The Hurricane Sandy Issue

I have to level with you, I live only a stone's throw from the Hudson River on the Upper West Side of New York, but my building is high enough above the water that some of the warnings about being in an “A” evacuation zone didn’t actually pertain to us (us being my neighbors and particularly, my flatmate). We basically chose to ignore the request to evacuate. The fact that there was no demand made allowed us to feel fine about it. I must admit that several times in the post-nightfall wind drama, I had severe doubts. The sound was amazingly loud, the tree directly outside my window looked like it was in agony, and the rain was, well let me just say: wild and pounding. And yet I was snug inside my own space with food in the larder, more bottles of spring water than we needed, and tons of Glade candles in safety glass waiting to replace my electricity. We never lost power, so after I’d checked in with my son, who’s a New Yorker, my daughters who don’t live here had checked in with me, and I’d spoken to everyone whose whereabouts I needed to know, I settled in and watched Sandy wreck and/or render dark familiar (and former) neighborhoods downtown. Eventually, I lit some of the candles for atmosphere, turned off the lights, tucked myself between my covers and spent most of the night dozing off and waking to watch the latest news about Sandy, and waited to see what would happen next. The next morning allowed me to see that my neighborhood had missed the big bullets and yet my heart ached for all of those, including some friends, who had not fared so well. The President spoke to the nation and politicians proclaimed that this was a national disaster, not a time to politicize what had happened. 

Some Things to Think About and Do:
  1. Check in on your neighbors and make sure they are alright 
  2. If you need help call the appropriate agency (see sidebar) 
  3. Many of the agencies helping after the storm need financial donations
  4. Blood banks all up and down the path of Hurricane Sandy need you
  5. Do a Google search for ' Hurricane Sandy help or volunteer' to see where you can be useful
  6. Think about volunteering with a friend
  7. Be patient through the recovery and with limited service

A Note from the Dark Zone

(by Katherine Wessling, who edits this blog)

On Monday night, my lights flickered, then flickered again, then went out. They stayed out until early Saturday morning. I live in Greenwich Village, and I was lucky. The water didn’t come near my apartment building, there was no wind damage on my street, I had running water. That puts me ahead of far too many people who are still suffering terribly in the aftermath of Sandy.

For the next five days, I camped out in my apartment. I didn’t have light or heat or hot water or phone service, but I did have plenty of tinned fish and protein bars and crackers. I had frozen bowls of water in my freezer, which kept my milk from going off. I had plenty of candles, a handful of flashlights, a handy little electric lantern, and a transistor radio. I had my Chihuahua, my Dutch roommate and her boyfriend, and my neighbors to keep me company.

My neighborhood continued to thrive: the streets were full of people walking dogs and kids, chatting, escaping the antsy feelings of cabin fever. People huddled around outlets at the New York University buildings that were powered by generators, charging their electronics. One local deli was lit by a generator-powered fluorescent light; the diner on the corner served what could be cooked on a grill; a nearby stationery shop set up business on the sidewalk. Bars served drinks by candlelight.

The President Takes Charge

Our President struck the perfect tone as he delivered a major address to the nation about Hurricane Sandy. After a briefing with the heads of the appropriate agencies he moved to facilitate the rapid flow of aid to the states that suffered storm damage. He declared New Jersey, New York and Connecticut “major disaster areas.” In a conference call with reporters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Craig Fugate called the president's decision to do so while the storm was in progress “extraordinary.” The declaration allowed business and home owners to apply directly for aid. He also issued "emergency declarations" for several other states that allowed FEMA to help oversee their relief efforts and make those states eligible for federal support. He warned, "This is a serious storm. We are certain that this is going to be a slow moving process...and millions of people are going to be affected." He also noted that, "The public should anticipate that there's going to be a lot of power outages" and, most importantly, that those in Sandy's path should "listen to what local officials say. When they tell you to evacuate, evacuate....Don't wait, don't hesitate." Okay, let me just say that he didn't mean me. But I’m going to vote for him. Has he done everything the way I would have wished? No. Does he walk on water? No. But then again, I am not privy to all of the information that flows to him. I don’t know what evil lurks in the hearts of certain men and women. As it is, I do my share of second guessing without a full deck. And he certainly has accomplished some major things. He has: not started any new wars, has ended one and is winding down another; killed Osama, which Bush didn’t do despite starting those wars; saved the auto industry; propped up the banks; passed a comprehensive health care program that has already made life better for many Americans. And he's done all of this despite the Tea Party (whose members must even now hate seeing his black face addressing them from the White House) and the aspirations of Mitch McConnell and his coven to make him a one term president. 

