Friday, November 30, 2007

Take an Online Poll to See Who You Should Support

On The Chris Matthews show tonight, Matthews accused Craig Crawford (of Congressional Quarterly) having a preference for Hillary. I've noticed that too. He seemed oblivious to the Oprah effect and, as if he were on another planet, kept insisting he couldn't see that her involvement would help Obama.

In defending that accusation he mentioned he took an online poll and it told him his views were mostly aligned with Ron Paul.

It took me a bit of doing to find the site, but it's pretty cool. It asks your views about a bunch of issues and then spits out which candidate's views match up the closest to my own. Obama 89% My second choice candidate is Biden and I matched him by 82%. Okay and Hillary I got 83% but I don't trust her so that doesn't matter.

Try it yourself here - Select Smart

UPDATE: A better site that does the same thing - More sophisticated; better graphics, more nuanced. Very cool. Thanks Ari!

Obama at the DNC, next President of the United States of America

Obama today at the Democratic National Committee (about 13 minutes). I watched Edwards and Richardson too. No comparison.

Obama addresses the DNC
Obama addresses the DNC

Goosebumps! Echoes his Democratic Convention speech of 2004. Go Obama!

Obama's Judgment

I found this video and it's worth sharing.

Obama's credentials on the war in Iraq are impeccable. I simply do not understand how any one can believe that Hillary's judgment is reliable given both her vote on this, the vote on Iran, her failed health plan, etc., etc., etc.

Here's an excerpt of Barack's words:
That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics. Now let me be clear - I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity. He's a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him. But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States...
If you're interested in reading the text of his speech October 2, 2002, click here.

Obama addressed the war again last month on October 2, 2007 (Ted Sorenson introduced him) -
As Ted Sorensen's old boss President Kennedy once said - "the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war - and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears." In the fall of 2002, those deaf ears were in Washington. They belonged to a President who didn't tell the whole truth to the American people; who disdained diplomacy and bullied allies; and who squandered our unity and the support of the world after 9/11.
But it doesn't end there. Because the American people weren't just failed by a President - they were failed by much of Washington. By a media that too often reported spin instead of facts. By a foreign policy elite that largely boarded the bandwagon for war. And most of all by the majority of a Congress - a coequal branch of government - that voted to give the President the open-ended authority to wage war that he uses to this day. Let's be clear: without that vote, there would be no war.
For the full text, click here.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Remembrance of my mother

My mother died a year ago today. I share the remembrance I delivered at her memorial service. Five others gave tributes to her as well, each highlighting different qualities. They all captured a different aspect of my mother; my favorite was my uncle's.

I feel I just transcribed this, and I'm not sure who the author is. After I typed it up but before I actually delivered it, different members of my family came to me and asked that I include this or that. It was strange as not once did they suggest something that wasn't already in there. So I think my mother's spirit had something to do with what is conveyed here:

I speak on behalf of my father, brother Matthew and sisters Beatrice, Eleanor and Olivia, their spouses and for my mother’s grandchildren, Isabelle, Lucas, Austin, Jack, Curtis, Drew, Margot, Sabrina and Ava Angelina, in order to remember our mama as a grandmother and mother.

We and our father are astonished by the outpouring of love and support these last days, especially from this extraordinary place and its people, Oak Knoll. And we are moved by the presence of all of you here. Some came for all of us, some for one of us, some from nearby and some from far away, even against the adversity of some nasty weather. We deeply appreciate you. And hope that first and foremost you TAKE JOY in this celebration of our mother.

She endowed all of us with so many gifts, but I wish to highlight four –
as well as few mandates.

My mother appreciated the sacred and the mystery imbedded in the sacred. She had an awesome mind and such wisdom. She understood much, including that the peace of God passes all understanding, as the liturgy of communion reminds us. Despite the power of her brain or more likely because of, she allowed for that mystery and taught us that not knowing everything was not always a source of frustration but could be an astonishing, valuable gift.

When we were small, in the season of Lent, our parents would stir and wake each of us with a “shhhh” and we’d slip out of our beds and out of our dreams to gather on the steps of the landing for family prayer. We were not allowed to talk until we finished our prayers. We gathered in silence. No words. And so she showed us the power of sacred peace in a small, authentic way.

As we gathered around her death bed, she told Matthew she loved him best, and Beatrice that she loved her best, and Eleanor that she loved her best and Olivia that she loved her best, and of course, me the same. Didn’t make any sense, but we knew it to be true. We enjoyed some initial fake argument over who she said it to first or last and the significance of the order. But she kept saying to us all the time, in mixed up order – no logic or sense. We knew her, and we knew it to be true. Mysteriously, gloriously true.

Mom also valued magic. She loved the magic of the arts, especially the stage, literature, dance, music, most of all jazz. She was always dragging us to New York City to see a film or a concert at Lincoln Center, and we came to appreciate the transcendence of the arts in some of the same ways she did. She gave us magical birthday parties, each with a theme such as dolly sweet sixteen, a circus party, a Laura Ingalls Wilder party, a backwards party and a newspaper party, among numerous others.

And, of course, she loved planning parties for my dad - she gathered friends to “bury his youth” when he turned 30; had him woken at 11 at night for an Old Goat party to mark his 40th; a 50 hour open house designed also to deprive him of sleep for the 50th and a beautiful family weekend gathering in Vermont for his 60th.

She created magic with her family rituals: gathering for breakfast and supper, placing the red plate at our place setting to mark special occasions or accomplishments, cooking specific recipes for holidays, and requiring participation in the annual New Year’s Eve talent show and, of course, always dressing up for holiday dinners. No jeans!

