gasped in disbelief. She told me later that she felt very uncomfortable sitting through the rest of that meeting and didn’t even want to eat lunch with the group that day. She said she was disturbed about working in such an environment. She also expressed concern regarding her position of authority in the residence hall. “What if someone thinks I cross the line? Am I gonna come home to find the word ‘nigger’ written on my board? Am I gonna find a noose outside my door? Find my car in flames?”

During our conversation, Williams repeated a sentiment that James Baldwin expressed in “Down at the Cross” in 1962: black Americans don’t feel as if they have a country to call their own. “For everyone else has, is, a nation, with a specific location and flag . . . It is the so-called ‘American Negro’ who remains trapped, disinherited, and despised, in a nation that has kept him in bondage for nearly four-hundred years and is still unable to recognize him as a human being,” he wrote. Williams wondered, What do black Americans have to show for the riches and achievements of the United States, some of which was realized through the toil of black slaves and their offspring?

“George Bush doesn't care about black people,” asserted Kanye West, a popular hip hop artist, nearly choking in anguish on his words during a live telethon for victims of Hurricane Katrina. For many Americans, the crisis of Katrina revealed the cold truth of the interconnection between poverty and blackness in the United States. Everyone watching the disaster unfold was a witness to the stark evidence of West’s proclamation, reinforced by the pathetic response for those “so poor and they are so black,” as CNN’s Wolf Blitzer referred to the miserable people of New Orleans. Bush claimed no one could have foreseen the levees breaking, but it had been predicted at least a decade before. It was revealed months later that the administration had evidence of broken levees and the impending flooding more than a day before the public and even the media were made aware of it. Compare that to the quick response to California fires – where the homes of affluent and mostly white Californians are burning –and you see where priorities lie.

This blatant racism is not strictly a southern problem. The reality that black Americans have yet to realize the equal opportunity goals of the civil rights movement of the 60s is confirmed in recent news articles from across the United States: blacks have lower income levels and higher rates of poverty; less accumulated wealth, including home-ownership and other assets that can be passed from one generation to another; lower academic achievement; higher rates of high school suspension; higher representation in foster care; higher infant mortality; higher rates of incarceration, with longer sentences for similar offenses; and on and on and on.

But the white majority should take a step back and notice that the prosperity gap between haves and have-nots is no longer just about color; it’s about who controls wealth and power. “Color is not a human or personal reality; it is a political reality,” Baldwin wrote back when blacks were marching in the streets, demanding a stake in the American dream. But over the past several decades the dream has been hijacked from all of us. Through a feedback loop of power consolidation, fed largely by corporate lobbyists with financial “donations” to politicians’ campaigns and pet projects, lawmakers have deregulated public utilities, promoted regressive tax codes, privatized health care, allowed concentration of media ownership, and attempted (but failed, so far) to privatize social security, funneling America’s wealth into the hands of a few corporate and political elites. We all work for them now.

Those few elites are whittling away securities Americans have taken for granted – pollution regulation, a rigorous and diverse free press, strong labor unions, job, health care and pension security – in the name of economic growth. In the interminable war on terror, in the name of national security, civil liberties, such as the right to privacy, free speech and due process, are also being stripped bare. As Cornel West, Princeton religion professor and public intellectual, put it: “Since 911, the whole nation has been niggerized.”

Could it be that, having denied one sub-group of people access to America’s bounty, we have diminished the blessings of democracy for the group as a whole?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Indian Summer

Look at that sky! From my desk there is a rectangle of cerulean blue, laced with gold and pale green shimmering aspen leaves. We just enjoyed a few days of "Indian" summer (wonder what we'll be calling that in years to come?), with comfortable temperatures and colorful fall leaves against blue-sky backgrounds.

House painting project is put away for the season. We finished the first coat and will do the second in spring. Now piles of oak and box elder leaves wait to be raked up, but will have to wait for the weekend, now that the daylight is nearly gone when we get home after work.

I'm really enjoying my literary journalism class this semester. Lots of great writing to read and good writing to write. I've copied my first essay on this blog already (got an A-), and will put the next one here once I get it back with edits. I will do the final essay about Wain, his life as a musician and fixture in the Minneapolis music cultural scene and kidney transplant candidate.

If this horoscope from Rob Brezsny isn't license for wild abandon, I don't know what is:

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): A drunk dominatrix sidled up to me at a party
and said, "Reverend, please absolve me of my sins." I'm not officially a
priest, but in the spirit of fun and games I replied, "Why, my dear? Have
you seen the error of your ways?" She spread her arms wide as she
bowed, hissing like a serpent through a toothy smile. "Not at all,
Reverend," she said. "I just want to clear the docket so I can go out and
commit a slew of fresh, new sins with crazy abandon." I sprinkled a few
drops of her Heineken on her head and channeled William Blake: "You'll
never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. If the fool would
persist in her folly she would become wise." And now, Scorpio, I'm
channeling the same blessing for you.

Friday, October 12, 2007

It's official

It's officially fall. The temps were in the mid-80s on Saturday and Sunday, then plunged to mid-50s on Monday. The sky is low and gray. I have hauled in my tropical plants - hibiscus, mandavilla, bouganvillea - from the deck. The rest of the scraggly potted flowers will be left to defend themselves against the windchill; I can never bring myself to rip them out of their soil and toss them onto the compost pile while any blooms remain. I've jammed my shorts back into the plastic storage container I keep under my bed and moved my winter pants back into my bedroom closet. I got a cute new fall jacket, a woolly A-line mid-thigh length with a big houndstooth pattern. I'm wearing socks again. Still, there are hold outs, stubborn campus denizens who continue wearing flip flops or sandals, capri pants, short-sleeved shirts, and go out without a jacket.

Yesterday on my run I spotted a small bird pecking around a boulevard garden near a busy corner. He didn't seem at all fazed as I approached, giving me the idea that he might be hurt. I reached under the plant he was rooting in and picked him up with on hand, then made a closed cup with both my hands while I studied him. He had the coloring of a female goldfinch, but with more of a green tinge, but he was not at all the same shape, being round like a golf ball instead of bullet-shaped, and he had a skinny sharp beak. Because of the red spot he had on the back of his head I thought he might have been injured, but the red was a real red, like a fire engine, not blood red. I set him down in the neighboring yard to see if he would run for cover in this safer spot away from the dangers of the street and he flew up into a tree. When I consulted my Audubon Society Birds of North America I found out he was a ruby-crested kinglet. The book said he probably is stopping off during his migration. I sure hope he finds some friends to hang out and eat with, because he sure was a tiny little bird, all alone in the big world.

That is not my hand, that guy needs a manicure!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Dear Nancy

Dear Speaker Pelosi,

Evidence of impeachable offenses has existed for years and has even been confessed to by President Bush himself, yet you continue to stonewall the effort to bring this renegade administration to justice. For the love of God and country, become familiar with the constitution of the United States and take a step toward restoring our democratic processes. Join Kucinich and others in initiating impeachment proceedings against George Bush and Dick Cheney.

