Windchime Walker

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Monday, October 31, 2005

More trick than treat 

This is the Good least that's what I told the kids today at school. They seemed to believe me. Now I'd like to hear George W. Bush tell us that his nomination of 3rd Circuit Appeals Court Judge Samuel Alito to fill Sandra Day O'Connor's place on the U.S. Supreme Court was just a Halloween trick, because, my friends, that man--whose appointment prompted George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley to say, "There will be no one to the right of Sam Alito on this Court."--is scarier than Dracula! At least Dracula drinks blood to stay alive. From what I've read and heard of Judge Alito since this morning's announcement, he drinks blood to stay dead, dead to the rights promised Americans in our Constitution.

Let's hope the Democrats wake up and fight this disastrous nomination. A few of them have already weighed in but we're going to need ALL not just a few to stop this potential assault on our freedoms. I had a feeling if Harriet Miers dropped out, we'd wish she hadn't. Incompetent crony though she was, at least she wasn't so far to the right that she was off the radar screen, like Alito obviously is.

Of course, politically this was JUST what Bush had to do: #1, restore his good standing among his Christian Right base of supporters; and #2, try to distract the attention of Congress, the media and the American people from the mess he's made of the presidency, ie., (to name just a few), the Iraq War, the indictment and ongoing investigation of top officials in his adminstration, and the continuing nightmare for the victims of Katrina. It'll be interesting to see if he succeeds.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

A glorious autumn weekend 

Yesterday and today have been those kind of autumn days you recall in January with feelings of nostalgia and disbelief. You ask yourself how in the world could it be warm enough to walk, run, bike or scoot outside without a coat/boots/muffler/knit hat/gloves. You ask yourself what color looks like, be it leaves on trees, flowers in bloom, or green grass and bushes. It all seems like the dream of a child. Impossible, you tell yourself!

But today was that dream day. Leaves only just beginning to fall from the trees, many of which are still clothed in their green summer garments but enough are showing off their colorful autumn garb to make you catch your breath in wonder. And temperatures mild enough for a light sweater or even a long-sleeved cotton shirt to suffice. Please remind me of this day next January.

As I said, yesterday was equally lovely, and my women's community was fortunate enough to spend the afternoon and evening out at Casey and Jeanne's home in the country. Our reason for gathering was to celebrate both Jeanne's 70th birthday and Samhain (the Celtic New Year) with a delicious potluck supper, followed by a ritual around the firepit where we shared stories of our ancesters, and helped to decorate the Old Wild Crone found-art piece that stood in a place of honor in our circle. We concluded the evening by sitting around the living room singing Gaia songs, goddess chants and old songs from the 40s, 50s and 60s. I know I've said this numerous times in the past but belonging to this particular women's community is one of the greatest gifts of my life.

Friday, October 28, 2005

A quantum leap 

I really think we're onto something..."we" being Matt LaCroix, my trainer at the gym, JoLynn Schneider, my massage therapist who also works at the gym, and me. In the three weeks since I began following my twice-weekly workouts with a massage, my strength and endurance has improved at least 20%, according to Matt, an experienced trainer who is not prone to exaggeration.

Nothing else has changed in these three weeks, not my diet, sleep patterns, exercise schedule or life stresses. The only change has been adding massage to my normal routine. And that massage--anywhere from 30-60 minute sessions--coming IMMEDIATELY after I've worked for 50-60 minutes at Matt's direction on exercise machines, doing free-standing leg exercises, arm lifts with weights, and the abdominal exercises we've been doing since we started working together in March 2004. The improvement is, in Matt's words, "dramatic!"

Now I must interpose a significant fact here, and that is WHO is doing my massages. JoLynn Schneider is not your ordinary massage therapist. She is a world-class athlete (woman's basketball) whose knowledge of how the body works, its anatomical structure with special emphasis on the muscular system, and the connection between massage and exercise, is unique. If there's a subspecialty called "sports massage"--and I'm sure there is--Jo is one of its expert practitioners.

So here I have an instrument--my body--that may now be considered "disabled," but in its day was a double-jointed tumbler for the high school marching band, a natural swimmer and diver, often the top person on a Cypress Garden-type pyramid of teenaged waterskiers, youthful arm-wrestler who could take down fellows twice her size, marathon runner who completed 26.2 miles at a 7.5 minute per mile pace, agile modern dancer, long-distance (200 miles in two days) biker, and a never-sit-down rock music dancer (still). This body also went from not being able to swim a stroke in June 2000 (after having been diagnosed with MS in 1988 and basically giving up all exercise) to swimming a half mile of the crawl twice a week, summer and winter.