The Christmas season approaches with Advent beginning tomorrow and this time of year was her favorite for she loved nothing more that the magic of Christmas, as several of her grandchildren noted on Wednesday. She and my Dad decided to marry in the Christmas season on the Feast of the Holy Innocents. My dad always said he was the innocent and we never believed him. But writing of hers found and read since Wednesday have led us to consider maybe Dad was right! These things were well hidden while she was alive. By the way, in that same scrap book we also found - a matchbox from the place they went on their first date, a list of things my father liked and disliked; and a newspaper article featuring her when she was a high school senior, 17, in which she declared women should not marry before age 26. She married my father at 19. He magically changed her mind!

When they got engaged, my father wrote his parents, Floyd and Opal, and told them about Angela and how she was a different sort of girl. She didn’t want a diamond engagement ring; she wanted them both to wear simple gold bands. For 25 years, Opal kept that letter, and on a visit east from Ohio she gave it back to her son and said – can you not now afford to buy that girl a diamond? My father listened to his mother, and my mom treasured that letter my father wrote his own mother so many decades earlier.

In this Christmas season, my mom loved the magic of Santa Claus, the magic of lights on a tree and presents under the tree, the magic of so many Christmas carols and the magic and hopeful promise of the candles on the Advent wreath which we lit every night as we awaited the Christ child every year. This time of year was her favorite, and God called her home to Him during this magical time. Though she could not speak, she nodded in agreement when one suggested to her Tuesday night that she’d be our Christmas angel. What a marvelous, magical image!

Mom loved myths. She treasured stories. She was an avid reader and enjoyed stories for themselves, but she also appreciated their power to move, to educate and to connect. She told us and made sure we knew the parable stories of Jesus. We got to know the stories of the Old Testament as we created and assembled a Jesse tree for Advent to show Jesse being the root of Christ, and how those old stories linked with the new ones of Jesus.

On our long summer drives to the Midwest to visit Dad’s family in Ohio and hers in Chicago, she’d entertain us with her own made up stories and mesmerized us - as each of us appeared as a character. We begged for more from our very own, personal storyteller.

And recently, she loved nothing more than to cuddle up with a grandchild to regal them with a story. They often asked, is it a true story, Nini? Their eyes widening with the wonder of her tales pleased her beyond measure. She called them her sugarpusses because their faces were so sweet to her.

And finally, she loved the stories of history, and so our last family gathering was in late June this past year to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday in Williamsburg , Virginia. She chose that location because she wanted to introduce history, our nation’s history, to her grandchildren in that dynamic place where the stories of our nations are so alive and so accessible.

And finally she left us with some mandates. One of her favorite movies was “I Remember Mama.” She really liked the movie and the book it was based on; it wasn’t just the title. And she wanted us to remember her and for us to make sure that her grandchildren remembered her.

She wanted us to value learning and education, particularly the principles of a Holy Child education as set forth by Cornelia Connelly.

She definitely wanted us to vote Democratic, but even she believed that most important of all was to be an engaged civic citizen. She could not abide those who did not inform themselves about current events and who did not avail themselves of the privilege to vote. And then had the gall to complain.

She allowed bickering but forbade serious arguments. I vividly remember once being annoyed with Beatrice and fiercely arguing with her in ferocious murmurs in the back of the car – angry whispers so Mom wouldn’t hear. And she grew a circle of love and respect among us.

She kept her sense of humor and a twinkle in her eye right to the end, and she’d want us to continue to laugh in our lives. She was self-deprecating and taught us not to take ourselves too seriously.

And last but not least, she passed on to each of us, both in her words and her example, the importance of love that is nurtured in families. A window in our church, Zion, in Vermont is dedicated to that love and depicts the Holy family, and she based the nurturing and safe nest she created for us on that family.

My mom was who she was because of her parents Olga and Tony – particularly her passion, her intelligence and her respect for education. She is with them now.

T.S. Elliot wrote, “In my end, is my beginning.” And also, “All shall be well, and All manner of thing shall be well.”

Her favorite poet was Gerard Manley Hopkins:

Moonless darkness stands between.
Past, the Past, no more be seen!
But the Bethlehem star may lead me
To the sight of Him who Freed me.
Now beginning, and always:
Now begin, on Christmas day.

Rest in peace, dear mother. Do some more magic and be our Christmas angel all year long.

You are with God, and he is with us so we are all still together.

You are with us and will be with us. And we promise you, Mom, that your grandchildren will remember you and the family values you instilled in us. Democratic family values.

We will gather and assemble and connect and stay close with each other and remember you.

We will remember your mystery, your magic, your mythmaking and your mandates. We’ll remember our nini and we’ll remember mama.

Now we worship and thank God for her.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hillary is Not Electable, Loses to EVERY Republican in New Poll

Think Hillary is the most electable? Think again.

She LOSES to every single Republican contender - even Huckabee! "The questions about her electability have always been there, but as we get close this suggests that is a problem," Zogby said.

Meanwhile - both Edwards and Obama hold narrow leads LEADS against every single Republican contender.

It's a Zogby poll in Reuters.

Defense Sec. Gates Yearns for 'Soft Power'

In speech at a university in Kansas, Gates doesn't sound like the Republicans who've made the messes we live in. He even answered real questions! Finally, some one in the Pentagon talking sense. Not talking about building more anti-ballistic missiles to fight terrorists hiding in caves. It's so refreshing and a relief!