Ten Reasons to Impeach George Bush and Dick Cheney

I ask Congress to impeach President Bush and Vice President Cheney for the following reasons:
1. Violating the United Nations Charter by launching an illegal "War of Aggression" against Iraq without cause, using fraud to sell the war to Congress and the public, misusing government funds to begin bombing without Congressional authorization, and subjecting our military personnel to unnecessary harm, debilitating injuries, and deaths.
2. Violating U.S. and international law by authorizing the torture of thousands of captives, resulting in dozens of deaths, and keeping prisoners hidden from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
3. Violating the Constitution by arbitrarily detaining Americans, legal residents, and non-Americans, without due process, without charge, and without access to counsel.
4. Violating the Geneva Conventions by targeting civilians, journalists, hospitals, and ambulances, and using illegal weapons, including white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and a new type of napalm.
5. Violating U.S. law and the Constitution through widespread wiretapping of the phone calls and emails of Americans without a warrant.
6. Violating the Constitution by using "signing statements" to defy hundreds of laws passed by Congress.
7. Violating U.S. and state law by obstructing honest elections in 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006.
8. Violating U.S. law by using paid propaganda and disinformation, selectively and misleadingly leaking classified information, and exposing the identity of a covert CIA operative working on sensitive WMD proliferation for political retribution.
9. Subverting the Constitution and abusing Presidential power by asserting a "Unitary Executive Theory" giving unlimited powers to the President, by obstructing efforts by Congress and the Courts to review and restrict Presidential actions, and by promoting and signing legislation negating the Bill of Rights and the Writ of Habeas Corpus.
10. Gross negligence in failing to assist New Orleans residents after Hurricane Katrina, in ignoring urgent warnings of an Al Qaeda attack prior to Sept. 11, 2001, and in increasing air pollution causing global warming.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Letter to my Senators


I am writing to thank you for voting to enhance the SCHIP program.

However, I disagree with your vote to authorize additional, unconditional money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. What accountability do the American people have for this expenditure? Where is this money coming from? Obviously not from the pockets of hyper-wealthy Americans, those this administration and the republican party represent, whose worth continues to grow in inverse proportion to the wealth of the plodding masses. No, it's going to be paid for with the sweat and tears and blood of ordinary working Americans and their children. The one percent of you who will be shielded from the war and from the overburden of property taxes and expensive health care and high energy costs will never feel a thing, and your children will never know what it's like to feel insecure and on your own and high and dry in this so-called rising tide of prosperity.

Can't any of you get a grip?

We're all still kickin'

This is an assignment we had in my current journalism class on literary non-fiction. Some of the more well-known practitioners of literary journalism are Truman Capote, Tom Wolfe, Jack London, Susan Orlean, Joan Didion. It's the kind of in-depth profiling they do in the New Yorker. Anyway, we were asked to do our first assignment using interior perspective, such as Capote used in "In Cold Blood."

The headline on page one read “The green, green grass of home.” A color photo featured a beaming National Guard lieutenant in sunglasses and army fatigues, reclining on a patch of grass, smiling up at the sky. The photo was taken on the first stop on the journey home after a 17-month deployment in Iraq. Joe Hazelton called his parents in northern Minnesota to tell them his sister, 1st Lieutenant Nicole Siegler, and her brigade, the Red Bulls, was on the front page of the July 11 Star Tribune and that he had saved several copies for them. Joe and his family had been anxiously awaiting Nicole’s return after her year-long tour was extended as part of the military “surge” designed by the White House to provide some tangible signs of success in an increasingly unpopular war. She was safe on U.S. soil and they would be together within a week.

It had been an excruciating few months since the family learned that Nicole’s March homecoming would be pushed back. Joe followed the news stories about the frequent and often random violence against U.S. troops and shared his frustration with coworkers, friends and family. Although proud of his sister’s work as part of a preventive medical group in Talil, he was against the invasion of Iraq from the start and didn’t believe the U.S. should still be there four years later. He often voiced his anti-war and anti-administration views at the family table when he joined them for Sunday night dinners. Joe’s brother is a staunch conservative and the brothers often butted heads on civil liberties issues provoked by the 9/11 attack and the so-called war on terror. Joe often felt like the lone voice of reason, but with Nicole in Iraq, their mom took any dissent against the war or the government as a personal attack on Nicole.

In Nicole’s correspondence and phone conversations to the family she tried to distract from the fact that she was in a war zone, instead steering the conversation toward family's daily goings on in Minnesota. But she shared more of the realities of her situation in private emails with Joe, whom she felt would not overreact. In one email she wrote: “Things have gotten a little crazy around here, lots of rocket attacks (please don’t tell mom, you know how the smothering nature of her would freak out). It’s a weird experience, a rocket attack, but we’re all still kickin’. I’m ready to come home, too bad I’ve got to wait through the hot summer.” Joe kept a level head for his parents’ sake and did not share these details with them, yet he worried about what the waiting and worrying was effecting them.

Joe’s mom had become involved with a family readiness group, assembling care packages and networking with other guard parents, even as she tried to insulate herself from the war news. His dad was more stoic and rarely shared his opinions about the war. During the planning for the reunion, Nicole insisted they take only “one day to make a big deal,” then things would have to go back to normal. They would have to treat her like everyone else.

On the day of the reunion, two tourist-style buses shuttled the troops on a roughly three-and-a-half-hour drive from Ft. McCoy in Wisconsin dto the Cottage Grove Armory, where the brigade would be dismissed. A few of the Red Bulls on the bus kept waiting families updated on their journey via cell phone. The Patriot Guard Riders – a group of motorcycle riders, many ex-veterans, who shield mourners at military funerals from protestors – met the buses at a nearby rest stop and joined their procession toward the armory. These were met at the city limits by local police, fire and other emergency vehicles which lead the way onto the base. The two hundred or so family members in the anxious crowd were waving small paper flags, and neighbors near the base came out onto their lawns and stood on front porches to witness the homecoming. When the buses pulled up, music from loudspeakers swelled with the opening strings of Neil Diamond’s “America.” The only lyrics Joe would hear before the flurry of welcoming embraces and greetings would drown out the music were the first two stanzas:

We've been traveling far
Without a home
But not without a star

Only want to be free
We huddle close
Hang on to a dream

The platoon spilled off the bus and lined up in front of their commanding officer, who saluted and bellowed “dismissed” to screams and laughter from the troops and the waiting crowd.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Horoscope: truth or trash?

Here's my horoscope for the week from Free Will astrologer par excellence Rob Brezsny:

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Of all the signs in the zodiac, you routinely
enjoy the most interesting problems. No one else can compete with your
talent for dreaming up original sins, either. I expect that in the coming
weeks, you'll once again assert your mastery in these two areas, leaving
the rest of us muttering in amazed awe as we behold the beautiful,
stinking, useful, hellacious, intriguing messes you stir up. Congratulations
in advance for the resourcefulness and courage I know you will summon
from the abyss of your subconscious mind.

