Thursday, September 28
Before the Republican Congress takes a break, they have given President Bush and many of his minions their own break.
"..,Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on this legislation that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies. Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error." (Good analysis of the "free pass" better known as the "detainee interrogation bill.")
This bill "..., simply removes a suspect's right to challenge his detention in court. This is a rule of law that goes back to the Magna Carta in 1215. That pretty much leaves the barn door open."
I asked myself if this law effects ordinary US citizens, like me. Then I remembered that I actually know someone who has been "detained" without being charged for a crime, and the answer is, "yes." A close family member was jailed before 9/11's "war on terror" while riding in a car that contained illegal drugs. Law enforcement "detained" this person for three days of questioning and then let the person go after they had gotten the information they needed, I assume. So, when the President and his republican minions beat their chests about "terrorists" and war, we need to keep in mind that "detainees" can and will be us and those we know and love.
btw, this bill does not deliver a NEW weapon into our terror warrior hands. It just relieves them of any accountability. Remember Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, secret torture "facilities" in other countries? This "weapon" has been in use since 2001 and has delivered (???) - the Bushites ain't talkin about what it's delivered. They just say "trust us" while we throw up some barbed wire to keep you sheep in line.
Torture and the suspension of basic human rights have not delivered the information to capture Osama bin Laden. It has cloned more Osamas. These terror wars and their torture tactics are increasing terror according to recent findings by the the National Intelligence Estimate, a report from U.S. intelligence agencies. Common sense would hint that torture produces more harm than good and the repugnatans should try something different - Instead....
Our elected representatives presented a slightly diluted version of what Bush has been doing all along - backdating it so he can't be prosecuted for war crimes - Bush modifies the bill to be exactly what he's doing now via his infamous "signing statements or technical clarifications" and Americans are stripped of their rights.
Now, Bush and the Congress will tell you and me, "hey, knuckleheads, these provisions are only for "illegal combatants!" Here's the new law's definition of this term:
".., By writing into law for the first time the definition of an 'unlawful enemy combatant,' the bill empowers the executive branch to detain indefinitely anyone it determines to have 'purposefully and materially' supported anti-U.S. hostilities. Only foreign nationals among those detainees can be tried by the military commissions, as they are known, and sentenced to decades in jail or put to death."
Remember attorney Brandon Mayfield, 37, a convert to Islam, who was jailed by federal authorities in Portland under the material witness statute for a flimsy fingerprint connection to the Madrid bombings. His only "purposeful and material support" was his legal work on a custody issue for Jeffrey Leon Battle, a Portland man who was sentenced to 18 years in prison for conspiring to fight against U.S. troops in Afghanistan . The Madrid police had to finally step in and tell our FBI that the print belonged to an Algerian man, not Mayfield. If not for their intervention, Mayfield might still be rotting in a detention cell. I'm sure our executive branch can use its imagination to come up with many more creative "terror ties" and protect us from, erm.... ourselves.
Meanwhile, GWB continues to blame everyone but himself for his failure to contain and eliminate terrorists. He has been given everything he's requested. (Hello - an entire Homeland Security Department, a billion US/China/Japan dollars a week, a free pass to destroy two countries, countless no bid "war" contracts for his favorite corporations) AND HE STILL CAN'T GET IT RIGHT. America is owned by the Republican party and guided by Bush-Cheney-Rummy-Frist -De Lay.... So, taking cheap shots at the minority party or the judiciary for being.... well, a minority and a judiciary is insane and bodes ill for our U.S. Constitution. This election season is going downhill fast along with America's Bill of Rights.
P.S. Get ready for the gutless Congress to rubber stamp illegal wiretaps of U.S. citizens which the Bushites have been doing for years, it seems. Our rights will be whisked away to protect these people from prosecution. Why bother? We all know the chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General, Alberto Gonsales, would never enforce the law if it impacts his boss.
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."
Wednesday, September 27
“How much is that small couch over there,” he asked.
I turned around to see if one of us would answer him and saw that I was closest to him. I walked toward him and noticed that he was about my height. He was older than me and I immediately knew he was gay. His white hat, casually but carefully draped sweater and his small leather bag hinted that he was a bit vain and when he spoke, he confirmed my assessment.
“It’s a nice size. Perfect for my bedroom, I think. What do you think? How much is it and does the store deliver?” he remarked as he bounced on the couch cushions.
“Hi. Let me see. The price is marked right here and it is $125. The larger couch is $175. Did you want to buy it?” I asked him. For the next fifteen minutes he talked about how he had finally cleaned out his apartment after the death of his partner in January. He had donated his friend’s clothing and other items to the shop in January. He said he was ready to donate his furniture and move to a smaller place and asked whether the store would pick up his items.
“He had aids but I don’t, he said. I almost died when he died in January, but now I’m starting to be able to function again. We were together for fourteen years. He was the art director at Bullocks in Westwood for many years and had so many nice clothes. Whatever happened to the red velvet shoes I donated? Do you know if anyone bought them because I’d like them back if they weren’t sold,” he said.
He spoke with the store manager about the red shoes, took another look at the sofa and then introduced himself to me. I shook his hand and as much as I felt empathy and a connection to him, I did not like his touch. His hand was damp and surprisingly small. I thought of his comments about how his partner had died. As if on autopilot, I walked to the employees’ bathroom and washed my hands.