Add to that a licensed personal trainer (Matt LaCroix) who changes my routine every time we meet (twice a week), has studied with sports medicine physicians, is now so interested in expanding his work with the disabled (I was his second disabled client) that he makes weekly training visits to the home of another woman diagnosed with MS, and spends his off time researching our medical condition(s) online and at the medical school library. Matt pushes me to the Nth but listens to my body's messages and immediately responds if/when I experience pain or unusual discomfort. I see him as a combination symphony composer, conductor, instrumentalist and appreciative member of the audience. I wouldn't be where I am without him.

And now, as of three weeks ago, a massage therapist extraordinaire (JoLynn Schneider) has come onto the team. I wrote earlier in this entry about her special expertise in relation to sports and anatomy, but I'd like to add to that, her intuitive knowing of what is going on within the body upon which she's working. Jo is a complete professional who keeps a written record of what she finds and does, and shares that information with her clients. She also keeps Matt well informed so we're all working together.

Is it any wonder that I am feeling strong, healthy and fit? How fortunate I am to have this bulldog of a body that NEVER gives up, and such exceptional companions at my side. Jo said she dreamed of me last night and in her dream I was walking. Hey, who knows. I'm beginning to think ANYTHING is possible.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A Commemoration of 100,000 Iraqis Killed in the War 

Marla was right: every single person on this planet deserves to be remembered by name. Especially if they are innocent victims in a war that had nothing to do with them. We can hear all the numbers in the world--2000 American soldiers dead, 20 or 30 or 100,000 Iraqi civilians dead--and it means little to us. Yes, we mourn their deaths, we feel sad or angry or outraged, but we don't KNOW them. They have no flesh and bones, no story, no real meaning to us. If we hear, or even better, speak their names out loud, know how old they were when they died, what killed them, where and when they died, then we know them. They are real to us. And their loss is felt in our depths.

Marla Ruzicka knew this when she began her work of going house-to-house in cities and towns all over Iraq asking the people who in their family had been killed since this war had started on March 19, 2003. And she didn't wait until the so-called cease fire either. No, Marla and co-workers like Raed Jarrer started knocking on those doors as bombs were being dropped, missiles fired, tanks were targeting homes, bullets piercing hearts and lungs and livers at military checkpoints, scrapnel was flying into the tender bodies of children...ALL of it was still going on around them. Some called them foolish, many of us called them courageous. Marla simply said she was doing what needed to be done.

She stayed faithful to this work when funds from her homeland, America, dried up, when volunteers dropped out, when it got so dangerous that she was one of a handful of unarmed individuals on the streets of these wartorn cities and towns. Yes, Marla stayed faithful to her work of collecting names, stories and details of the civilian deaths that no one was counting...that is, until she became a victim herself, one of too many innocent individuals killed on what had become known as that deadly Baghdad Airport Road. She and her colleague, Faiz Al Salaam, dead on April 16, 2005 at the ages of 28 and 43.

In an article published on April 21, 2005, John Nichols of The Capitol Times, Wisconsin, wrote (in part):

The global justice movement, at least in its current incarnation, is a young cause. Rooted in the anti-sweatshop campaigns of the 1990s and thrust onto the world stage by the Seattle anti-WTO protests of 1999, the movement remains overwhelmingly youthful in composition, leadership and spirit.

As such, it has experienced few deaths of comrades - particularly among the legions of activists in the United States. Until now.

Marla Ruzicka, the 28-year-old head of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), which worked to aid civilian victims of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, was killed Saturday on the road from Baghdad to that city's airport when her car was apparently caught between a suicide car bomber and a U.S. military convoy.

A veteran campaigner with Global Exchange, one of the most prominent groups in the global justice movement, Marla was one of many young activists who turned their attention from sweatshops and trade agreements to questions of war and peace after Sept. 11, 2001. But she took that attention further than most.