What You Can Do: 
  1. Contact the President and thank him: 
    Comments phone: 202-456-1111
    President's email:
    White House comments:
  2. Volunteer to make calls & knock on doors with

Let Them Eat Canned Goods

It’s hard to stay in the public eye when the president you are running against is going about the business of pulling his country through a major disaster. It must have been deemed inappropriate to hold a campaign rally while citizens up and down the East Coast were recovering from a devastating hurricane. So what could Romney do? There he was in Kettering, Ohio where things were all set for a Romney Rally. But then came the idea (I’m not sure who came up with it): there would be no rally! It would be a “storm relief event.” People were asked to bring canned goods to send to, hmmm... Right! The Red Cross can distribute those cans. Americans love to help, so filling up a truck at the rally--no, not rally, storm relief event--seemed like a great way for Romney to contribute to the recovery. It was a good notion, but someone should have checked the Red Cross website. They do have a program through which you can donate money so the Red Cross can purchase the appropriate foods. While holding his “not a rally” Governor Romney wouldn’t answer questions from the press about some derisive comments he had made about FEMA, which he feels should defer to the states, which it actually does. But states are cash poor, so they need FEMA.  Let me just say that I am not going to vote for Governor Romney. He still lies and is desperate enough to run an ad in Ohio showing cars being crushed, as a narrator says that Obama, "sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for every American job." In fact, Chrysler is retaining and expanding its Jeep production in North America, including in Ohio. Its profits have enabled it to consider expanding into China, the world's largest auto market. Plus the CEO of Chrysler Sergio Marchionne has responded to a series of Romney political ads by calling them, "inaccurate."  Romney doesn’t understand what it means to be the leader of the free world, because he is not familiar with the world or how it works.

Actions You Can Take:
  1. Contact the President and thank him: 
    Comments phone: 202-456-1111
    President's email:
    White House comments:
  2. Volunteer to make calls and knock on doors for the President with 
  3. Do not "not" vote even if you are not convinced about Obama. Not voting might make a statement, but will not change the system--and your statement may turn out to be one you’ll live to regret.
  4. We have some amazing rights in this country and with those rights, we have some responsibilities, so please…

The Evil Would-Be Empire

The Republican Party's Congressional leadership (left to right): Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and House Speaker John Boehner. (photo: Alex Brandon/AP)
Imagine adding Romney/Ryan to this mix. Kiss America the beautiful goodbye and welcome a lethal brew of greed, self- interest, and corporate puppeteers, with no one to challenge their supremacy. Have you seen the commercial with the Eastern European sounding senior guy who says he grew up under socialism, and moved to America to get away from it and then, without saying Obama’s name, claims that he’s voting Republican to avoid living in another socialist country? Wait until he wakes up one morning to find out that: 1) Obama is absolutely not a socialist and 2) he’s been drinking Republican Kool-Aid only to discover that most of them lie almost as easily as Romney and 3) he’s screwed!
So we should:
  1. Not let them do it 
  2. Look up their offices:  and 
  3. Write to them
  4. Call them
  5. Email them
  6. Let them know that they will have you to contend with and that you are tired of their obstructionist ways
  7. Make sure that Mitch McConnell knows you hold him accountable for being out of step with all but the far right, who represent the worst, mean-spirited, self-interested, greedy, dark aspects of the country, not the America that the world used to celebrate

A Better Way to Work

President Obama and Governor Christie spoke after their helicopter tour viewing what Sandy left in her wake along the Jersey Shore. Some refer to them as a new iteration of the odd couple. Some of you may recall that Governor Christie railed at the President in his key note address at the Republican National Convention. And yet, here they are conspiring for the good of the people. "I just want to tell all of you exactly what the president just said. I know he means it," Christie said. "I want to thank the president for coming here today. It's really important to have the president of the United States acknowledge all the suffering that's going on here in New Jersey, and I appreciate it very much. We're going to work together to make sure we get ourselves through this crisis and get everything back to normal. Thank you for coming, sir." Obama returned the praise, saying Christie had been "responsive" and "aggressive" even before "this incredible storm.... The people of New Jersey recognize that he has put his heart and soul into making sure that the people of New Jersey bounce back even stronger than before. So I just want to thank him for his extraordinary leadership and partnership." Together, the two men cut a surprising image of bipartisanship and cooperation that was what the President had hoped for when he ran for office.

Thank Them:
  1. Please tell them that what they did should be a model of how we can disagree, but get on with the business of the nation--or whatever moved you about their collaboration
  2. Contact the President and thank him: 
    Comments phone: 202-456-1111
    President's email:
    White House comments:
  3. Contact Governor Christie to thank him as well:
  4. Get your friends to do this too

Vice President Biden Came Loaded for Bear and with Facts

I found the Vice Presidential debates to be far more to my liking than the Presidential back-and-forth. I loved that Joe Biden was fearless, and that finally, finally someone called both Ryan and Romney on their bold-faced lies and wishful thinking. Okay, I could have lived without Biden's grinning, gloating, and grimacing while Ryan was painting himself into corner after corner. It made me wonder what part of Al Gore's grinning-gloating-grimacing or the fall-out from it (thanks to the rabid press and talking heads), he had missed. He fared better than Gore when it came to the press, though I must admit I never turn on FOX or right wing radio. I listened to Rush once, but I'm too delicate a creature to subject myself to that kind of abuse more than once.