I've been on the verge of a breakthrough (or breakdown) for some years now. I am envious of people, women, mostly, who seem to have found - or been tracked down - by their calling in life, like Cindy Sheehan who went from suburban mom minding her own business to anti-war and anti-imperialism activist, or those who chose their profession in college and go on to a successful career, while I continue to feel that my vocation is just beyond reach, like in a dream I'm struggling to awaken from. I'm sleeping, maybe having a bad dream or realizing while I'm dreaming that I should be awake because I'm late for something (usually work!). In my dream I might even be yelling to someone whom I perceive to be outside the dream to help me wake up. I always wake up, of course, often feeling groggy and heavy for the rest of day. I don't want it to take a cataclysmic event to awaken me to my true purpose.

People, friends, who have to endure my whining about my under-achievement, tell me I should "follow my dreams." But I am susceptible to nightmares.

Maybe if I'd joined the Peace Corps like I intended and actually attempted to do at one point? I have made many decisions in my life designed to avoid a conventional life. I expected to have adventure, change, some greater accomplishment than mere contentment and a wide circle (not a circle, more like a polygon) of friends. I'm not depressed, but besides the craving for something more meaningful I am not drawn to any calling in particular. I have many passions but nothing that makes me sacrifice my comfort, time, energy for a greater cause, although I am attracted to people who do this as a matter of course. I tell myself "find meaning in the everyday." I tell myself "make a list of everything you are grateful for and what you have accomplished so far; Concentrate on what you do give to the world." So here's a list thus far (not in any particular order):

  1. Speak a few languages
  2. Traveled a lot and seen many countries, which contributes to my overall understanding of the human condition
  3. Good friend and confidante
  4. Try to have integrity in all my dealings, personal and professional (although sometimes fall short)
  5. Try to be honest and tell the truth about myself (unless breaking the law)
  6. Try to have acceptance and unconditional love for all humans; mostly have success
  7. Friend to animals
  8. Don't lie around on the couch so much anymore but still addicted to TV
  9. Thoughtful gift-giver, taking recipient's tastes into account
  10. Try not to hurt anyone with my words or deeds, but sometimes that's hard to achieve when you're also trying to be honest
  11. Good gardener - have beautiful garden
  12. Pretty good house painter, having painted all the interior walls of my house and currently working on the exterior walls (Benny Moore color "Sweet Orange")
  13. Pretty good wife - try not be have unreasonable expectations; try not to voice all my pet peeves; try to be nice
  14. Great student, mostly As; perennial degree-seeker (currently seeking a 3rd), hoping one will lead to my brilliant career
  15. Fairly competent writer
  16. Tenacious, like a dog with a bone when there's an important principle at stake; good to have on your side
  17. Don't hold grudges but also don't forget real easily
  18. Well-read and informed with variety of literary interests, including wide-range of media
  19. Share important and/or interesting media I'm reading with friends via email and this blog
  20. Write letters to the editor and email and phone my reps on issues and votes that matter to our democracy and encourage friends to do the same
  21. Listen to great music (traditional country, world, Latin, soul, 70s, old school songbooks - not in any particular order)
  22. Compassionate, unapologetic bleeding heart liberal
  23. Environmentally responsible, recycling every shred of paper, etc
  24. Volunteer from time to time
  25. Give money to good causes, most recently to Women for Women International
  26. Trying to get a grip on my finances (read: debts) so we can save some and travel more
  27. Fun party girl (my mom is my hero and role model)
  28. Worked many different types of jobs which makes me competent at many things
  29. Enjoy learning for learning's sake: once took fiddle lessons for 5 years even though I was no good
  30. Have opinions based on emotion and instinct but try to articulate them with educated reason
  31. Believe in a cosmic consciousness flowing through all living things
  32. Don't believe in the inevitability of suffering
  33. Conscientious employee
I guess that's all for now.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I just sent the following email to NPRs comment unit. Maybe they'll read it on air!

Hi, Yesterday (Monday, August 27) during Morning Edition, reporting about the resignation of AG Gonzales, the reporter (sorry, forget which), describing the US Attorney firings controversy, said that "Democrats" believe the firings to be politically motivated. The fired attorneys themselves believe the firings to be politically motivated. It is misleading (and politically motivated!) to attribute that point of view only to Democrats! NPR is usually the voice of reason and objectivity - please ensure that it remains that way.


The next day I got the following response:

Dear Monique,

Thank you for contacting NPR's Morning Edition.

We appreciate your comments concerning an NPR broadcast.

As the primary news source for millions of Americans, NPR takes our responsibility to be accurate very seriously.

We welcome praise, as well as criticism, and your suggested correction will be taken into consideration.

Thank you for listening to Morning Edition, and for your continued support of public broadcasting. For the latest news and information, visit


NPR Services

And yesterday I sent the following article with a note to my Minnesota congressfolk and Speaker Pelosi:

Hi Nancy,
Please read this article about whistle-blowers uncovering fraud in Iraq - taxpayer money appropriated to the rebuilding effort is being squandered or pocketed by thieves and not going into the rebuilding effort - and how they are being treated for their fidelity to the American people. These are citizens and heroes! What have we become?!

Associated Press Whistleblowers on Fraud Facing Penalties By DEBORAH HASTINGS 08.24.07, 3:16 PM ET