Marla traveled to Afghanistan and later to Iraq as part of Global Exchange's noble and necessary efforts to draw attention to civilian casualties of the U.S. invasions and occupations of those countries. Marla's work provoked an international outcry in 2002, after she exposed the fact that U.S. air strikes had killed hundreds of Afghan civilians during a six-month period when the major fighting was supposed to be done.

Traveling to Iraq after the U.S. invasion, Marla began the arduous work of seeking an accurate count of civilian casualties in that country. She went door-to-door in bomb-ravaged neighborhoods, collecting information and often serving as a shoulder to cry on.

When the United Nations and groups such as the International Committee of the Red Cross began to abandon on-the-ground operations in Iraq because of the continuing violence, Marla stepped in. The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), which she started, provided Iraqi families with information - and a smart, aggressive English-speaking ally - as they pursued claims for compensation from the U.S. military when they were injured and family members were killed.

That compensation was made possible, at least in part, because of Marla's work with U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who responded to the young woman's lobbying by inserting language into an appropriations bill to provide civilian aid worth $10 million in Afghanistan and $20 million in Iraq.

Leahy hailed Marla as "an exceptionally determined, energetic and brave young woman who has traveled to the front lines to focus attention on an issue that too often gets ignored," adding that "civilians bear the brunt of the suffering in wars today, but there is no policy to help them. Marla and her organization have helped put a human face on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by identifying the victims and their needs, and by lobbying for assistance."

And a human face is what Marla and her CIVIC workers put on the untold numbers of Iraqi war victims yesterday, today and tomorrow for volunteers in over 100 cities across our country who are participating in "A Commemoration of 100,000 Iraqis Killed in the War," a national campaign initiated by Voices For Creative Nonviolence and another courageous worker for peace, Kathy Kelly.

This afternoon as I sat in my scooter first beside Nancy, then Pat, Willie, and Suzanne on Woodward Avenue across the street from where we'd held our 21-day Camp Casey Detroit peace encampment on much warmer days and nights, and heard the bell rung once every minute by my companions, and then read aloud each name, age, gender, cause of death, where and when this person had been killed, from a list compiled by Marla, Raed, Faiz and the CIVIC workers in Iraq, I finally knew what this war really means. This, added to Tuesday night's candlelight vigil for the 2000 American soldiers dead in this war, was almost too much to bear.

For us, and I'm sure for all who participated in this campaign, it was the children who broke our hearts. Maged Agel Gber, an 11 year-old boy dead in a tank attack at Alngef -Alhedrea on March 23, 2003 (Remember "Shock & Awe"?). Mahdey Abed Al-Atheem, an 18 month-old baby boy killed by a missile in Al-Baseer Q on the same date. Nermeen Kasem Mohamed, a 9 year-old girl killed by a missile in Hay Al-Hareth Al-Saray, also on March 23, 2003. Noor Rameem Ywsif, a 12 year-old boy killed by a missile at Alsharkya H3/S9/Q108, same date. Ogal Gwad Kathem Alasbae, a 6 year-old girl burned to death at Alzawea on March 23, 2003. To name just a few.

Before arriving downtown at 4 PM, I'd spent the day at an East Dearborn K-5 public school with girls and boys aged 5 to 10--many of them from Iraq--so the names I read had faces attached to them, with stories and lives holding the promise of what they were born to do. The names I read from that list were MY children, the kids I sit with every week, make art with, laugh with, listen to and occasionally are driven crazy by. There was nothing hypothetical about the deaths of these Iraqi children...and their parents, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents. All of these precious people were on that list of names.

It's not often that I let myself feel the true cost of this war. Today I did, and, believe me, it feels awful. It's much easier to wax sarcastic about Bush's war, or gather facts, critically analyze them, and marshall my arguments. But to see the dead children, to feel their loss? That, my friends, is unbearable.

But we must. We must allow ourselves to feel the pain of what is really happening in that U.S-created hellhole that used to be the beautiful country of Iraq, and once we do, we will never be the same again. When we know in our gut what it's like to lose a child like Cindy Sheehan did, and like the parents--if they're still alive--of Maged, Mahdey, Nermeen, Noor and Ogal did, then we will work for peace with a passion that will not be stopped or denied.

I invite you to go to the web site, "In Memoriam: Names of Iraq War and Occupation's Dead," and read at least 20 names out loud. If you have a candle, light it. If you have a bell, ring it. But please take time to remember, to see the innocent victims of war.