I think that he pretty much made up for President Obama's semi-comatose performance. He even confronted Ryan on things that were left to float in the air after the Presidential debate. There was a moment that stands out in my memory: the Malarkey Moment. Martha Raddatz of ABC News was the Moderator. She was centered, grounded, and very good at keeping things moving in a timely manner. She hit the ground running with question one, which was about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. She shot to Ryan, who had won the coin toss. He launched into a spiel about how it was all the fault of the administration and repeated Romney's ill-timed, ill-mannered and ill-considered attack on the President--which came before anyone really knew what had happened--to which, after a kind of palsey walsey exchange between the two candidates about the word, Biden simply called what Ryan had said, "with all due respect, a bunch of malarkey..." and then proceeded to shred Ryan's every lie and every word. He may have taken a liberty or two with himself in the process, but it was service to a good cause. I'll quote him here so in case you missed the debate, you'll get the idea:
“Number one, I will be very specific, number one, this lecture on embassy security -- ­­ the congressman here cut embassy security in his budget by $300 million below what we asked for, number one. So much for the embassy security piece.
“Number two, Governor Romney, before he knew the facts, before he even knew that our ambassador was killed, he was out making a political statement which was panned by the media around the world. And this talk about this, ­­this weakness. I don't understand what my friend's talking about here.”
Also, he brought up what the President had failed to: that great old 47 percent remark that Romney made to a group of fellow rich guys that was secretly recorded for posterity. Vice President Biden had no kind words for Romney's excuses and flashed a genuine smile at Ryan as he looked him in the eyes and said, "The idea,­­ if you heard that ­­little soliloquy on 47 percent and you think he just made a mistake, then I think you're ­­--­­ I think ­­I got a bridge to sell you.” And so it went, point for point.

Debate, or Debacle?

Normally, I would just launch into a piece exploring specifics of Wednesday night’s debate, grudgingly giving Romney a thumbs up for what appeared to be a winning performance, but was later determined to be a bunch of half truths and lies mixed with a smattering of reality. But the thing that plagued and intrigued me most was: what was President Obama thinking while he was behaving in such a, for lack of a better way of putting it, unpresidential manner. Once the thought appeared in my head it became the gift that kept on giving. Don’t get me wrong, Obama’s still my President. One bad performance doesn’t change that for me, and nothing could turn Mitt Romney into someone who should, in my opinion, in any way be trusted to run the country I love, nor should his party of “me first, me first, me first” be given an opportunity to drag us back to a time best forgotten. So:

What was Obama Thinking?
  • Looking at Mitt’s perky pink face is the last thing on my list of “how I want to spend my anniversary!”
  • Is he reading my mind? Did I just hear him open with: “And congratulations to you, Mr. President, on your anniversary. I'm sure this was the most romantic place you could imagine here — here with me, so I — (laughter) — congratulations.
  • Michelle really does look so beautiful.
  • Wait a minute! What’s that he just said about protecting the middle class? That’s not what he’s been saying! I don’t think I can call him a liar. Damn!
  • Is it me, or are Mitt’s eyes blinking like a broken traffic light?
  • Wait another minute! Now he’s shifted his position on Healthcare and Medicare and using my words to do it. What’s with this guy?
  • Wow there he goes again, pretending he’s smart, when he’s clearly swallowed Mitch McConnell’s Kool-Aid:
  • I gotta get in a remark about the 47 percent, but wait a minute; did he just say Big Bird?
  • Am I hallucinating? ‘Cause I thought I just heard him put down Big Bird.
  • Aw, come on Mitt, leave Jim Lehrer alone!
  • There he goes with that shit-eating, eye batting grin again...
  • Phew, only fifteen minutes to go. What could happen now?
  • Oh, hey that was an outright lie!
  • And another! Can I call him on it or will that sound uppity?
  • Liar, liar pants on…
  • Oh, shit. What’s the point?

Why Obama Lost

On a more serious note, I’m posting an article by George Lakoff, whom I greatly admire. He is the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, and a founding senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute. 

Why Obama Lost the First Debate 
by George Lakoff (Photo: Reuters)
Published on Thursday, by Common Dreams