One after another, the men and women who have stepped forward to report corruption in the massive effort to rebuild Iraq have been vilified, fired and demoted. Or worse. For daring to report illegal arms sales, Navy veteran Donald Vance says he was imprisoned by the American military in a security compound outside Baghdad and subjected to harsh interrogation methods. There were times, huddled on the floor in solitary confinement with that head-banging music blaring dawn to dusk and interrogators yelling the same questions over and over, that Vance began to wish he had just kept his mouth shut. He had thought he was doing a good and noble thing when he started telling the FBI about the guns and the land mines and the rocket-launchers - all of them being sold for cash, no receipts necessary, he said. He told a federal agent the buyers were Iraqi insurgents, American soldiers, State Department workers, and Iraqi embassy and ministry employees. The seller, he claimed, was the Iraqi-owned company he worked for, Shield Group Security Co. "It was a Wal-Mart (nyse: WMT - news - people ) for guns," he says. "It was all illegal and everyone knew it." So Vance says he blew the whistle, supplying photos and documents and other intelligence to an FBI agent in his hometown of Chicago because he didn't know whom to trust in Iraq. For his trouble, he says, he got 97 days in Camp Cropper, an American military prison outside Baghdad that once held Saddam Hussein, and he was classified a security detainee. Also held was colleague Nathan Ertel, who helped Vance gather evidence documenting the sales, according to a federal lawsuit both have filed in Chicago, alleging they were illegally imprisoned and subjected to physical and mental interrogation tactics "reserved for terrorists and so-called enemy combatants." Corruption has long plagued Iraq reconstruction. Hundreds of projects may never be finished, including repairs to the country's oil pipelines and electricity system. Congress gave more than $30 billion to rebuild Iraq, and at least $8.8 billion of it has disappeared, according to a government reconstruction audit. Despite this staggering mess, there are no noble outcomes for those who have blown the whistle, according to a review of such cases by The Associated Press. "If you do it, you will be destroyed," said William Weaver, professor of political science at the University of Texas-El Paso and senior advisor to the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition. "Reconstruction is so rife with corruption. Sometimes people ask me, `Should I do this?' And my answer is no. If they're married, they'll lose their family. They will lose their jobs. They will lose everything," Weaver said. They have been fired or demoted, shunned by colleagues, and denied government support in whistleblower lawsuits filed against contracting firms. "The only way we can find out what is going on is for someone to come forward and let us know," said Beth Daley of the Project on Government Oversight, an independent, nonprofit group that investigates corruption. "But when they do, the weight of the government comes down on them. The message is, 'Don't blow the whistle or we'll make your life hell.' "It's heartbreaking," Daley said. "There is an even greater need for whistleblowers now. But they are made into public martyrs. It's a disgrace. Their lives get ruined." Bunnatine "Bunny" Greenhouse knows this only too well. As the highest-ranking civilian contracting officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, she testified before a congressional committee in 2005 that she found widespread fraud in multibillion-dollar rebuilding contracts awarded to former Halliburton (nyse: HAL - news - people ) subsidiary KBR (nyse: KBR - news - people ). Soon after, Greenhouse was demoted. She now sits in a tiny cubicle in a different department with very little to do and no decision-making authority, at the end of an otherwise exemplary 20-year career. People she has known for years no longer speak to her. "It's just amazing how we say we want to remove fraud from our government, then we gag people who are just trying to stand up and do the right thing," she says. In her demotion, her supervisors said she was performing poorly. "They just wanted to get rid of me," she says softly. The Army Corps of Engineers denies her claims. "You just don't have happy endings," said Weaver. "She was a wonderful example of a federal employee. They just completely creamed her. In the end, no one followed up, no one cared." But Greenhouse regrets nothing. "I have the courage to say what needs to be said. I paid the price," she says. Then there is Robert Isakson, who filed a whistleblower suit against contractor Custer Battles in 2004, alleging the company - with which he was briefly associated - bilked the U.S. government out of tens of millions of dollars by filing fake invoices and padding other bills for reconstruction work. He and his co-plaintiff, William Baldwin, a former employee fired by the firm, doggedly pursued the suit for two years, gathering evidence on their own and flying overseas to obtain more information from witnesses. Eventually, a federal jury agreed with them and awarded a $10 million judgment against the now-defunct firm, which had denied all wrongdoing. It was the first civil verdict for Iraq reconstruction fraud. But in 2006, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III overturned the jury award. He said Isakson and Baldwin failed to prove that the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S.-backed occupier of Iraq for 14 months, was part of the U.S. government. Not a single Iraq whistleblower suit has gone to trial since. "It's a sad, heartbreaking comment on the system," said Isakson, a former FBI agent who owns an international contracting company based in Alabama. "I tried to help the government, and the government didn't seem to care." One way to blow the whistle is to file a "qui tam" lawsuit (taken from the Latin phrase "he who sues for the king, as well as for himself") under the federal False Claims Act. Signed by Abraham Lincoln in response to military contractors selling defective products to the Union Army, the act allows private citizens to sue on the government's behalf. The government has the option to sign on, with all plaintiffs receiving a percentage of monetary damages, which are tripled in these suits. It can be a straightforward and effective way to recoup federal funds lost to fraud. In the past, the Justice Department has joined several such cases and won. They included instances of Medicare and Medicaid overbilling, and padded invoices from domestic contractors. But the government has not joined a single quit tam suit alleging Iraq reconstruction abuse, estimated in the tens of millions. At least a dozen have been filed since 2004. "It taints these cases," said attorney Alan Grayson, who filed the Custer Battles suit and several others like it. "If the government won't sign on, then it can't be a very good case - that's the effect it has on judges." The Justice Department declined comment. Most of the lawsuits are brought by former employees of giant firms. Some plaintiffs have testified before members of Congress, providing examples of fraud they say they witnessed and the retaliation they experienced after speaking up. Julie McBride testified last year that as a "morale, welfare and recreation coordinator" at Camp Fallujah, she saw KBR exaggerate costs by double- and triple-counting the number of soldiers who used recreational facilities. She also said the company took supplies destined for a Super Bowl party for U.S. troops and instead used them to stage a celebration for themselves. "After I voiced my concerns about what I believed to be accounting fraud, Halliburton placed me under guard and kept me in seclusion," she told the committee. "My property was searched, and I was specifically told that I was not allowed to speak to any member of the U.S. military. I remained under guard until I was flown out of the country." Halliburton and KBR denied her testimony. She also has filed a whistleblower suit. The Justice Department has said it would not join the action. But last month, a federal judge refused a motion by KBR to dismiss the lawsuit. Donald Vance, the contractor and Navy veteran detained in Iraq after he blew the whistle on his company's weapons sales, says he has stopped talking to the federal government. Navy Capt. John Fleming, a spokesman for U.S. detention operations in Iraq, confirmed the detentions but said he could provide no further details because of the lawsuit. According to their suit, Vance and Ertel gathered photographs and documents, which Vance fed to Chicago FBI agent Travis Carlisle for six months beginning in October 2005. Carlisle, reached by phone at Chicago's FBI field office, declined comment. An agency spokesman also would not comment. The Iraqi company has since disbanded, according the suit. Vance said things went terribly wrong in April 2006, when he and Ertel were stripped of their security passes and confined to the company compound. Panicking, Vance said, he called the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, where hostage experts got on the phone and told him "you're about to be kidnapped. Lock yourself in a room with all the weapons you can get your hands on.'" The military sent a Special Forces team to rescue them, Vance said, and the two men showed the soldiers where the weapons caches were stored. At the embassy, the men were debriefed and allowed to sleep for a few hours. "I thought I was among friends," Vance said. The men said they were cuffed and hooded and driven to Camp Cropper, where Vance was held for nearly three months and his colleague for a little more than a month. Eventually, their jailers said they were being held as security internees because their employer was suspected of selling weapons to terrorists and insurgents, the lawsuit said. The prisoners said they repeatedly told interrogators to contact Carlisle in Chicago. "One set of interrogators told us that Travis Carlisle doesn't exist. Then some others would say, 'He says he doesn't know who you are,'" Vance said. Released first was Ertel, who has returned to work in Iraq for a different company. Vance said he has never learned why he was held longer. His own interrogations, he said, seemed focused on why he reported his information to someone outside Iraq. And then one day, without explanation, he was released. "They drove me to Baghdad International Airport and dumped me," he said. When he got home, he decided to never call the FBI again. He called a lawyer, instead. "There's an unspoken rule in Baghdad," he said. "Don't snitch on people and don't burn bridges." For doing both, Vance said, he paid with 97 days of his life.