I wish I could find the link for the pictures, names, ages and hometowns that the New York Times printed on Wednesday of the second 1000 American soldiers to be killed in the war on Iraq. I would send you there too and ask you to look into their faces and read their names out loud.

We must never lose sight of what this war truly costs.

You can read Detroit News reporter Kim Kozlowski's excellent article about our vigil--"Bells ring for Iraqi civilian deaths"--that was published in the Detroit News, Friday, October 28, 2005.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A sad milestone & an interesting dialogue 

I'm at a loss to explain how the 2000th death of an American soldier in Iraq could possibly have come on the same day that Ann Arbor's Michigan Peaceworks was scheduled to hold their long-planned Roundtable discussion on Iraq War Exit Strategies. The timing was enough to make me a believer.

Of course that's 2000 Americans. No one knows how many Iraqis have died, but estimates range from tens of thousands to over a hundred thousand.

We began the evening with a candlelight vigil in front of the University of Michigan building where the panel discussion was to be held (photos #1, #2, & #3). It was an appropriately chilly night.

Phillis Engelbert, the director of Michigan Peaceworks, moderated the discussion which began at 7 PM. And what a panel she and her group had gathered! Juan Cole, an international expert on the U.S. war on Iraq, author of one of the most widely-read blogs on the web--"Informed Comment"--and a University of Michigan professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian history. Ismat Hamid, a retired professor from the University of Baghdad, College of Pharmacy, who has lived in the U.S. for 30 years. Deb Regal, a nationally-known member of Military Families Speak Out and mother of a U.S. Marine currently serving in Iraq. Nazih Hassan, Michigan Peaceworks board vice president, former president of the Muslim Community Association, and, coincidentially, a dear friend of Rabih Haddad whom I will be visiting in Beirut in two weeks.

The format allowed each panelist to speak for five minutes. After each of the four had spoken, they were then given six more minutes to finish their thoughts and/or respond to what other panelists had said. Phillis's timer kept them on task. The evening concluded with questions/comments from the floor, to which the panelists responded.

What made this discussion fascinating were the different opinions expressed by these four thoughtful, well-informed individuals. But first I must say, they all agreed that the U.S. ground forces MUST get out of Iraq. Where they differed was in how and when this could be accomplished, and what might happen in Iraq after those troops had left.

I'm going to do my best to give you some idea of what each of the panelists said. Please remember this is how I heard and noted it in my journal, but that doesn't mean I got it exactly right. It's times like this that I wish I'd learned shorthand!

In his discussion, Juan Cole reminded us that we've got three more years of President Bush and since he seems to have an obsession with Iraq that means our ideas about exit strategies will probably not make a lot of difference to the outcome.

Prof. Cole laid out two tasks that have fallen to the U.S. troops: 1) Protecting the Green Zone in Baghdad, including the Iraqi government leaders whom the occupying army have helped come into power; 2) Attack the Sunni Arab resistance fighters and anyone else who gets in their way. It is the latter that Prof. Cole decries. He called the U.S. counter-insurgency strategy "the worst in history." He denounced the vindictive ways in which the U.S. troops are being used by the Bush administration.

Where Juan Cole stood alone on this panel was in his insistence that the troop withdrawal must be gradual. He repeated several times that we must guard against the worse possible case scenerio, which, in his view, would be the almost certain massacre of the Iraqi government officials if we left them unprotected, and the likelihood that if a civil war broke out, it would become regional if not global. He worries about "rosy pictures" of how, once the occupiers were gone, the Shiites and Sunnis would get along fine. He said, "Political identities are subterranean and can change quickly." He gave Kosovo as an example, where the Serbs and Croatians had gotten along fine for generations but turned on one another in the 90s. He doesn't want to see that kind of genocide happen in Iraq, but fears it could. Even though he believes the U.S. ground troops must be removed, he is afraid that we're probably looking at 10-15 years of some kind of U.S. military presence in Iraq.

Prof. Cole made a most interesting statement during the questions/comments. He said, after making the disclaimer that he was speaking totally for himself and not for the university, that he believed we should be calling for the impeachment of Vice-President Cheney. Cheney is obviously behind the outing of CIA undercover operative, Valerie Plame, to his subordinates, and even though they all had the security clearance to hear this information, the question is, why did Cheney tell them? Juan Cole thinks his doing so was a form of treason. To read more about this, you can go to Juan's "Informed Comment" blog entry for Tuesday, October 25.