You don’t win a presidential debate by being a policy wonk. Obama violated all the basics of presidential debating. The best defense is a good offense. You have to set the terms of the debate and press those terms. Obama failed. Here are those:
  • State your moral values. Contrast them with your opponent’s.
  • Project empathy and enthusiasm. Connect.
  • Communicate clearly and simply.
  • Be authentic. Say just what you believe.
  • Project trust.
  • Present an authentic view of yourself that the public can identify with and be proud of.
Obama did none of this. Instead he talked about policy details. 
He needed to come on strong from the first sentence. 
Democracy is based on citizens caring about and taking responsibility for both themselves and for the well-being of all. Government is the instrument that citizens use to guarantee protection and empowerment for all. We all, together, provide what is needed for a decent life. Individual accomplishment rests on what other Americans have provided and keep providing. 
Building the economy requires public investment — in public infrastructure, education, research, and much more. 
Success is much more than money. It is your contribution to America as a whole — whether it is teaching, raising children, providing food, healing the sick, making useful products, guaranteeing our rights and our safety, or running businesses that make life better. America needs us all. And we all depend on each other. Personal responsibility is necessary. But it doesn’t. 
Obama made a lame attempt to correct Jim Lehrer’s use of “entitlements.” He should have pointed out that such money is earned through a life. People have worked for, and contributed earnings. 
All policies rest on morality — upon being the right thing to do. Obama needed to make the case that it is right, as well as to support women’s rights, and gay rights, safe food, education, basic research, and on and on.
Obama believes this. To win, he needs to say what he believes, and press Romney. 
George Lakoff is the author of The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic (co-authored with Elizabeth Wehling). His previous books include Moral Politics, Don't Think of an Elephant!, Whose Freedom? and Thinking Points (with the Rockridge Institute staff). He is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, and a founding senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute.

I would recommend one other article, which was sent to me by my friend Blake Franklin. It is an editorial titled, Obama for President: A Second Term for a Serious Man. It ran in from the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the newspaper that I read every day for the two years I spent as a student at Washington University.

What We Do Pays Off

I thought it would be a good idea to let you know that thanks to the wonderful world of the Internet Activism reaches across borders, cultures, communities and issues to make significant change, to influence, to raise awareness, and raise funds for projects, organization, ideas and individuals. The following are examples of the things we the people have influenced and accomplished with our participation, our keyboards, our letters and our passion.

Earlier this year, you helped us by asking retailers to remove Paseo toilet paper from their grocery store shelves because it was known to be made from fiber supplied by Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), a company causing devastating rain forest destruction in Sumatra.

We have great news: Paseo has been discontinued and soon will no longer be found on store shelves across the U.S.!

More recently, Dollar General, one of the largest buyers of private label tissue in the U.S., also confirmed to WWF that it has made a commitment to stop sourcing both paper towels and tissue from Sumatra's forests for its private label brands, recognizing that they can have a positive impact in saving this critical tiger, elephant and orangutan habitat through their purchasing decisions.

There is more to do, and WWF continues work to protect the lush rain forests of Sumatra that suffer from what may be the world's fastest rate of deforestation.

Nate C. Hindman wrote an article about the iconic St. Marks Books for Huffington Post. “At a rally last fall in New York’s East Village celebrating the end of a long battle between the 35-year old St. Mark’s Bookshop and its landlord, Cooper Union, Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer praised the school's decision to reduce the store’s rent, allowing St. Mark's to fend off foreclosure. He told crowds that he was confident the deal would help keep the beloved shop open for “another 35 years!” 

Stringer was wrong. For St. Mark’s the rent once again became too high and though they had good clientele which ranged over time from Susan Sontag, Annie Leibovitz, Allen Ginsberg, Philip Glass, and William Burroughs, to college students to tourists, to neighbors who popped in to browse and spend what they could. They tried one thing after another and landed on crowdfunding, a fundraising tool that allows entrepreneurs to collect small sums of money from many people over the Internet to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations. Crowdfunding has been a boon to St. Marks Books. Their current location is 31 Third Avenue, still in the same wonderful, very New York neighborhood. I received the following from them when I signed and circulated a petition and wrote a letter to friends asking them to go there and shop, shop, shop. We can always help.

Dear Friends of the Bookshop,
We wanted to take a second to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your generosity, but more importantly for your support. By pledging on our project you have not only helped us financially, but have shown the world that bookstores still matter. As of this afternoon we have surpassed our goal of $23,000 on our Lucky Ant campaign! [note: the campaign has since ended]. This is not the end of the road for us. The move could cost upwards of $100,000 in total, but this first big chunk at least guarantees that we will keep fighting because you have shown everyone that there is a reason to.
On Lucky Ant, we can surpass our goal. We know we probably won't hit $100,000, but with a little more than 3 days left we'd like to see how far we can get. Every little bit helps (we don't ever want to have to do this again)! So, if you've procrastinated on pledging, the campaign is still active . If you have already pledged or can't, thank you again and please take a second to share the link one last time. Thank you again for your amazing support - you guys are awesome!...

Bob Contant, partner/owner said “Amazon didn’t suddenly appear in 2008,” and Mr. McCoy, 67, said, “but our sales fell off then. The store is a great browsing experience. It’s a curated thing. I don’t think you can get that online.” 

Thomas Haynesworth addressed an overflow crowd, at the Petersburg Virginia Good Shepherd Baptist Church’s Re-entry Forum, sponsored by the Petersburg Sheriff’s office. Haynesworth has devoted his life to the emotional health and well-being of others who face the kind of issues he faced. He explains how serving 27 years for a wrongful conviction and his faith fueled his passion to help others. 