I feel strange about my reaction, but just as I won't judge this man, I realize I won't judge my reaction to his touch. It is what it is, I guess.
Wednesday, September 13
I've been thinking about Mother Earth today and how I can do more to take care of her.
I found this link today and it makes me want to ration my internet/computing time. The Breathing Earth site provides a fascinating visual of energy use.
Another good link is Your Carbon Footprint.
Our household is borderline low energy consumers, probably because we have opted to use "green energy" which we pay a surcharge for. Here's a list of cities that also give customers a green energy choice.
I think I'll turn off my computer now and go mulch some flower beds.
Monday, September 11
"It's Not What Happens to You, It's What You Do About It"
is a book written by a remarkable survivor, W Mitchell. Many years ago I attended a Realtor convention in Anaheim, California, and wandered into a small conference room thinking I'd kill some time in between meetings. After a minute or so, a man in a wheelchair came into the space and it seemed like everything got brighter. I looked a bit closer and noticed that he was horribly burned and disfigured, yet his disabilities did not prevent him from directing his assistant to set up the riser and podium and his sound system quickly and efficiently. He then took command of the room, including me and the forty or so others who were fascinated and transformed by his story of personal disaster and unrelenting determination to be a better person in spite of his adversity. I was moved then and think of him often, especially today.
I've lived long enough to experience disaster and the bewildering aftermath of uncontrollable events. There is a period of numbness that allows us to "carry on" and move through the rubble, putting one foot in front of the other until we are able to rest. During this period, we are on autopilot. We automatically make those decisions that keep us alive and fight like hell to avoid deep feeling and consequently, deep thinking.
Once we are able to rest, though, a thousand knives slice our guts as we sort out the whys and hows of the event and our part in it. Fear and the survival instinct that kept us going, now morphs into anger. Rage jumps on our backs and soon we've got guilt, shame, blame, and panic joining the fray. This is when I feel the most pain, and when I must wake up and make choices.
At this painful crossroad, I will often over-think the problems and solutions and wind up running in circles. An old trick is to fall back on the fear and numbness and hope some survival adrenalin will kick in to boot me out of the pit. This only makes me more destructive and prolongs the painful healing process.
When faced with this crossroads, W Mitchell is a strong proponent of the "Just Do It" philosophy:
"The key for all of us who want to make a difference is to act. To do something. Anything. That's the key that will unlock the door to a future unimagined by so many people. Sometimes...we feel powerless, unable to do anything. Just one act, anything you can think of, can restart your engine."
"Just because you're out of work doesn't mean you can't begin a physical fitness program. Just because you're out of love doesn't mean you can't improve your job skills. By getting better in one area, you'll help your self-esteem, which may unlock the door to new relationships, and perhaps point yourself in a new direction. Is it easy? Perhaps not. But as someone has said, 'Easy doesn't do it.'"
The first time I saw W Mitchell, he was his wheelchair. The first time I heard W. Mitchell, he was the embodiment of mind over matter. His disability does not define his life. The actions he has taken to transcend his disability defines his life.
In the past week or so, I have been reluctant to turn on the television. Every station has a program about the horrific attacks against America on September 11, 2001. Footage of the death and destruction is shown over and over reinforcing the helplessness and horror of that day. Today, I realized that what this country must do is not recreate and perpetuate the horror and destruction, but transcend this tragedy. 9/11 is not America. What America has done to transcend 9/11 is the real America.
I am proud of those who survived that day and carry on, despite their nightmares and depression. I am proud of those leaders who support the positive, life affirming actions that protect us from terrorists, and also wish to protect us from natural disasters, like Katrina, global warming, air and water pollutants, grinding poverty and disease. These are the policies and actions that perpetuate "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
I do not support the one-party rule that allows our President to selectively enforce laws or change laws that he has violated. I do not support the Bush administration's faulty reasons or actions in launching a never ending "war on terror" at the expense of our weakest and most vulnerable citizens. I am sickened at the Bush administration's "ends justifies the means" mentality that actually gloats that because of this "war", there have been no attacks on American soil in five years. This fact does not justify the sacrifice of ten to fifteen American lives a day, nor the death and mutilation of innocent citizens in Afghanistan, Iraq, Britain, Spain, and other places worldwide. It does not justify the expenditure of one billion dollars a week on war - money that we must borrow from Japan and China. Those that feel the terror wars are a success because we are "safe" at the expense of others remind me of the Aztecs that thought nothing of appeasing the gods with human sacrifices.
Our nation is at a crossroads. As overwhelmed and powerless as I feel when it comes to my role as an American citizen, I have to take action. Mid-term elections are coming up, and the propaganda machine is working overtime (e.g., ABC's "Path to 9/11"). It would be so easy to say my vote doesn't count and why care anyway, but that is one weakness I can't afford. My vote does count and the checks and balances of a working democracy must be restored. One party rule is wrong and allows leaders to ignore the Constitution and disdain minority opinions. So, I'll vote and keep informed of the issues. There are worthwhile volunteer opportunites I can add to help myself and others; and there are personal choices I can make each day to support the environment, energy conservation and the community.
I am with this nation, at another cross roads and I am hopeful that tragedy and terror will not define our country. I am hopeful that there are enough people like me to affirm life and take those constructive actions to stay alive and reject the fear-mongers who want to take us down a "war on terror" road that never ends.
May all beings know love and peace.