Where and when will it become so outrageous you scream "STOP!! ENOUGH!!" I hope you all get your priorities straight and start putting a stop to the lies and misdeeds of this administration and their emmisaries. Your voice should be the loudest calling for investigations and/or impeachment of those responsible: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Rove, Wolfowitz and the rest of the posse.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Constitutional Crisis

It's likely you didn't get the chance to watch Bill Moyers recent PBS installment on impeachment, but if you're interested -- and you should be -- you can still see in online. I say "unlikely" because there's just so much to try to keep track of that I wasn't even aware of it -- and I've been all over this issue since they invaded Iraq illegally --- until I was made aware through one of my email alerts from

The thing that struck a cord for me was when The Nation's John Nichols said he doesn't believe Congressfolk understand the constitution, that it is their DUTY to check abuse of power and that impeachment is the appropriate tool. This must be the case because I think impeachment is such a "duh!" How can we be electing people to office, any office, who don't know the constitution backwards and forwards? But does that mean they must all be lawyers or law experts? What about people like Wellstone? And while we're at it, shouldn't they also be speed-readers so they can get through those 400-page amendments that are thrown in at the 11th hour to understand what it is they are voting on?

And I was infuriated to learn today that Congress is set to provide Bush with more wiretapping authority. Let's do the time warp again. This is from and ACLU email received today:

Bush lied by omission when he called on Congress to "modernize" FISA. In his Saturday radio address, he said, “this important law was written in 1978, and it addressed the technologies of that era. This law is badly out of date — and Congress must act to modernize it.”
What Bush conveniently failed to mention is that FISA has been updated more than 50 times since 1978, including multiple times since Bush was elected president, to keep up with changes in technology and the needs of the intelligence community. What President Bush is proposing is not an update or even a modernization — it’s a complete overhaul that will strip Americans of their rights.
The FISA “modernization” bill is actually an administration power grab — expanding the National Security Agency’s access to all of our international telephone and email communications — regardless of any known connection to terrorists. And the plan rubberstamps the illegal warrantless wiretapping program the Bush administration has been engaging in for the past six years.
The president is lying to the people, spinning his proposal as a modest reform to allow spying on calls from one foreigner to another foreigner. But the White House has repeatedly rejected bipartisan legislation to do just that. The administration won’t be satisfied until it’s torn down FISA’s sensible legal safeguards. President Bush wants to monitor every U.S. citizen’s calls and e-mails, without a warrant or any court oversight — whenever you call or e-mail with someone overseas.

I sent my email and made my phone calls. I was pretty worked up but the staff taking the calls were very professional.

Friday, July 27, 2007

28 years later . . . .

About 28 years ago, 1979 give or take, I was living in Pullman, ostensibly attending Wazzu but really doing most of my learning outside the classroom. I was djing a campus radio show - I can't remember what kind of music, probably just a mix of pop. The guy who was on before me played a lot of 60s and 70s folk rock, you know, Fairport Convention, John Lennon, Dan Hicks, Grateful Dead and Joni Mitchell. I had never heard of her. I mean, I recognized some of her hits but I wasn't a Joni zealot -- yet. The guy let me play some of his albums on my show, and within weeks we were swapping music and life stories - stories of our lives up until that point, of course. I was all of 21. The guy became my very good friend and sometime lover George C.

George was from New York and had that great accent that makes a guy sound seasoned, jaded even. He was (is) really smart and thoughtful and interested in what I had to say. We'd spend rainy afternoons reading to ourselves or each other, drinking chamomile tea, listening to Colin Blunstone or John and Yoko's "Double Fantasy" and Joni Mitchell. "For the Roses" echoed my youthful introspection and insecurity and we'd set the record player to repeat so it played over and over and over and over. John Lennon hadn't been killed yet. I hadn't begun to see the inequities and atrocities of the world yet. But just because the scales hadn't fallen from my eyes doesn't mean there wasn't any pain. Of course there was, like when I almost slept with his best friend at what I thought was his approval. That was a year later and George played me like a yo-yo, wanting me one day then repulsed by me the next.

At my summer job that year, working in one of the academic offices, included making copies of assignments and tests on a mimeograph machine. Remember that smell? I don't remember if I had recording capabilities, whether I was able to make copies of George's records or not, but I know I bought several of those albums for my own music collection. Twenty-eight years later, maybe even to the day, I just burned a copy of my new cd of Joni's "For the Roses" for a fellow Joni zealot, whose birthday is today.

Of course, now I can Google "joni mitchell for the roses," upload an image of the album cover, get the lyrics, buy it with a couple clicks and have it shipped to me or to anyone else in the world. Maybe I should send it to George.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Summer Reading

The books by my bed stand or in the back seat of my car or in my hand bag are Andre Codrescu's "New Orleans, Mon Amour," Salinger's "Nine Stories," a compilation of literary journalism (to get a jump on my fall class reading), "Blessed Unrest" by Paul Hawken, Maureen Dowd's "Are Men Necessary" and one my mom just sent me called "Palace Walk," whose author won a Nobel for literature. I tried to start James Joyce's "Ulysses" but couldn't get past the first page.

The one that is most immediately holding my interest and giving me hope is "Blessed Unrest." Hawken is one of the founders of "Smith & Hawken," which started as a "green" company selling "green" goods, but I don't think he owns anymore interest in the company. I'm not sure where they stand now in terms of earth-friendly products. I wouldn't be surprised if S&H had some of their products made by 12-yr-old indentured servants in sweat shops in China. There was a story on mpr this morning about a family who went a year without buying anything that came from China, but I digress. Or do I?

The complete title of the new book is "Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming." It's from a quote by Martha Graham that refers to artists restlessness, I guess: "There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the other." Hawken used it to talk about the one, maybe two, million non-governmental organizations active throughout the world addressing poverty, globalisation, imperialism, peace, climate change and other environmental issues.

But after spending years researching this phenomenon, including creating with my colleagues a global database of its constituent organizations, I have come to these conclusions: this is the largest social movement in all of human history. No one knows its scope, and how it functions is more mysterious than what meets the eye. What does meet the eye is compelling: coherent, organic, self-organized congregations involving tens of millions of people dedicated to change.

I'm only 87 pages into it but so far he's given a history of the environmental movement and explained connections between the social justice and environmental movements, including the influence of Ralph Waldo Emerson on Henry David Thoreau, the influence of Thoreau on Mohandas Gandhi and the influence of Gandhi on Martin Luther King, Jr. I got this book from the library, but I think I'm going to buy several copies to give as gifts to friends who might need inspiration - I know I need an attitude adjustment when it comes to my world view, and I think this book is helping.

If you want to hear/read/watch Paul Hawken talking to Amy Goodman about his book and the "largest movement" no one saw coming, you can do so on her website.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Mexican murals, happy butts, etc.

We are enjoying some fine weather this week, after several weeks of above normal temps, mostly in the 90s. Because it was no longer too hot to be outside on a ladder, I got back to my painting project earlier in the week, but then have spent the rest of the week getting the inside of the house in shape for weekend company.

I'm painting my house a yellowy orange with white trim. Mexican-inspired. Needless to say, here in Minnesota, the land of white houses - or, the most daring, pastel-colored - it will be turning some heads and getting some eyeballs rolling. When I say I, I mean me, by myself. On one of the smaller sides, the one facing the backyard and garden, I had some help with the primer coat by some very generous girlfriends. Pat thought he'd hit the jackpot with an all-girl painting crew. But the next sides will be all me.