Left: In 1984, at 18; Right: In 2011, at 46
On a Sunday morning in February 1984, Thomas Haynesworth’s mother asked her 18 year old son to go to the Trio Supermarket to pick up some bread and sweet potatoes for their Sunday dinner, but he never completed his errand. As he walked along he was stopped by the police for no apparent reason, who then proceeded to arrest him on suspicion of rape. There had been a series of five assaults and rapes in his neighborhood, his color was alleged to be that of the perpetrator, and he was falsely accused by the victim who miss-identified him. He was tried for four of the rapes, convicted of three of them and sentenced to 84 years in prison.

At no time did Mr. Haynesworth ever admit to the rapes though the evidence and witness statements argued with his protestations No one believed him, though a man named Leon Davis, a known serial rapist aka the Black Ninja, had been charged for other rapes along the same time line. Haynesworth’s fight for freedom finally took a turn in 2009, when the state’s department of forensic evidence tested the DNA from the first rape as part of a broad review of old case files. Mr. Haynesworth was paroled, but had limitations. At that point the Innocence Project, a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system stepped up for Haynesworth. The case became a public affair, circulating petitions and raising an outcry as the Innocence Project worked until the now 46-year-old Haynesworth was completely exonerated all charges.

Haynesworth said “There are a lot of people behind the scenes who believed in me. Twenty-seven years, I never gave up. I kept pushing. I ain’t give up hope. I am very happy. Me and my family can finally put this behind us, and I can go on with my life. And I can finally vote.”

The Republican War on Fact Checkers

Let me start by confessing to those of you who don’t know this about me--I’m a political junkie. It’s what forced me to watch the Republican Convention even though I knew the whole thing could lead me to fits of temper, homicidal thoughts, and copious wedges of lemon meringue pie. I now realize that normal people do not subject themselves to long days and evenings of rabid sound bites, toxic descriptions of policies that serve the needs of people without wealth, and above all else, virulent lies. Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster was even good enough to warn a pre-convention gathering in Tampa that “We’re not going let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.” In other words, he was giving fair warning that veracity was off the table.

It seems that the party has once again become drenched in positions and language that I thought had been put to rest with phrases like “Welfare Queen” (which was thrown around freely by Ronald Reagan in his 1976 campaign, and which drove me crazy). When I looked up this phrase to determine when it dates from, I was reminded that Reagan used it while speaking on Chicago’s South Side, which was where I happened to live at the time. That Reagan has been canonized in the twisted lore of Republican history infuriates and saddens me, but doesn’t surprise me; it explains a lot. 

Maybe it’s the ghost of Reagan that generates the lies his heirs cast upon President Obama. In case you forgot, Reagan lied about Iran-Contra and claimed that: pollution came from trees or from Mount St. Helens-generated sulfur dioxide rather than from cars; apartheid leader P.W. Botha ended segregation in South Africa; the homeless "make it their own choice for staying out there," as he told The New York Times. I had almost forgotten Reaganomics, a lie that is currently touted as great shakes, but under which the nominal national debt rose from $900 billion to $2.8 trillion.

But the party’s current lies are more important. Over and over again they restate their lies, even after being corrected by the Democrats, by talking heads who interviews them, in articles covering their speeches, and by every intelligent person listening, watching or reading their lies. Here are a choice few, starting with my favorite: 

  • “President Obama’s plan does NOT wave the work requirement.”  This is a blatant lie. Read it. 
  • “I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour. President Obama began with an apology tour.” No he didn’t. 
  • Obama’s “…trillion-dollar cuts to our military will eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs, and also put our security at greater risk.” This needs a word of explanation: it was the result of a 2011 budget deal between Obama and congressional Republicans that was necessary to avoid a default on the national debt. 
  • “Unlike President Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class.” Obama has called for raising taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year.
  • “His $716 billion cut to Medicare to finance ObamaCare will both hurt today’s seniors, and depress innovation and jobs in medicine.” Republicans have repeatedly used variations of this line; it is not factually correct. 
  • “Gasoline prices have doubled.” Gasoline cost an average of $1.83 a gallon the day before Obama took the oath of office, but that was because of the economic crisis. Four years ago this month, the average price was $3.67--not much different than today’s price of $3.72
  • There's more, but I think you get the idea.

Beyond his lies Romney is also very cavalier about the health and wellbeing of his fellow Americans: “But no peril justifies the regulatory impact of ObamaCare on the practice of medicine, the Dodd-Frank Act on financial services, or the EPA’s and OSHA’s overreaching regulation agenda. A Republican Congress and President will repeal the first and second, and rein in the third.” Plus, his grasp of foreign policy is almost non-existent. He tipped his hand when he suggested that Cuba will always be his enemy and Russia will meet with what he called backbone and I call a grade school understanding of the real world. And though Romney has softened somewhat after the controversy that erupted around Missouri Representative Todd Aiken’s revolting use of the words “legitimate rape,” the platform includes choice words calling for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion even in cases of rape or incest, words borrowed from a bill co-sponsored by Todd Akin and Paul Ryan. Ugh! I remember once seeing a bumper sticker in Los Angeles that said, "If men could get pregnant Abortion would be a sacrament.”