Deb Regal, who had pasted a picture of her son to the table in front of her, told us of his email home on his 26th birthday last week in which he wrote, "Don't worry about me; worry about THEM." Deb worries that we are dehumanizing our troops so that they can kill Iraqis and not feel bad about it. She went on to remind us that the military is not a democracy, even though it protects our democracy. She told of our troops shooting and killing Iraqis simply because they don't understand their language. Deb wants the U.S. out now and the UN brought in. She feels the UN peacekeepers would be better trained to understand the Arab culture, language and religions. She also believes our Congress must be held accountable, and that Governor Granholm could and should recall the Michigan National Guard from Iraq.

Dr. Ismat Hamid was the third to speak. He agrees that the U.S. must get out of Iraq, and the UN must be asked to come in. Dr. Hamid shared with us the history of peaceful coexistence between Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis. He held up a copy of the new constitution that the Iraqis have just approved and called it a "disaster." What it would do is divide the country into as few as four states or as many as twelve. He said that is Washington's plan, to "divide and conquer." He asked why Iraq needed a new constitution. "The constitution we had from 1920 was excellent." Dr. Hamid described how the new constitution "injects religion" into the government, and takes freedom away from 50% of the population, the women. He told us of the 14 permanent military bases and the largest American embassy in the world that the U.S. has recently built in Iraq. He made it clear that as a culture, Iraqis HATE occupation. As far as he's concerned, democracy and occupation are incompatible.

Nazih Hassan was the final panelist to speak. He brought up the need to understand Iraq. He said that, yes there was a history of tension between the Shiites and Sunnis, but not strife; Saddam Hussein had oppressed both. Actually, only Saddam's family and other loyalists were safe from oppression during his regime. Now the U.S. is doing everything it can to set Shiite against Sunni. Nazih does not believe there will be civil war if the occupiers leave. And he feels strongly that the U.S. must get out of Iraq as soon as possible. When he looks at the guerrilla resistance, he sees not one group but MANY groups. They are not consistent with one another, and, in fact, 95% of the Iraqi people support the resistance. With that kind of support, they cannot be defeated. Nazih believes the U.S. would do well to start peace negotiations with the resistance groups. He said an alternative process must be tried. Iran needs to be brought into it, and maybe the current Arab League Initiative would be a good place to start. But however it's accomplished, the Americans must give a timetable for withdrawal and then do it.

When you read this brief synopsis, don't you see why I was willing to drive 55 miles each way to hear this discussion? My deepest gratitude to Phillis and the Michigan Peaceworks team for creating such an opportunity for dialogue, and to the panelists for their honest analyses of what can seem an impossible subject.

Now I've just stayed up until 4 AM writing this entry, but it felt too important to put it off until tomorrow (today?). I hope you agree.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Rosa Parks, Civil Rights Heroine, is Dead at 92 

Monday, October 24, 2005

When Rosa Parks refused to get up, an entire race of people began to stand up for their rights as human beings.

It was a simple act that took extraordinary courage in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955. It was a place where black people had no rights white people had to respect. It was a time when racial discrimination was so common, many blacks never questioned it.

At least not out loud.

But then came Rosa Parks.

This mild-mannered black woman refused to give up her seat on a city bus so a white man could sit down.

Jim Crow laws had met their match.

Parks' refusal infused 50,000 blacks in Montgomery with the will to walk rather than risk daily humiliation on the city's buses.

This gentle giant, whose quietness belied her toughness, became the catalyst for a movement that broke the back of legalized segregation in the United States, gave rise to the astounding leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and inspired fighters for freedom and justice throughout the world.

Parks, the beloved mother of the civil rights movement, is dead, a family member confirmed late Monday.

But already it's evident that her spirit lives in hundreds of thousands of people inspired by her unwavering commitment to work for a better world - a commitment that continued even after age and failing health slowed her in the 1990s.

In death as in life, she touched the well known and the little known people of the world.

'Freedom is for all human beings'

Civil Rights heroine, Rosa Parks, shown at the 30th anniversary of the March on Washington, August 28, 1993. (AP/WWP Photo)

Parks' health had been declining since the late 1990s. She had stopped giving interviews by then and rarely appeared in public. When she did, she only smiled or spoke short, barely audible responses.