On one of the long sides I want to paint a mural, for which I hope to have help from my friend and neighbor who's an artist and whose painting I have hanging on my living room wall. I'm thinking something like this, one of the many colorful murals of the expat town of Ajijic, on Lake Chapala, south of Guadalajara:

Practically the whole town was covered in murals. Here's a few more:

That's me 'n' Pacho in the last one. The smaller pueblo, San Juan Cosola, the retirement home of some of Peter's LA friends, was more a "real" town, just as colorful but not as polished.


You're probably wondering about the "happy butts" in the title, right? You must go to see the TOTO website. This is the website of a Japanese company that has upgraded the bidet.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

El Sonero Australiano

My friend Peter, who is called Pacho in Latin America and who refers to me as his "equis esposa," met me in Mexico City last December where we had a couple good meals, visited the Blue House - Fridha Kahlo's estate - and witnessed some bizarre street, or rather, subway, theatre: A young man, maybe 16 or so, squatted on the floor of a subway car. He was only wearing cut off pants, so was barefooted and shirtless. Although I speak Spanish, I didn't understand his rantings as he laid out a piece of cloth that contained shards of glass. He swept the shards into a small mound with his hands, then threw himself backwards onto the mound. When he rose I saw that his back was slashed with white scars and red cuts. He put out his hand for money as he passed through our car and onto the next, where he repeated the performance.

I still laugh when I remember the look on Peter's face, the pinched look of shock and disgust on the face of a man who has practically seen it all, lived and traveled all over the world, and has had enough notable and weird experiences to fill many books (one of them, I am assured, will mention me). When I met him he was living in the house rented by an old middle school friend of mine in Hermosa Beach, scraping by on his silk screened t-shirt business. During a time while I lived in New York and flew for Pan Am, he lived in East Berlin - this was before the fall of the wall - and ran with a revolutionary crowd and, if I remember correctly, produced a literary or political 'zine. After many years in the states he returned to Oz and got his barrister's license and now works for, among other things, aboriginal land rights.

After several days in Mexico Peter went on to Cuba for a three-week visit. I had originally planned to go along but after hearing a news report about secret service agents waiting in Mexican airports to catch Americans returning from Cuba I thought better of it. Peter had been telling all of us he was going to make a record while in Havana, and damn if that isn't exactly what he did.

To listen to a new voice interpreting some old Cuban standards and read about the famous Cuban band that helped it happen, go to

Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday News Peruse

Last night Tavis Smiley and other non-white journalists moderated a forum for the "Democrat" candidates on PBS, which I guess is the first of it's kind because it's moderated by non-whites and will focus on the issues of non-whites (I swear I saw Condi in the audience, wearing something between a grin and a smirk. To verify, look at the "Aids Epidemic" section, almost at the end. ). This Mike Gravel guy, whom I'm ashamed to say I haven't even heard of, is the Ralph Nadar of the group, keeping it real and letting the crowd know that the candidates are equally guilty for the unequal system under which we live. It was the first time I've listened to the candidates, except for what seeps through on the news, and I was fairly impressed. I think they should all be co-presidents, a round table of conscientious and intelligent minds to run this over-sized country.

Smiley said on Democracy Now yesterday, speaking about the forum: "You know, there are some issues, Amy, that haven't even been raised. I’ve been so disappointed in these previous debates with issues having not even been raised yet . . . Now, if every white brother, if every white sister was like Amy Goodman, I know the questions would be asked that mattered to all of us anyway, but we don’t live in that world, unfortunately. And so, at some time, at some point, we have to take a moment to say that these are issues that matter to everybody in America, but particularly because they disproportionately impact black and brown people, these questions need to be asked." Cornell West also called Amy "my sister."

Have you seen the oddly-creepy-yet-funny YouTube endorsement for Kucinich?

If they are not already cringing from revelations of misdeeds and ludicrous denials, Republicans should be embarrassed by this event, or lack thereof:

"The Republican candidates have blown off Hispanics in Florida," said state Rep. Juan Zapata, a Republican who helped bring the NALEO event to the state.

Read the whole AP article here.


Listening to NPR on my mp3 player on my morning walk yesterday, I heard in an interview with one of the commanders in Iraq refer to some insurgents as "Al-Qaeda." I thought, Why do they get away with that? Not all insurgents are al-qaeda, in fact, now every terrorist or enemy seems to be referred to as al-qaeda. I'm glad to hear I wasn't the only one to notice, which makes me hopeful that others of you are noticing, too. A writer wrote this:

That the Bush administration, and specifically its military commanders, decided to begin using the term "Al Qaeda" to designate "anyone and everyeone we fight against or kill in Iraq" is obvious. All of a sudden, every time one of the top military commanders describes our latest operations or quantifies how many we killed, the enemy is referred to, almost exclusively now, as "Al Qaeda."


(if you have to squint to read this, click cartoon to enlarge)

Here's a special treat, a NYT Select column you don't have to pay to read:

A Vice President Without Borders, Bordering on Lunacy
By Maureen Dowd
The New York Times Sunday 24 June 2007

It's hard to imagine how Dick Cheney could get more dastardly, unless J. K. Rowling has him knock off Harry Potter next month.
Harry's cloak of invisibility would be no match for Vice's culture of invisibility. I've always thought Cheney was way out there - the most Voldemort-like official I've run across. But even in my harshest musings about the vice president, I never imagined that he would declare himself not only above the law, not only above the president, but actually his own dark planet - a separate entity from the White House. I guess a man who can wait 14 hours before he lets it dribble out that he shot his friend in the face has no limit on what he thinks he can keep secret. Still, it's quite a leap to go from hiding in a secure, undisclosed location in the capital to hiding in a secure, undisclosed location in the Constitution. Dr. No used to just blow off the public and Congress as he cooked up his shady schemes. Now, in a breathtaking act of arrant arrogance, he's blowing off his own administration. Henry Waxman, the California congressman who looks like an accountant and bites like a pit bull, is making the most of Congress's ability, at long last, to scrutinize Cheney's chicanery. On Thursday, Mr. Waxman revealed that after four years of refusing to cooperate with the government unit that oversees classified documents, the vice president tried to shut down the unit rather than comply with the law ensuring that sensitive data is protected. The National Archives appealed to the Justice Department, but who knows how much justice there is at Justice, now that the White House has so blatantly politicized it? Cheney's office denied doing anything wrong, but Cheney's office is also denying it's an office. Tricky Dick Deuce declared himself exempt from a rule that applies to everyone else in the executive branch, instructing the National Archives that the Office of the Vice President is not an "entity within the executive branch" and therefore is not subject to presidential executive orders. "It's absurd, reflecting his view from the first day he got into office that laws don't apply to him," Representative Waxman told me. "The irony is, he's taking the position that he's not part of the executive branch." Ah, if only that were true. Then maybe W. would be able to close Gitmo, which Vice has insisted he not do. And Condi wouldn't have to worry every night that she'll wake up to find crazy Dick bombing Iran, whispering to W. that they have to do it before that weak sister Hillary takes over. "Your decision to exempt your office from the president's order is problematic because it could place national security secrets at risk," Mr. Waxman, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote to Cheney. Of course, it's doubtful, now that Vice has done so much to put our national security at risk, that he'll suddenly listen to reason. Cheney and Cheney's Cheney, David Addington, his equally belligerent, ideological and shadowy lawyer and chief of staff, have no shame. After claiming executive privilege to withhold the energy task force names and protect Scooter Libby, they now act outraged that Vice should be seen as part of the executive branch. Cheney, they argue, is the president of the Senate, so he's also part of the legislative branch. Vice is casting himself as a constitutional chimera, an extralegal creature with the body of a snake and the head of a sea monster. It's a new level of gall, to avoid accountability by saying you're part of a legislative branch that you've spent six years trying to weaken. But gall is the specialty of Addington, who has done his best to give his boss the powers of a king. He was the main author of the White House memo justifying torture of terrorism suspects, and he helped stonewall the 9/11 commission. He led the fights supporting holding terrorism suspects without access to courts and against giving Congress and environmentalists access to information about the energy industry big shots who secretly advised Cheney on energy policy. Dana Perino, a White House press spokeswoman, had to go out on Friday and defend Cheney's bizarre contention that he is his own government. "This is an interesting constitutional question that legal scholars can debate," she said. I love that Cheney was able to bully Colin Powell, Pentagon generals and George Tenet when drumming up his fake case for war, but when he tried to push around the little guys, the National Archive data collectors - I'm visualizing dedicated "We the People" wonky types with glasses and pocket protectors - they pushed back. Archivists are the new macho heroes of Washington.