And though I don’t even like to think of Ryan, I do think it should be noted that he too is a bold-faced liar who likes to see his tales in bold print: 
  • While Obama was campaigning for president he promised that a GM plant in Janesville Wisconsin would not shut down. Ryan said, "That plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day."  The plant effectively closed in December 2008--while George W. Bush was still president. 
  • He accused Obama of “raiding” Medicare by taking the exact same $716 billion that Ryan and the House GOP notoriously voted to slash. What ever happened to what’s good for the goose…?
  • He hit Obama for a credit-rating downgrade that S&P essentially blamed on GOP intransigence.
  • He claimed that all taxpayers got from the 2009 stimulus was “more debt,” when most got a tax cut (and the stimulus is known to have saved between 1.4 and 3.3 million jobs).
  • He depicted ObamaCare as Socialism.
  • And just ‘cause it annoys me so, I have to mention that Ryan didn’t mention that he opposed legislation Obama wanted that would keep student loan rates from doubling.  
  • I could go on, but enough is already too much.
Two speakers deserve special mention. Ann Romney worked so hard to paint a picture of “her” Mitt as a fun-loving regular guy, a go-getter, someone you’d like to have as a neighbor, or on your church committee, or maybe join for a night of bowling. She left me feeling that if you love the 1950’s, Romney’s the guy for you. Then there’s Clint Eastwood, who I’ve always known was the Republican Mayor of Carmel, a right wing but cute town, for sure! Beyond that he’s come to be known for directing films that have a strong moral core. Okay, full disclosure: I’ve had a crush on Eastwood for 30 years. But I’m at a loss to describe his adlibbed meandering, so I’m going to quote Michael Moore, who nailed it: “Speaking to Invisible Obama last night, in a performance that seemed to have been written by Timothy Leary and performed by Cheech & Chong, Clint Eastwood was able to drive home to tens of millions of viewers the central message of this year's Republican National Convention: 'We Are Delusional and Detached from Reality. Vote for Us!'" Also I wondered when he derided Vice President Biden if his memory had failed and he’d forgotten that as Senator, Biden spent decades as either the chair or ranking minority member, depending on which party was in the majority, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Violence Against Women Act, for which I am ever grateful, was created in his office despite some Republican resistance to it, and he helped to save the Bosnian Muslims from genocide, along with a long list of other accomplishments.

Eastwood did say one thing that I agree with. “If someone isn’t doing the job, we have to let them go.” The problem I have with his logic is that if you clear away all of the vile rhetoric and pathological lies that bubbled forth from him, Romney, Ryan and a bevy of lesser trash-talkers, he might see that indeed President Obama has done a good solid job despite the Republicans' mission, which is expressed in a Republican TV commercial that cherry-picks some promises that the candidate Barack Obama made and has not yet been able to fulfill. As I watched, it occurred to me that if I were working for the campaign, I would make a series of counter ads that each featured one of those "promises" followed by a clip of Mitch McConnell saying "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Too bad Republicans no longer believe in the single most important thing Obama wanted to achieve, which was to serve the people of the United States of America, unfettered. Maybe President Obama hasn’t done everything he said he’d do, but unlike McConnell’s and Eastwood’s compadre GWB, he didn’t start two inexcusable, unnecessary, unjustifiable wars, destroy the economy, deny science in favor of religion, and revive a thriving disconnect between those who think America belongs to the rich and the rest of us. And so, because you disappoint me Mr. Eastwood (may I call you Clint?), I have to let you go.

What You Can Do:

Please sign this petition to have fact checkers at the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates:
Thank you.

Mary Fisher has written a beautiful new book, Messenger: A Self Portrait. And she surely is a messenger of courage, passion and commitment. I met Mary Fisher in 1992, soon after she was diagnosed with HIV. I was told that Mary was the daughter of a powerful lifelong Republican, was a Republican herself and, as I discovered, was a wonderfully powerful woman who was feeling a bit overwhelmed by her recent news at the time we met. She had come to Santa Fe with her two young sons, Max and Zack. Over lunch, we began to talk about everything related to dealing with her new diagnosis but, as often happens with me, we started to talk politics, where we learned about each other’s political affiliations and became great friends anyway. I’ll just skip to the part where later on in the year she quite famously addressed the Republican National Convention, leaving not one dry eye in the house. As she stood at the podium and delivered her moving and profound speech, she gave the world a different face of American AIDS: a mother who contracted the virus from her former husband. Mary was no stranger to politics: She had been the first woman White House “advanceman;” she served at the pleasure of President Ford. She had also worked in television. So, she knew how to take on a challenge. She became ''a pilgrim on the road to AIDS,'' devoted to advocacy and to her boys. Yet, times were uncertain because though she had a great medical team, she could not be sure of what would happen to her, so she also prepared to die.