Gates bemoans the lack of "soft power." “It is just plain embarrassing that al-Qaida is better at communicating its message on the Internet than America,” he said. “Speed, agility and cultural relevance are not terms that come readily to mind when discussing U.S. strategic communications.” Hmmm - wasn't Karen Hughes in charge of this effort?? Until she recently quit.

He's got a few facts wrong. "Gates called for the creation of new government organizations,"
Um - Voice of American and the United States Information Agency still exist. Hello!?! They were gutted along with much of the federal government in the Reagan years (FAA, FCC, HUD, etc, etc, etc). Gates claimed the gutting of happened in the 1990s. Yes, President Clinton continued the downsizing and deregulating and called it triangulation.

Gates also called for more a larger budget for the state department which is 1/10th of the Pentagon (not including the Iraq and Iran war). Note that several reports (one in Vanity Fair last summer) delineate how the Pentagon farms out a bulk of that overblown budget for a mark up to cover former regular Defense Dept. activities to the now infamous private contractors, costing the taxpayer more, enriching scum, outside the normal accountability of law.

Budget is one thing. Just as with the Justice Department under Gonzalez, foreign service agents are fleeing the State Department under Rice. These are career civil servants who have served under both Democrats and Republicans. They are the bureaucrats, technocrats, that make our government work. Oh right, Republicans don't want the federal government to work.

One new thing - anti-war protesters wore t-shirts making "Iraq" a verb - "Don't Iraq Iran." That's good. Even better than Jon Stewart's Messopotamia.

For how an Obama presidency, in one fell swoop, would increase our soft power (and make us safer) - I very strongly recommend again Andrew Sullivan's cover piece in this month's Atlantic Monthly. Sullivan was on This Week yesterday talking about the ideas he outlines in this must read piece.

AP reports on Gates: Defense chief: Fight terrorism with 'soft power.'

Republicans Fleeing the Politics They Created

Today, Trent Lott, MS, announced he is retiring at the end of the year. He wasn't even up for re-election. He's retiring before January so he won't be limited by more restrictive lobbying rules. Those Grand Old Lobbyists!

That makes 6 senate seats that will up, not held by senior incumbents. Who else is leaving?
1. Domenci, NM (implicated in the firing of the Assistant Attorney Generals
2. Craig, ID(bathroom)
3. Hagel , NE(good guy)
4. Warner, VA (another principled guy)
5. Allard CO

Republicans have to defend 23 seats in next year's election, while Democrats have only 12 seats at stake. 4 who are vulnerable in purple states are: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John Sununu of New Hampshire, Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Gordon Smith of Oregon.

That 23 does not include Lott. By law there'll be a special election in 90 days. Problem is the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee has no money for a special election. Are there any Mississippi millionaires???

You see, today the New York Times reported that the Republicans are so low on cash that they are recruiting millionaires who can afford to finance their own campaigns. You know, because with Republicans money = political power. Entitled, Short of Funds, Republicans Recruit the Rich to Run.

Perhaps Dems will secure a filibuster-proof 60 majority. Imagine - both Houses, the White House. What could be altered - not least of which the tone of politics and the city I love.

Apparently the Republicans have pretty much given up hope for the Senate and feel their only chance to retain power is in the Presidency (that would be if Democrats self destruct and nominate Hillary - see new Zogby poll above). Well, they forget the Federal judiciary which has been stuffed at all levels - District, Apellate and Supreme withe members of the Federalist Society. It'll be a generation (or a FDR inspired court-packing scheme before we recover from 20 years of Republican executive power.

Obama Whams Her

In the last week, I've discussed Barack Obama with a. a taxi driver, b. a CVS cashier and c. a stranger on the stairs. This is why I love DC.

My favorite Obama quote for the day:
"I think the fact of the matter is that Sen. Clinton is claiming basically the entire eight years of the Clinton presidency as her own, except for the stuff that didn't work out, in which case she says she has nothing to do with it," Obama said, and added, referring to his relationship with his wife, Michelle, "There is no doubt that Bill Clinton had faith in her and consulted with her on issues, in the same way that I would consult with Michelle, if there were issues," Obama said. "On the other hand, I don't think Michelle would claim that she is the best qualified person to be a United States Senator by virtue of me talking to her on occasion about the work I've done."
He is going to be on Nightline tonight, so tune in. For more, click here.

And if you missed the terrific New Yorker piece on Barack Obama last week, you can read it here. Here's the last sentences, to give you a taste. But read the whole thing; like Obama its inspiring about a new type of politics. Starts with quote and description of Jefferson Jackson Dinner on November 10th.
“If we are really serious about winning this election, Democrats, we can’t live in fear of losing it.” Even many of Clinton’s troops could be seen beating yellow thunder sticks together in appreciation. Obama seemed to be making an argument about the connection between boldness and electability. With Hillary Clinton, he suggested, there is an inverse relationship between the two: she is so polarizing that she is forced to be a milquetoast candidate in order to become an electable one. Obama is not the most liberal candidate in the race, so he’s not defining his boldness strictly in ideological terms but, rather, as a sort of anti-politics that prizes truthtelling above calculation. When I asked him about this new tack, he seemed supremely confident. “I’ve been an observer of politics for two and a half decades, and what I’ve seen is that Democrats have not been able to move their agenda through Washington,” he said. “They have not been able to get the American people to embrace their domestic agenda, and they have been constantly on the defensive when it comes to their foreign-policy agenda. And it seems to me that, you know, if you’re not getting the outcomes you want, you might want to try something different.”


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Why I Canceled My Newsweek Subscription

Rove has is now a columnist for Newsweek, and I wrote the editor and canceled my subscription. (And the person answering the phone knew why I was calling and indicated they'd been getting lots of calls doing the same thing for the same reason).