In one of her last lengthy interviews with the Detroit Free Press in 1995, she spoke of what she would like people to say about her after she passed away.

"I'd like people to say I'm a person who always wanted to be free and wanted it not only for myself; freedom is for all human beings," she said during an interview from the pastor's study of St. Matthew African Methodist Episcopal Church, a small congregation she joined upon moving to Detroit in 1957.

While it's known worldwide that her refusal to give up her bus seat sparked the Montgomery bus boycott, it's less well known that Parks had a long history of trying to make life better for black people.

It was a desire embedded in her from childhood by her grandfather - her mother's father with whom she lived when she was growing up. He taught his children and grandchildren not to put up with mistreatment. "It was passed down almost in our genes," Parks wrote in her 1992 autobiography, "My Story." (Puffin, $5.99)

She recalled that when her grandfather was home, he kept a shotgun by his side in case the Ku Klux Klan dropped by.

Of her grandfather, Sylvester Edwards, she wrote: "I remember that sometimes he would call white men by their first names, or their whole names, and not say, 'Mister.' How he survived doing all those kinds of things, and being so outspoken, talking that big talk, I don't know, unless it was because he was so white and so close to being one of them."

Her grandfather's father was a white plantation owner; his mother a slave housekeeper and seamstress.

In recent years, Parks has relied heavily on a wheelchair and, according to court documents, suffers from dementia.

The dementia was revealed as a result of two lawsuits filed on her behalf against the record company for the hip hop duo Outkast. The 1999 lawsuit claims the record label BMG Entertainment violated her publicity and trademark rights for the 1998 song "Rosa Parks,' by using her name without her permission for commercial purposes.

But some of her family members claim Parks was incapable of filing such a suit of her own accord. They say it was an attempt by one of her attorneys, Gregory Reed and her longtime friend, Elaine Steele, to get money.

Meanwhile, in October of this year a federal judge appointed former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer as her guardian ad litem-a temporary, court-appointed attorney to assure her interests in the lawsuits are fairly represented.

Steele has had durable power of attorney over Parks and serves as her patient advocate, meaning she will make medical decisions upon incapacitating illness since 1998, according to documents obtained by the Free Press.


What a loss for our world! Somehow, just knowing Rosa Parks was still alive gave so many of us comfort and strength to keep on keepin' on in the struggle for justice and freedom for all. Her refusal to live by the unjust laws of her time continued to be an important model as we experienced the unjust situations in our times. When we peace activists at Camp Casey Detroit rallied with the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization in response to what was happening to poor people of color in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina had done its damage, Rosa Park's name and example was held up as a model of the truth and determination we needed to right the wrongs of our time.

Over the almost forty years I've lived in Detroit, I've been privileged to be in this great woman's presence a number of times at rallies and marches, a memorable one being in 1990 when Nelson Mandala came to town after his release from prison. There was a mammoth rally for him and Winnie at the old Tiger Stadium, and if I remember correctly, Rosa Parks was on the podium with them. She was not only courageous but humble. You never saw her pushing herself into the limelight; it was more like she stood to the side and offered a benediction with her smiling presence.

I miss her already.


I've just read an excellent article about Rosa Park's life and death, "Rosa Parks, Civil Rights Pioneer, Dies at Home at Age 92 of Natural Causes" by Bree Fowler, published today (October 25) by AP.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Responding to the comments re: "Follow the Money" 

I so rarely get any comments on this blog that seeing not one but FOUR entries is a real treat! And such a wonderful range of responses at that. Thanks to all who responded.

I knew when I wrote the entry, "Follow the Money," that it would be controversial. But maybe that's part of a blogger's responsibility, to say really "out there" things that make readers take notice and critically analyze the subject themselves. I'm happy to see that's what's happened here.

I appreciate all the points made by those who took the time to post their comments. I actually know three of the four posters and respect each of them highly.

I guess there's only one point I'd like to clarify and that regards the relationship between George W. Bush (& Co.) and the Republican party. I do NOT equate the two, and I doubt if many Republicans do, especially not now.

George and his handlers are a fringe group that have, through an unusual confluence of events, personalities and political genius, managed to grab power and create an alternative America that few of us recognize much less support. That includes Republicans. But with our political system set up the way it is, these mainstream Republicans find themselves with their hands tied behind their backs. That goes for the Democrats too. And it is THAT reality that I was hoping to bring to awareness.