Her life changed dramatically with the development of new antiretroviral therapies. Currently, protease inhibiters offer her a prolonged life, which she lives with passion and purpose. Mary is an artist whose work radiates her beautiful spirit and speaks for, to, and of the disenfranchised through images and words. She is also the author of five other books, makes speeches all over the world and founded an NGO named ABATAKA which employs HIV positive women in Rwanda and  Zambia to execute Mary’s designs for beautiful beaded jewelry and provides them with means to support themselves and rise out of poverty. 

Buy these beautiful objects of art and support the women who make them. And please buy Messenger you will be so glad that you did.

Bravo, Archbishop Tutu!

A quick remark to say…..Bravo, Archbishop! Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called for President Bush and Tony Blair to be tried by the International Criminal Courts (ICC) for Crimes Against Humanity stemming from the war in Iraq. For years I have held and sometimes written about my fantasy that officers of the ICC pull off a stealth abduction of Bush, Blair, Cheney, and Rumsfeld: each are captured as they are about to leave an event, or from their homes, or on the way to the barber. A Guantanamo-style shammy bag is slipped over their heads and they are each hustled into a waiting car in the dark of night and taken to the Hague. They are all found guilty and condemned to spend the rest of their lives in a cell for four at Guantanamo Bay, or if it’s ever actually closed, some equally hot, unpleasant place for the rest of their lives.

In Memoriam (12 January, 1956 - 22 February, 2012)

The sublime Marie Colvin, a 56-year-old veteran correspondent, was killed along with her friend and collaborator French photojournalist Remi Ochlik in Syria, where they have been covering the revolution. Colvin, originally from New York, worked for The Sunday Times of London. She was reported to have been trying to retrieve her shoes, which as custom dictates she had left at the front door so she could escape the shelling that had begun. Every report of her demise described her as courageous and dedicated to the story.   

The UK's Guardian carried the following: Colvin writes, "Covering a war means going to places torn by chaos, destruction and death, and trying to bear witness. It means trying to find the truth in a sandstorm of propaganda when armies, tribes or terrorists clash. And yes, it means taking risks, not just for yourself but often for the people who work closely with you."

Republicans in Debate

And then there were Four....   

I remember the moments right after I tuned in to watch the first of what seems like a million Republican Debates. I settled in with a bowl of popcorn on my lap so that I could fool myself into thinking I was about to be informed and entertained. But I set the popcorn aside as I took a good look at the assemblage of hopefuls: Senator Rick Santorum; Herman Cain; Rep. Ron Paul, Mitt Romney; Rep. Michele Bachmann; Tim Pawlenty; Jon Huntsman; Newt Gingrich.

Wow!" I thought. Is that the best they've got? And though I knew they were all going to be pretty good news for Democrats, I said a prayer for my country and watched the Republican Debate for as long as I could--long enough for me to remember that Jon Huntsman, who had served in China for President Obama, was a keen strategist and gifted foreign policy expert, and Ron Paul, who is an interesting outside-the-box thinker and innovator, were unique among the group. But soon Huntsman dropped out of the race leaving Paul as the only voice of reason and by far the brightest of the bunch. That remains true now that their number has shrunk to four. Of the other three, Romney, who looks the most Presidential but sounds, well, let’s just say not so presidential, won both the Michigan and Arizona primaries, yet seems unsure of his own beliefs. Rick Santorum, who makes things up at will, is flat out uninformed and doesn’t seem at all suited to the presidency of anything more complicated than a church group, came in behind Romney, but not by enough to keep him from swaggering. Gingrich swings between being an affable guy and an arrogant old war horse. He has a bunch of accusations, divorces and other questionable integrity gaps swirling around him, which may account for his low scores in both states.

Out of self-love and self-preservation I stopped watching full debates after the second one and came to rely for information on The New York Times, clips of the highlights, my favorite talking heads, and the words of the candidates themselves as they hit the trail. Through it all, I have found myself astounded and dismayed that someone so obviously unqualified to be the leader of the free world as Rick Santorum, could be taken seriously. Only in America, which is both the good and the bad news about my country.

I expect that President Dwight David Eisenhower is spinning in his grave at what has become of his party. He once said, “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.” 
A Few Simple Actions:
  1. If you haven’t watched any of these debates, then please at least get used to the idea that what happens among the Republicans can greatly impact you in more ways than I can even think about. Look at the websites of these men and see how they are selling themselves.
  2. Encourage members of your family and your Progressive, Democratic and Independent  friends to do the same.
  3. Set a few hours over the next few weeks to catch up. YouTube and CNN can make it easy for you.
  4. Write to those of these nominee hopefuls who you think might be reasonable, and tell them what qualities you’d like them to adopt.
  5. Let President Obama know what you want of him as well. And please be constructive and supportive.