Dear Mr. Meacham –

With all due respect, Karl Rove is no George Will or George Stephanopoulos or Mary Matalin. I canceled my subscription immediately upon receipt of my issue on Tuesday, and I’ve been a reader of Newsweek for over 20 years.

On Charlie Rose, Tuesday night, Mr. Rove protested he had no idea why he was such a lightening rod. It stretches credulity that he is unaware that his particular brand of partisan policy, ruling from the base, produced the most divided country since the Vietnam War and yes, made him much maligned. He lied repeatedly in that interview on other matters as well.

Rove is responsible, more than anyone, for the incivility that poisons so much of our civil discourse. The act of hiring him goes against the very purpose you state – to conduct debate and disagreement civilly. Impossible with this man You give a liar and a criminal a forum to spread his mendacity and venom.

Even Eugene Robinson, columnist and associate editor at the “Washington Post,” noted how Rove is still a spokesperson for Bush. In an interview Tuesday night on MSNBC on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Olbermann asked: What does this tell us about the relationship of the truth to now, not to the administration of George W. Bush, but the legacy of George W. Bush?

Robinson: I think it will be a tenuous relationship, at best. I think clearly, if you look at everything Rove has said and written since leaving his office in the White House, it‘s been designed to do two things, I think, kind of burnish and preserve the image and reputation of George Bush and burnish and preserve the image and reputation of Karl Rove. That‘s what he‘s doing. I think they‘re intrinsically linked, those two.

I will miss the weekly, and I will particularly miss Evan Thomas, Michael Isikoff (who did terrific work on the Lewinsky scandal), Howard Fineman, Fareed Zakaria, Sharon Begley, Christopher Dickey, Anna Quindlen and Jonathan Alter – great minds and terrific writers and reporters whose names are now sullied by association.

Shame on you and shame on Newsweek. It was a very, very bad judgment call, and Newsweek should reconsider. I find what you did an outrage and an assault, and I am much sadden further about the state of journalism that seems to think any points of view are valid, including those not based on facts, objective facts.

With deep regret -

Cassandra Metzger

Typically, Rove was too busy (self-important) to comment for Politico. And I couldn't agree more with what Paul McLeary of the Columbia Journalism Review had to say about the subject.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Are the Republicans Scared of a Snowman???

Well, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who closely allied himself with the Bush Administration, "suffered a comprehensive defeat." Not just a defeat but a comprehensive one. (sigh here and allow hope to wash over you).

I spent a day with some Aussies a week ago, and we talked of their upcoming election. And of the differences between here and there. I made comment that if Hillary got the nomination I didn't know what I was going to do, I may not vote and I admitted how hard not voting at all would be for me. I was asked if I would "abstain." You see in Australia, by law, you MUST vote. Can you imagine? And so if you don't like any of the candidates you still go and fill out a ballot to abstain. I know this is true in Brazil too thought the penalty there for not voting is nominal.

I also learned that the candidates were flurrying videos to YouTube to directly reach voters. That method got a lot of regular news coverage and then secondarily coverage of the issues that the candidates released videos on. It struck me that here the candidates are not using YouTube nearly enough.

If you know of other voting and political practices in other countries, do share in the comment section below. Americans don't hear enough of how the rest of the world organizes their civic and political affairs.

Speaking of YouTube - the Republican CNN/YouTube debate is finally happening this Wednesday the 28th.

Why so long after the Democrats? Well, originally the Republican YouTube debate was scheduled for September 17th, but candidates kept pulling out. There was much harrumphing that the Republicans were scared to face an a real audience with real questions. I think there's some truth to that, so I expect the debate to be hot and I plan to tune in.

Romney objected to the snowman who asked a question. And the snow man responded:

And Grover Norquist submitted a question, as you can guess, about limiting any tax increases. If you don't know who Grover Norquist is - well, he is another porcine Republican (Rove being the other) who is an under-the-radar organizer of Republicans who held weekly meetings every Thursday to coordinate political attacks.

Officially, he is president of Americans for Tax Reform. He believes that you starve the beast (the federal government) and then it'll be smaller or collapse. He doesn't seem to care that it would not be shrinkage but outsourcing, with a higher bill to taxpayers, that would occur and outsourcing to incompetent cronies at that.

He infamously remarked just two days after the Kerry defeat in 2004 (I was still sobbing) that Democrats just needed to get accustom to their neutering and Washington would return to civility. It was just a paragraph in the Reliable Source (it's the second bullet under "Squibs), but boy oh boy did it rile folks.

And here's Norquist's question (it's sure to make the cut) Don't you think he sort of looks like a pig?:

When Did You Last Recieve a Love Letter?

The Daily Telegraph reports that Brits are Falling out of Love with Love Letters. Fewer than 1 in 5 Brits received a love letter in the last year. The story goes on to relay statistics of such letters, by demographics and age, and also the habit of writing thank you notes.

I suspect that we are ahead of the Brits in this devolution. A 41 cent stamp and 7 pm delivery is still shocking and may have something to do with the aversion to writing letters. I remember 13 cents and mail delivery twice a day.

This morning NPR did a terrific 12 minute story on the collected letters of the Mitford sisters, including an interview with the last surviving sister. Remember Cold Comfort Farm? also a 2001 Masterpiece Theater production with Anthony Andrews in the perfectly creepy role of 'Boy', Pursuit of Love? Oswald Mosley? Mary Lovell, one of my favorite biographers (Rebel Heart on Jane Digby and Cast No Shadow on WWII spy Betty Pack), has a book on the sisters, too. Quite a window into the history of the last century. The loss to history is another reason to mourn the lack of letter writing.