In regards to keeping up the struggle for a better, more truly democratic America, I am not about to give up. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that. But working for SYSTEMIC change is the way to go, in my humble opinion.

I fear that many politically-aware individuals are going to find themselves crushed and disillusioned if they think that just getting Bush & Co. or even the Republicans out of office will make a big difference in how our government is run. Yes, ANYTHING is better than what we have now, but all you have to do is look at the Senate and House recent voting records (with the one GRAND exception regarding abolition of the torture of prisoners) to see that the problem is more widespread than simply this horrendous administration and a Republican-dominated legislative branch of government. What we have now is a government run NOT by the people but by MONEY, and that translates into an oligarchy not a democracy.

But now I've come full circle so it's time to stop. I just want to encourage my readers to keep posting their comments about what I write here. We need ALL our voices to be heard, not just mine. Each of us holds an essential part of the truth, and only together can we begin to see things as they are not as we imagine them to be.

Four images from the past three days... 

My Continent In Song sister, Julie from Halifax, Nova Scotia, her niece Cathy from Windsor, Ontario, and my friend Pat from Detroit pet some of the animals on the farm at the Catherine Ferguson Academy, an alternative Detroit public high school for pregnant teens and young mothers. Pat took us there on our informal Thursday afternoon tour of Detroit's green spaces.

Nicole Mitchell on flute during a pre-performance soundcheck, and a post-performance portrait of the Nicole Mitchell/Ed Wilkerson Quartet with bassist Harrison Bankhead and drummer Arveeayl Ra taken after their soul-stirring Friday night Edgefest concert at the Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor. This Chicago ensemble treated an enthusiastic audience to improvizational meditations that took "jazz" to new levels of originality and musical excellence. Many of us put it at the top of our list of favorite Edgefest 2005 performances. For me, it was not just a highlight of Edgefest 2005 but a highlight of my years as a jazz-lover. They totally tranced me out.

The view I had of the sun setting behind the Ambassador Bridge as I drove along Windsor's Riverside Drive on my way to the Great Lakes Gaia concert on Saturday evening. The Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel are the two arteries between Windsor and Detroit.

Some of the Great Lakes Gaia women (plus Julie from the Atlantic Canada Gaia group) respond to Lori and Jean's lead on drums at Gaia's Saturday night concert on behalf of Windsor's Ojibway Nature Centre. A sizable portion of Ojibway with its unique prairie grasses and savannah on which live countless threatened and endangered species of flora and fauna, is in the path of a new truck bridge they want to build between Windsor and Michigan. It would be an irreparable loss not only to Windsor but to our earth's delicate ecosystem.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Ann Arbor's Edgefest 

Tomorrow (Thursday) night I'll be enjoying jazz at the Kerrytown Concert House's annual Edgefest in Ann Arbor. I have a room booked at the Michigan League because it promises to be a late night, ie., the first show (at the KCH) starts at 8 PM, and the second (at the Firefly Club) starts at 10 PM. Both shows feature two different acts. My plan at this point is to spend Friday in Ann Arbor, go to the early (8 PM) show at the Kerrytown Concert House, and then drive home.

So I won't be updating my journal or blog until Saturday at the earliest. See you then.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Follow the money 

I'm beginning to suspect that it doesn't matter which party is in office. Democrat, Republican, what's the difference? Some would say "a woman's right to choose," but when was the last time you saw the Democrats fight for that right? Or even mention it in their election campaigns? For instance, did John Kerry stand on a platform of women's rights when he ran for president in 2004? If he did, I missed it.

And the war on Iraq. We "leftists" call it Bush's war, but is it really? Except for a few notable exceptions, Democratic senators and representatives have not only rolled over and played dead on this issue, but have been beating on the same drums of war as their Republican counterparts. For instance, there were only two Democrats who showed up at the September 24th massive "End the War On Iraq" rally in the city where they live and work. Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia spoke, and Rep. John Conyers of Detroit was in attendance. As I understand it, all the other Democrats fled town that weekend, just like their President.

What if both parties are playing on the same team? That team being "Corporate Interests." Who pays the millions it takes to get them elected? So who do they need to keep happy? Is it you and me? I doubt it. No, our campaign donations are hardly counted. And the corporations are smart--they give money to BOTH candidates in a race. Win/win situation for them, I'd say.