Some other juicy editorial rants can be read here and here.

In case you didn't watch the Daily Show clip about Cheney declaring he's not part of the executive branch, please give it look-see, it's hysterical!

And, if you can't get enough and are looking (as I was) for the series of articles the Washington Post did on Darth Cheney, you can go to this page.


Some good news:

Paul Hawken, author of Blessed Unrest, discusses what he sees as the largest social movement in human history, and why that movement is so invisible to the media - and itself.

I heard him interviewed on Democracy Now a few weeks ago and it reinforces my opinion about why everyone should have equal and unlimited access to the internet, our last (and maybe only) public commons. I believe it should be operated as a public utility, if anyone cares to know. Maybe I should sit on that presidential round table.

And on tap for Amy's show today:

“Another World Is Possible, Another U.S. Is Necessary”: Thousands of Activists Gather in Atlanta for the First-Ever U.S. Social Forum

"The Social Forum is a massive gathering. It’s almost like a big networking meeting. People come to talk about the campaigns they’re undertaking, talk about the situations in their cities around the issues, and to share and to learn from each other, which is the most critical part, and then, something that we're doing that is different from the other Social Forums, actually sitting together and figuring out strategies for how we move our vision for another world forward."

Michael Moore's "Sicko" opens today across the country. Amy had him on a few weeks ago, but if he annoys you you can check out what some of the critics and pundits are saying, like Roger Ebert and Marie Cocco of the Washington Post. I understand even Oprah is endorsing the movie, which is the least she can do, considering she failed to speak out in either the 2000 or 2004 election and can shoulder some responsibility for not getting out the word on BushCo in time to save us from it.

I was a little apprehensive about "Ratatouille" because it's about some French rats, which would just be too easy a plot to further malign my cousins, but the first review I've read, from the San Francisco Chronicle, is favorable, as is the one from New York Times:

“Ratatouille” is a nearly flawless piece of popular art, as well as one of the most persuasive portraits of an artist ever committed to film. It provides the kind of deep, transporting pleasure, at once simple and sophisticated, that movies at their best have always promised.

Finally, for some good boys-will-be-boys fun, check out this jeep that . . . well, I don't want to spoil the surprise!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What the dogs are up to now

Amy Klobuchar, our freshman Senator, is making news lately with her goal to create a national carbon registry, where industry would have to report their emissions. Imagine polluters being held accountable? She was also on Minnesota Public Radio's "Midday" program yesterday and gave some thoughtful and fairly detailed answers to constituents who called or emailed with questions. A few of those callers were mad about the seeming inaction, but she gave a list of some accomplishments that made me a bit more optimistic about this class, especially when it comes to ethics and rules violations.

And Greg Palast sent an update on the U.S. Attorney firings and that Conyer's has collected Palast's evidence that Tim Griffin - Rove's caging co-conspirator - deliberately created a list of voters that would appear to be fraudulent, at least on paper. It's a tangled web that seems to be coming undone little by little. Read "The Tears of a Clone" on his website.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Buster Found!!

Talk about instant karma! Barely minutes after I'd posted the request to the Universe to return my kitty, my cell phone rang and a guy from animal control was on the other end of the line. He said they had Buster. They picked him up on Tues, not a block from my house! They scanned him but nothing registered, that is, it seemed as though he didn't have a microchip. He was scheduled to be put down today! Someone thought to try one more time, which was when they got a blip from the chip.

I have already been to their "shelter" and back. I guess I didn't hear the guy tell me they didn't open until 2:00. Now I'm trying to keep distracted with news of the world - much more dire than a missing kitty.

Buster is AWOL

My cat, Buster, AKA Bubba, has not been home for a week. The last anyone saw of him was the morning of May 31 when he went out for his morning constitutional. He is wearing a microchip that, when scanned, will identify him and our contact information. I have verified that the city's animal control unit and the nearest humane society scan each animal, dead or alive, that is brought to them. Pat and I have plastered the neighborhood with flyers bearing his mug shot and I have stopped dog walkers and joggers whose route takes them through our hood to let them know of my search.

I have received a couple phone calls from neighbors alleging sitings, including one from my next-door-neighbor who should recognize him. She said he ran across the street in front of her about 6 blocks from us, but she described him as "scrawny and messed up." By no stretch would anyone describe Buster as scrawny. I can't believe he is on the loose. I think he is trapped somewhere or dead. This cat is a home-body; he doesn't stray (no pun intended) far from his food dish or his favorite napping nests. The longest he has ever been away from the house, to hunt bunnies or visit some of his homies, is about 5 hours. Pat suggested I offer a reward, but I think being released from his highly annoying pestering to get out, 5 am meowing and constant begging for food would be reward enough. I showed his picture to my yoga teacher, Jeanne, who claims to be a pet psychic, and she said she got the revelation that he is in someone's house. I was glad to hear he is not dead, but I'm starting to get impatient for his release. She suggested I try to communicate with him during dreamtime. I tried that, but so far no Buster. So I'm sending this message out into the Universe: Please send my kitty home!!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Earbud wearin' fool

This morning I joined the throngs of jogging, dork walking, rollerblading, dog-escorting fools with mp3 players dangling from their ears. I bought an mp3/fm radio player yesterday, set my alarm clock and strutted to the morning news bright and early before work today. I was a little self-conscious, like a wanna-be wearing the same new brand of jeans as everyone else, trying to fit in. I don't like to walk or skate alone so I usually go to the gym and read the New Yorker, but it's a shame to be inside during this sublime season. True, I'll fall behind on my subscription, but I can study what other people in the neighborhood are doing with their gardens.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Gonzales, not Rove, will be next

So, it's probably wishful thinking on my part to think that Rove would be next on the cut list. There's buzz that "Abu" Gonzales (thanks for the nickname, Jacabrooke) will be next to be thrown into the tank, and a list of possible replacements is being assembled, even as the White House continues to stand by him. Bush will try to keep Rove from testifying about the firing scandal, and may have to sacrifice Gonzales in the process.