When was the last time you received a hand written note? Vote in the survey in the right side column. And maybe take the time to write a letter today.

Posters to Slam GOP

Arianna Huffington announced an effort to 'visually blog' on the modern GOP and all that it now stands for after 7 years of King George. The graphics are visually aggressive and effective. I'm not so sure about the words. There are three versions: people, slogans, events.

On the people poster, John Yoo is missing. But both Karl Rove and Dick Cheney are in a larger font than George Bush, which is funny. Mike Brown should probably simply be Brownie.

On the slogans poster - they are primarily related to the war. No Child Left Behind is missing. The effect of all the war slogans is shocking.

On the events poster - again dominated by the war. Non-war events include climate change, Katrina and intelligent design. That's it. Signing statements, wiretapping, mine disasters are missing.

Designed by Rich Silverstein, the ad guy who came up with "Got Milk?" the posters are an interesting idea. To check it out for yourself and 0ffer your own comments, check it out here.

Presidential History Revealed

One of the other reasons I love DC and that there is C-SPAN radio. On the dial, it's right between the two major radio stations WAMU 88.5 and WETA 90.9. C-SPAN is 90.1. Sometimes going from one to the other, a political hearing or press conference will catch my attention. It's raw and unfiltered.

Then there's C-SPAN television. Last night I caught their Friday night series on Presidential Libraries. I saw a fascinating lengthy commercial for Ford, which aired on election eve 1976, with Pearl Bailey and Joe Garagiola. Then Ford himself spoke while on Air Force One. It seemed so unscripted.

I also saw George H.W. Bush tour the new Air Force One. It looked like the one depicted in the Harrison Ford movie. And Eisenhower give a speech at the United Nations on nuclear proliferation.

Finally, and most interesting, was an interview Brian Lamb did with the woman in charge of all the libraries at the National Archives. The most visited libraries are Kennedy, Johnson and Reagan (Reagan has the retired Air Force One at his library). Johnson's library is free; Reagan's charges twelve bucks. The budget for all the libraries is 58 millions, supplemented by about 10 million from various presidential foundations. Kennedy's is the most expensive because its in Boston. The foundations are playing a more active role because of budget cuts (thank you Republicans) and new archivists are only hired when there is a new library established.

She also address the controversy of the Clinton library. She explained the status and noted (as have news reports) that Bill Clinton put about 6 categories off limits until he or his agent had a chance to review the documents. One area is the correspondence between him and his wife (remember her brother's pardon. Did you remember her brothers at all?). Another, for example, is any correspondence he got from previous presidents. The Clintons need to get someone down there to review and release. The National Archivist portrayed herself as an advocate of access.

To check out the C-SPAN series and see what's coming up next (Friday November 30th is all about Clinton), click here. The link sometimes work and sometimes doesn't. Keep trying. If you like history and politics, there are some fascinating gems.

Also the National Archives has created a presidential time line of the 20th century. A fun resource, it can be found here.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ted Sorensen Supports Obama

On the 44th anniversary of the Kennedy assignation yesterday, C-SPAN rebroadcast a program from October 17 which was held at the Kennedy School for Government at Harvard. Ted Sorensen talked of the Cuban Missile crises, which occurred 45 years ago.

The discussion was very good, mostly because the questions from the audience were well informed (well, with the exception of one - a baby boomer who bemoaned the lack of social convulsion that "Kennedy inspired" in the 60s and 70s).

Noting the talk of experience in the current presidential campaign, one asked what of Kennedy's background and experience aided him in foreign policy. Sorensen said Kennedy was a
  • A man of peace – religious upbringing and the fact that he lost friends and his brother in the war.
  • A man who lived abroad, when his father was the British Ambassador
  • A man who believed in communication.
Then he noted that only one candidate currently running fit that bill - and he made the connections directly on each point - and that was Barack Obama.

He also shared that he yelled at a Secret Service agent who was protecting Obama (can you imagine???) after the campaign drove through high winds and rains (later deemed a tornado) at a high speed.

You can watch the program yourself here. Also Sorensen has a book coming out next May in 2008.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What I'm Thankful For