One Republican in a Foil Hat

Though the scientific proof for climate change is irrefutable, there are those who, either through ignorance, for political gain among uninformed voters, or to garner vast amounts of corporate funding from those who pollute and destroy the environment, are climate change deniers. To make a mockery of their lame protests against the reality of climate change, the organization Environmental Action gave out tin foil hats to legislators and others who reject reality and cling to their absurdity. Santorum came by his tin hat honestly. Here’s how:

“I refer to global warming as not climate science, but political science–a lot of these environmental sciences are just that–political sciences. They have nothing to do with…real understanding of how we have to value both the environment and its impact on man and the world.”  Like much of what Santorum says, this line left me thinking, what’s wrong with him? And set me off to find a great line from the hilarious film “A Fish Called Wanda.” In a moment of exasperation Wanda, wonderfully played by Jamie Lee Curtis, screams at Otto (Kevin Klein), that, “Calling you stupid would be an insult to stupid people!” 

I also felt encouraged to check out Rick Santorum’s other views. What follows includes some of my favorites among his myriad of fabrications, half-truths, misunderstandings and absurdities. They clearly do not add up to being presidential. He has little capacity for critical thinking, analysis and differentiating truth from fiction. Those factors, combined with the disjointed way he puts sentences together and his aversion to intelligent people could well jeopardize the welfare and the very future of America should he ever hold a position that puts him in direct contact with the important, passionate, powerful and, God forbid, intellectual array of leaders currently populating the world stage.

On the environment: 
  • "There is no such thing as global warming." (Hmmm)
  • "There's a variety of factors that contribute to the earth warming and cooling, and to me this is an opportunity for the left to create—it's a beautifully concocted scheme because they know that the earth is gonna cool and warm." (It looks like the pope is in on the scam! How else do you explain the Vatican aiding the Obama administration during the Copenhagen climate talks in December 2009?)
On President Obama:
  • President Barack Obama "has put (up) a stop sign…against oil drilling, against any kind of exploration offshore or in Alaska." (untrue)
  • "Any child born prematurely, according to the president, in his own words, can be killed."  (untrue)
  • If elected President, "my first executive order would be to repeal ObamaCare."
  • "President Obama said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob!”  (really?)
More on the Dangers of Education: 
  • "There are good, decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to the test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor trying to indoctrinate them."
  • "I don’t know if it still holds true but I suspect it may even be worse—that 62 percent of kids who enter college with some sort of faith commitment leave without it." 
  • "I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to re-make you in his image."  
On Euthanasia: 
  • "In the Netherlands, people wear different bracelets if they are elderly.... And the bracelet is: 'Do not euthanize me.' Because they have voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands but half of the people who are euthanized—10 percent of all deaths in the Netherlands—half of those people are euthanized involuntarily at hospitals because they are older and sick. And so elderly people in the Netherlands don't go to the hospital. They go to another country, because they are afraid, because of budget purposes, they will not come out of that hospital if they go in there with sickness."  
On Homosexuality:
  • "In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality."
  • "We have made the decision that the best way to raise a family is with a man and a woman."
  • "[The] right to privacy…doesn't exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution." (Rick Santorum on the right to privacy)
On Islam & Israel:
  • "A Democracy could not exist because Mohammed already made the perfect law. The Quran is perfect just the way it is. That’s why it is only written in Islamic." (Islamic?)
  • "Israelis have the right to determine what happens in their land. And all of Israel, including the quote, you know, West Bank, is Israeli land."
On Women, Sex and Reproduction:
  • "The reason Social Security is in big trouble is we don’t have enough workers to support the retirees. Well, a third of all the young people in America are not in America today because of abortion, because one in three pregnancies end in abortion."
  • "I can’t imagine any other organization with its roots as poisonous as the roots of Planned Parenthood getting federal funding of any kind. This is an organization that was founded on the eugenics movement, founded on racism." (PP serves all races and Santorum should look up eugenics. It would be antithetical to PP. Maybe he should look up antithetical while he’s at it.)
  • "[Sex] is supposed to be within marriage. It's supposed to be for purposes that are yes, conjugal… but also procreative. That's the perfect way that a sexual union should happen…. This is special and it needs to be seen as special. 
  • Contraception is "a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."
  • "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery, you have the right to anything."
  • "My concern is that being in combat in that situation [women in battle], instead of being focused on the mission, they might be more concerned about protecting a woman in a vulnerable position."

Some Things to Think About and Do:
  1. Use this as an opportunity to look at each of Santorum’s positions and get clear about what you believe in each area.
  2. If you don’t have a clear way to express yourself on each of these issue areas, take a little time to sit with them one by one and begin to get a true sense of how you feel and what you think about them.
  3. If and/or when you are clear, jot down some ideas and key words that you can use to support for your positions.
  4. Don’t keep your ideas to yourself. This is the right time to be out there championing the ideas and dreams you want to see become reality. 
  5. Let the President and the people representing or wanting to represent you know as well.