Republican officials operating at the behest of the White House have begun seeking a possible successor to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whose support among GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill has collapsed, according to party sources familiar with the discussions . . . "Democrats smell blood in the water, and (Gonzales') resignation won't stop them," said a well-connected Republican Senate aide. "And on our side, no one's going to defend him. All we can do is warn Democrats against overreaching."

But I still hold out hope for Rove's downfall.

With the scandal clearly not going away, Sampson then urged others at the department to try to get Cummins not to join other fired prosecutors in testifying on March 6. Cummins had warned officials that if called to Washington, he "would tell the truth about his circumstances" of being fired so Rove's operative, Timothy Griffin, could take over in Little Rock.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


I opened my email this morning to find this note from my friend Pacho, whom I met up with Mexico City recently, and who knows well my great appreciation for this particular actor's talent, as well as my lust for his pulchritude:

"ken n joy were thrilled to recive your amores perroes by the way, talking of which i supose you recognise the guy with me in the foto...... love peter"

Afterwhich followed a photo of my friend with Gael Garcia Bernal at the Habana airport. Since he didn't send it in a format for me to share it with you here, I went online to find other pictures for us to dream over.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

This is such a fantastic report from NPR this morning I just decided to copy the whole thing here - I've bolded the good stuff (to listen to it - and hear our commander-in-chief speaking Spanish - go to the NPR website):

By David Greene

Latin America Trip Not Entirely Business as Usual

March 14, 2007 · President Bush is wrapping up a week-long tour of five Latin American countries with his last stop in Mexico. NPR White House Correspondent David Greene has been following the president, and covering the news of the trip. Greene has also been taking note of some of the stranger moments along the way — and he wanted to offer a few observations.

Covering the commander in chief is not always the sexiest job. Except, apparently, when you're in Brazil. That country's president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, said that when it comes to intense, ongoing trade talks, he just wants to find that spot where everyone's satisfied.

"We're moving on solid ground to find a chance for the so-called G-point," Silva said.

That was the English translation for Brazil's leader, who has been known to spice up a news conference. Brazil was President Bush's first stop. And evidently, he was pretty hungry after the trip down.

"So, Mr. President, it has been a great first meeting here," Bush said. "I appreciate the fact that you're about to buy me lunch. I'm kind of hungry. Looking forward to eating some of that good Brazilian food."

But he may not have been quite satisfied with the Brazilian fare, because when he got to Uruguay, and met up with the president there, Mr. Bush still seemed a little peckish.

"I appreciate your willingness to cook some Uruguayan beef," he said. "You've told me all along how good it is, and after we answer a few questions, we're about to find out."

Uruguay, get ready. The White House chef might be calling soon to get some of your food on the menu.

"It turns out Uruguay produces a fantastic blueberry," Mr. Bush said later.

But nothing seemed to excite the president as much as the lettuce in Guatemala. Mr. Bush spent time in a small village, loading crates of lettuce onto a truck. He proclaimed this stop one of the special moments of his entire presidency.

"It was really, really fun," he said.

Maybe the president was day-dreaming about the lettuce when he came to talk to reporters. Surely, he didn't mean to say this.

"The American people would have been incredibly proud of watching our military folks dispense with basic health care needs to people who needed help," Bush said.

Clearly he meant that the U.S. military is offering health care. Because he said if Guatemalans, for example, needed eye glasses, they might be able to turn to U.S. military personnel.

"Or you have a perpetual tooth ache and somebody shows up, in this case in military uniforms, and says, how can I help," he said.

But there were times on this trip when Mr. Bush seemed a little cranky. At another stop, he was talking about Iraq, and a regional conference on how to stabilize it. And he didn't exactly praise the U.S. officials who were there. He said for the next conference, he's sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"In other words, it's a step up in — I'm not dissing anybody, but it's a step up in the pay grade, let's put it that way," he said.

Mr. Bush was also able to turn to his usual punching bag — the press. All week, reporters kept asking him about Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's leader, who was trying to upstage Mr. Bush during his visit. The president refused to answer. He wouldn't once say Chavez's name in public. White House officials kept telling reporters they were making too big a deal out of Chavez, and should be focusing on Mr. Bush's agenda. And at one point Mr. Bush declared: "We welcome a free press — most of the time."

In fact, in a session with reporters in Guatemala, Mr. Bush tried to bring things to an abrupt close. But maybe that's because something else was on his mind.

"This will be your last question, Mr. President, and then we can start thinking about dinner, la cena," Bush said. "Que vamos a comer?"

A television reporter was ready to ask that last question. But she was forced to just stand there. The president of Guatemala, Oscar Berger, took Mr. Bush's comment about dinner to mean he wanted to hear about the menu, right there, in the middle of the press conference.

"Tortillas," Berger said.

"Tortillas? Que bueno," Bush replied.

Even the translator jumped in to help.

"We have tortillas with guacamole and beans," the translator said.

"Con el muerso, hoy," Bush said.

(I think that last bit should have been transcribed, "con almuerzo hoy.")

Throwing Rove to the Sharks?

With the latest revelations about White House involvement in the political firings of those eight U.S. attorneys comes more proof of the authortarian ambitions of the President. We've seen Libby get thrown to the sharks in an effort to protect Rove. Back in January, Jason Leopold and Marc Ash wrote in a Truth Out report:

Thus, Cheney's notes would have read "not going to protect one staffer and sacrifice the guy this Pres. asked to stick his head in the meat grinder because of the incompetence of others." The words "this Pres." were crossed out and replaced with "that was," but are still clearly legible in the document.

The reference to "the meat grinder" was understood to be the Washington press corps, Wells said. The "protect one staffer" reference, Wells said, was White House Political Adviser Karl Rove, whose own role in the leak and the attacks on Wilson are well documented.

Furthermore, Cheney, in his directive to McClellan that day in September 2003, wrote that the White House spokesman needed to immediately "call out to key press saying the same thing about Scooter as Karl."

Cheney was pissed about his having to sacrifice Libby for Karl, but went along with it to protect the President. Since the sharks continue to circle, they seem to be willing to throw another piece of food into the drink to forestall their own inevitable demise.

The White House acknowledged on Sunday that presidential adviser Karl Rove served as a conduit for complaints to the Justice Department about federal prosecutors who were later fired for what critics charge were partisan political reasons.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Rove had relayed complaints from Republican officials and others to the Justice Department and the White House counsel's office. She said Rove, the chief White House political operative, specifically recalled passing along complaints about former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias and may have mentioned the grumblings about Iglesias to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.