Mostly people. I'm deeply grateful for these people in my life :
  • Ali M. – for his generosity of spirit, his time and his care.
  • Ali S. – for offering his knowledge and service free to help me get better.
  • Ari – for helping me quickly with all my computer ails, doing so cheerfully and efficiently, and liking Obama too.
  • Anita - for providing emotional support and information in my endeavor to have a child, and for memories.
  • Barbara - her sense of humor, encouraging my writing, her companionship with this endeavor to write, her understanding.
  • Cecilia - for making me laugh, her emotional support and trips to Cosco.
  • Chantal – for her constant and unconditional support, our long friendship (31 years!), and her resilience which is an inspiration.
  • Christina – for her knitting help, for her emotional support, laughter, intelligence.
  • Christine – for her checking in on me, her notes, care, and our long conversations and making me laugh.
  • Claudette - for always making me belly laugh, being artful, and her loving gift of art that hangs on my bedroom wall.
  • Connan and Blake - for checking in on me, sharing my love of theater, and for memories.
  • Corinne - for checking in on me, encouragement and love.
  • Elizabeth - for her steadfast example of dealing with loss and challenges with wit and intelligence and generosity.
  • Emily - for checking in on me, and for memories.
  • Erik – for adding to my hip factor, and always calling me with loving messages.
  • Francesca - for her encouragement, good sense, and humor
  • Gabriel - for his constant encouragement to keep me social, for the birthday party he gave me this year, and for bringing me groceries.
  • Jen - for encouraging my writing and providing excellent and enthusiastic feedback, and for memories.
  • John - for deeming me hip enough to have him as a friend, for checking in, and his sense of humor.
  • Juliana- for teaching me yoga and inspiring stability and bringing laughter to my life.
  • Libby - for her like-minded politics, encouragement and moral support, and visits with lunch, for groceries.
  • Maggie - her thoroughness and information about film, arts, books, her companionship on this journey of illness.
  • Mercedes - for checking in on me, letting me know when a good film is on TCM, and for her emotional support.
  • Monica – for reminding me in ways big and small of my mother, sending me articles, and many phone calls checking in on me, her companionship in and understanding of chronic illness which has been a comfort.
  • Nickie – for making me laugh, for working my muscles, for welcoming me so warmly and sharing her family and home.
  • Sara - for her information, encouragement and visits with lunch.
  • Sally - for informing me about Crossings which gave me the best gift, the gift of a dream about my mother.
  • Sheryl – for her professional encouragement, her self-reliance which inspires, and her companionship in dating a Brazilian.
  • Shirley - for her love, support, making me dinner and bringing her beautiful kids by for a visit.
  • For my writing group last summer and this spring - Bill, Matt, Sarah, Tom and Zach - for keeping my mind awake, encouragement, and being funny.
  • And most of all - my yoga students: Aaron, Ali, Carole B., Carole G. Cissy, Ellen, Jan, Karen, Kate, Laura, Maria, Reid, Sylvia, Tamra and Libby and Sara too - for their patience during this year of mourning.
  • My care givers - Abdul and Fatima, Kevin, Rebecca, Nickie, Juliana, Claire, Rosalba, Alan, Jennifer, Karen, Ali, Ali, Dorothy and David.
  • I am also grateful for the joy of children, especially my nieces and nephews Isabelle, Lucas, Austin, Curtis, Jack, Andrew, Margot, Sabrina and Ava.
  • I am very grateful for the financial support of my father.

  • Boy, that makes me feel pretty lucky. These months have been trying, and I am appreciative of these connections and relationships which have buoyed me in all sorts of ways.

Thanksgiving Service at the National Cathedral

I attended the Thanksgiving Day Holy Eucharist at the Washington National Cathedral today. But two winters ago, on the first weekend in February of last year, I was at the Cathedral College for a weekend retreat on Centering Prayer. That Saturday, cold and rainy afternoon, a single bell tolled from the Cathedral bell tower at least 60 times, slowly and heavily, rotund with emotion. I lost count, but the sound seemed to go on and on and on, like the mist, that afternoon. There was a funeral and after the service the bell tolled in sadness. And I had just learned the night before that my mother had cancer.

It's a tender time now because my mom died less than a week after Thanksgiving last year. The night before we worked furiously with her doctors to get her out of the hospital so we could all have Thanksgiving safely at home. She'd been in the hospital for nearly three weeks and had discovered during that time that the cancer was back. But she was ready to come home and we were ready for her - with a bed, a baby monitor, television set up, flowers, nebulizer, home nurse, oxygen tank, wheelchair - and lots of love.

I can hardly believe that a year has past. It feels like eons and it feels like moments. And it still feels pretty awful. At the Thanksgiving service, despite the fact that I could hardly get through an entire verse, a stranger complemented me on my singing, which was nice, especially because my mom often did.

A Welsh folk tune, borrowed from my childhood hymnal, the Lutheran Book of Worship of 1978 was the hymn before the sermon.
Let all things now living a song of thanksgiving to God the creator triumphantly raise, who fashioned and made us, protected and stayed us, who still guides us onto the end of our days. God's banners are o'er us, his light goes before us, a pillar of fire shining forth in the night, till shadows have vanished and darkness is banished, as forward we travel from light into light.

The second verse speaks of the "stars in their course and sun in its orbit." And the preacher told a tale of a friend who'd seen the Aurora Borealis and how it'd affected her. It made her slow down, to feel instead of think, to allow her to be aware that she was of something larger than herself. The word "consider" from its Latin roots - means "with the stars" or "to observe with the stars." so that consideration and contemplation was always meant to take you out of your own world, your own universe. (For more on etymology, click here.)

She also spoke of the flower star gazers. And how they represented the life of contemplation, and how stargazers were thought to have arms open to God and arms open in service to our neighbors. You can listen to the entire sermon of Reverend Canon Carol Wade here.

The closing hymn was an Easter tune, Lasst uns efreuen, a melody written in 1623. The introduction started and I recognized it immediately. My religious heritage and understanding is one of my most treasured gifts from my mother. And I thought how appropriate, given where my mind was, that the service would close with a hymn that I associated with the celebration of the resurrection. It was a comfort.

The melody has at least two versions in the Episcopalian hymnbook - #400 and #618. We sang a version of #400 which was set to words of St. Francis of Asssi -
All creatures of our God sing praise, with thankful hearts your voices raid, O sing praises! Alleluia! O Brother Sun with golden beam, O Sister Moon with silver gleam! O sing praises! O sing praises! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

As I left, the bells were ringing more hymns. The day was warm and I sat in the garden while I called my family from my mobile phone. The bells were joyous, uplifting, melodious and quite different from another sound of those bells on a colder, dreadful day earlier last year. The sounds heartened and yielded a glimmer of hope.

A Woman Finds Home in Italy on Thanksgiving

A heart warming tale on Thanksgiving of a woman who traveled alone to Italy at the age of 41 (my age) to see the town where her grandparents were from. And her life changed.

Thank you Maggie for the heads up.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Difficulties of Chronic Pain

The last three weeks Jane Brody of the New York Times did a series of columns on chronic pain.

Living With Pain That Just Won't Go Away
(November 6th, 2007) yes, she mentioned my condition and also delineates the problems chronic pain cause beyond the physical difficulties including the adverse affect on social connect, economic burden and misunderstanding. Most apt statement: "No one in his right mind -- and most patients were in their right minds before the pain began -- would trade a fulfilling life for the misery of chronic pain."

Chronic Pain: A Burden Often Shared (November 13th 2007). Really address to those who have a family member in pain and how to cope. The suggestions struck me as helpful and relevant, if only I had a family who could take steps one and two. Most apt statement: "Whether you are the patient’s primary or intermittent caregiver, it is important not to contribute to feelings of helplessness."

Many Treatments Can Ease Chronic Pain
(November 20th, 2007). She doesn't talk about yoga, but does mention meditation. And she didn't mention what for me was the most difficult side effect of painkiller drugs - dizziness. And she mentioned the fentanyl patches but neglects to note that since July 2005 the FDA has been investigating the patch as a cause of death, a report I saw on CNN just tonight.

On a related note, Dr. McCall has a two-part piece on chronic pain on the Yoga Journal web site.

A Literary Mystery Solved?

I love stories like these in the New York Times today, Wharton Letter Reopens a Mystery. A letter from Edith Wharton shows a writer at work, researching her work and revealing her method. Its fascinating that things like this still come to light.

Did Lily Bart, the heroine of The House of Mirth, intend to commit suicide or not?

I tend to agree with Auchincloss (sorry but I'm not going to spoil the mystery here). But to me the most fasicinating part of the piece is that her ending of The House of Mirth wasn't finished as the beginning was being published serially Scribner’s Magazine.

You can also see the actual letter in a slide show at the New York Times web site above, which is really cool

Monday, November 19, 2007

Why Pat Robertson Endorsed Guiliani

The Dean of Grace Cathedral, the Episcopalian cathedral of San Francisco, is Alan Jones, the author of several books. I've read The Soul's Journey, Exploring the Spiritual life with Dante as Guide, which was just terrific! Also - I own, but have not (yet) read Passion for Pilgrimage, Notes for the Journey Home and Reimagining Christiainity, Reconnect Your Spirit without Disconnecting Your Mind.

Jones is erudite, religion and able to write. And he interviewed Gary Wills - a historian at Northwestern University whose many books delve into American history and religion. He is also a frequent and excellent contributer to The New York Review of Books, most recently writing about Ghiberti's doors, "The Gates of Paridise" from Florence, now on exhibit at the Met. He covers the history, the competition, the religious meaning of the images, the art. To read, click here. (It might be restricted to registered subscribers, but some of NYRB articles are not).

Gary Wills has a new book out, Head and Heart: American Christianities. I wrote about it on October 8th and highlighted a radio interview done on NPR. There's also a book excerpt at that link.

And so Wills and Jones talked about American Christianity. Two smart guys talking about an important subject given how religion is being used in politics by the Republicans. They show how uninformed so much civil discourse is (especially when it invokes the religiousness of our Founding Fathers). And Gary Wills explains the apparent mystery of a social conservative's endorsement of nasty Rudy Guiliani. Pat Roberson, and his ilk, believe that we are fighting the devil (in Iraq and the Middle East) and fighting the devil is more important than anything else. And Guilani seems, to them, to be the best person to lead that fight.

To watch the whole program, click here.

To watch a five minute answer to Was America Founded on Christianity, from Wills' talk at Politics and Prose, watch this:

Monday, November 12, 2007

Karen Armstrong's New Book on the Bible

Karen Armstrong has a new book out on the Bible, "The Bible: A Biography." She did a 30 minute interview on Talk of the Nation.

Andrew Sullivan on Why Obama Can Transcend the Hell of our Civic Discourse

Andrew Sullivan has a MUST read in this month's Atlantic Monthly, called "Goodbye to All That: Is Iraq Vietnam? Who really won in 2000? Which side are you on in the culture wars? These questions have divided the Baby Boomers and distorted our politics. One candidate could transcend them."

I couldn't put it down. I don't agree with quite all that he says. I think the left is much more sane, less extremist, than he does - obviously. But I was pleased to see that Alan Brinkley, the Allan Nevins professor of history and the provost at Columbia University, agreed in his review of Ron Brownstein 's book The Second Civil War. "But making the same argument about a similar dogmatism and zealotry among Democrats is a considerable stretch," Brinkley writes.

But whether or not Sullivan is off on which side is more entrenched, we need a way out. I'm desperate for that. And this conservative believes Obama can help us transcend baby boomer angst. The last caller on the Diane Rehm Show tried to ask Brownstein about Sullivan's piece last week; Brownstein didn't answer the question adequately. So far, I've not been impressed with Brownstein's book.

This aspect, the ability to get beyond the poison of the 60s, was a visceral attraction for me, but he put my sense of putting the (political) past behind into words, rather well. It's an interesting perspective, strongly expressed, from an unusual perspective.

Let me note that Newsweek cover story is on 1968. Yuck.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Barak Obama on Meet the Press

Okay - he did well. Nothing hit wow out of the park. Not like his speech last night. But he parried ripostes well.

Let me add that while I don't agree that Tim Russert is to blame for Hillary's lame showing in Philadelphia last Tuesday (as the Hillary campaign leaked to the Drudge Report), I have very little respect for Tim Russert. He seems more impressed with his own questions and doesn't listen very well to the answers. His mind seems to be on the next question. I constantly yell at the telly, what about that, ask about that! (yes, I'm usually alone).

His stupidest question was whether or not being gay is a choice or not:
"Do you believe that it is something that you are born gay and that—or that you can change your behavior?"

Obama answered he did not believe it was a choice. But the better answer is that homosexuality's genesis is not a matter of belief. It's a matter of science. And science is increasingly showing us that homosexuality is not a choice.

To watch the interview or read the transcript, click here.

Obama's JJ Speech Echoes MLK and RFK

I watched it live after midnight, early Sunday morning. The Jefferson Jackson dinner is THE Iowa event. And he was break out.

You've got to watch. (it's about 20 minutes). You'll be inspired; This man is an ORATOR. Finally!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Don't Know Thomas Cahill? You Should

In a strange coincidence I pulled Thomas Cahill's Desire of the Everlasting Hills off my bookshelf over the weekend. He opens, "History has much to do with hills," and goes on to site the hill of Zion, Hamburger Hill, Bunker Hill, Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi. I added to that list in my mind - Capitol Hill. The book covers historical Jesus, what Palestine was like before and after Jesus' life and the life of the early Christian church.

My aunt loaned that book to me after I gobbled up Cahill's Mysteries of the Middle Ages - The Rise of Feminism, Science, and Art from the Cults of Catholic Europe earlier this year. I LOVED it.
And then Bill Moyer's interviewed him on Friday. You can watch or read the interview here.

Here's what Moyer highlights:
Bill Moyers interviews best-selling author and historian Thomas Cahill in a far ranging interview that takes viewers from the Coliseum in Rome to death row in Texas and examines what our attitudes toward cruelty can tell us about who we are as Americans. “We are the only democracy that is still executing. We're it. There's nobody else,” says Cahill, who is best known for his THE HINGES OF HISTORY series of books, which includes the widely read HOW THE IRISH SAVED CIVILIZATION. Cahill says his books ask how we became the people we are: “It's human cruelty that is evil….We're not willing to acknowledge that this is inside of us. It's there,” he says. ”I'm really interested in…what's good about us.”

Friday, November 09, 2007

Reynolds Price on Faith and Reason

Reynolds Price, a literature professor from Duke, offered an engaging interview today on Fresh Air. (It's actually rebroadcast from June 2006, on the occasion of the paperback edition of his book Letter to a Godchild: Concerning Faith. Reynolds Price has written dozens of volumes of fiction, poetry, plays, essays and translations.

Why Madison Square Garden is Nowhere Near Madison Avenue

A long time ago, when I was a little girl I went to the circus at Madison Square Garden with my family. My mother's parents also were there, in separate seats. I volunteered and was selected to be a part of a parade of kids and got a shiny hat which I kept for years. And while going around the ring also got a chance to wave at my beloved grandmother and father whom I spotted in the stands because they were waving insanely at me! It's a treasured memory.

But I always wondered why Madison Square Garden was called that when the facility was no where near Madison Avenue. Well, in another fun bit of New York City history, here's the story from the New York Times. And it has to do with the circus and P.T. Barnum. It's a fun read. And there's a great video at the link too as well as a walking tour to down load and listen to while you walk the city blocks.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Does Ayurvedic Medicine Work?

It did for me. For 6 weeks in 2002 I was cured of my chronic illness. Now a Frontline reporter investigates how health care is delivered in other parts of the world. In this episode, he focuses on India and the practice of Ayurvedic medicine. It's a good overview. And it's a fascinating result.

Rendition is Always Extraordinary

Last week Frontline/World broadcast a story on "extraordinary rendition." It's about a 30 minute video and well worth the time. Keith Olbermann cited the story the next night.

I'm not sure what makes a rendition extraordinary or not. Any rendition is extraordinary. What does rendition mean? It's the practice of scooping up terrorist suspects and putting them into CIA black sites. CIA officers are on trial in Italy for kidnapping a suspect off the streets of Milan.

It's so myopic and short sighted. These terrorists, suspects, criminals - whatever they are - are put into legal limbo and this practice makes holding them accountable impossible. Our government has done this to British citizens, a man who was undercover for MI-6 who basically abandoned him. I'm not saying all these guys are good guys but we hurt ourselves by engaging in this practice - both short term and long term. And we've even scooped up women and children in Kenya via Ethiopia. (Yes, we've got our mits in the conflicts of Somalia and Ethiopia).

Last month at Politics and Prose, Jack Goldsmith noted, correctly, that the first rendition was done under the Clinton administration on September 22, 1995. This fact makes it onto the web site, but not the television program. And the fact that a Bush official can point to the Clinton Justice Department as approving this practice upsets me.

And if you wish to cleans your palette after familiarizing yourself with what atrocities the Bush Administration has committed, check out this book of a literature professor who teaches at West Point about honor. I remember reading that in World War I that German soldiers would search for Americans to surrender to because word got around that the Americans would treat the enemy honorably, more so than the British. That hurts.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Why is Clarence Thomas so Angry?

The answer is self-pity, according to Jeffrey Toobin. The New Yorker published his review of Thomas's memoir, My Grandfather's Son, and it's the best I've seen. Toobin knows enough to be able to point out the inconsistencies of Thomas' wrath, and that makes the review particularly fun. The historical context Toobin provides is also good.

You can listen to a 12.5 minute interview with Toobin here about Thomas and Toobin's book The Nine.