So if you're a politician, to whom are you beholden? Your constituents? Not a chance. Your donors have bought and paid for you, Democrat as much as Republican.

Why don't we get it? Why do we leftists keep feeling hurt and angry when "our" Democrats shaft us right and left? Are we so naive as to believe they would be speaking for us? The only time they come knocking on OUR door is when they're running for re-election, and nowadays, our vote doesn't matter much anyway. Everything's bought and paid for there too. It's just that the Republicans were smart enough to sew up the election process before the slow-thinking Democrats even saw the possibilites.

Even though the Supreme Court gave the Republicans the presidency in 2000, they caught on quick. Forget those hanging chads, butterfly ballots and lists of "felons," things will work your way if you "modernize" the process by introducing electronic voting machines sold, programmed and counted by Republican contractors. It worked in Ohio in 2004, and you can be sure it will work even better in 2008.

This is why I don't even bother to call my senators and representatives about their Congressional votes anymore. I consider it a waste of time. It's not individual politicians or their political parties we must change, but the entire political SYSTEM. Granny D had it right when she walked across the USA in 1999-2000 calling for campaign finance reform. It's all about money. Our Raging Grannies used to sing a song called "Follow the Money." That, my friends, is the path to truth. Follow the money and you'll see where loyalties lie.

Democrats or Republicans? Take your pick. It's pretty much the same.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Don't give in or up! 

Yes, it is possible for a person with a disability to live an adventurous life; I'm just finding it takes vast amounts of foresightedness, perseverance and creative problem solving to do so. As I plan my upcoming trip (alone) from Detroit to Beirut, I'm finding learnings at every turn. Primary among them is the reality that one cannot sit back and accept a negative situation without first asking again and again and AGAIN to see if it can be changed.

When I bought my airline tickets by phone last Thursday, I discovered that British Airways has a 30 kg limit on checked baggage, even mobility aids. Since my scooter weighs 58 kg, this was a potential problem. The agent could not reach the British Airways desk at Detroit Metro Airport by phone to see if my scooter could fly free or if I'd have to pay extra because it was overweight. She recommended I call back the next day to see if anyone could get through to the Detroit desk.

In Call #2 on Friday, the agent was also unable to get Detroit to answer the phone, so I thought I would be wise to ask how much "extra" I'd be looking at if BA did make me pay for Ona my scooter. When she quoted me the price of $720 USD, I practically flipped!

After returning home at 12:30 AM from our Friday night writers' group meeting in Lansing, I stayed up until 3:30 AM doing online research of manual wheelchairs--which ones were best for airline travel, and where I might buy one if I decided to do so--all the while knowing it would be extremely unlikely that there would be time for me to order a customized chair and receive it before my flight date of November 8. That's when I began to wonder if I'd have to postpone my trip. As part of my online research I posted a topic called "baggage allowance on international flights" on the Wheelchair Junkies discussion board asking if anyone had had similar problems flying on British Airways or any other international carrier.

On Saturday morning, I got up about 9:30 AM and started calling around to local mobility aid stores that I'd found online carried the two chairs I'd decided would be my first two choices. The stores I called were closed on Saturday. So I made Call #3 to British Airways to see if that $720 was hard-and-fast. The BA Detroit Airport desk was still unreachable, but this agent said, no, it would "only" cost me $330 if my scooter was deemed overweight baggage, which (pathetically) by then didn't sound too bad!

But when I checked last night, a number of my wheeled sisters and brothers had posted replies saying they'd had good experience with British Airways and other international carriers. None of them had EVER had to pay extra to transport their mobility aids.

In Call #4 this afternoon, I finally got an agent--Jim Evans at the Florida British Airways office--who was willing to take the time to see if he could get some hard answers about my scooter/baggage concerns. And I mean TIME. Jim spent almost two hours working with me.

Because he was not in a rush, Jim was able to succeed where others had failed in getting through by phone to the Detroit BA desk and he found that my scooter could ride FREE and would not be counted as one of my two allowed checked bags. He's also emailed British Mediterranian (BMed) Airlines, my carrier from London to Beirut, asking if they would do the same. At my prompting, Jim has also requested that my seating to be changed to an aisle seat closest to the WC (water closet). Anyone who's a regular reader knows how I would welcome THAT on my two eight-hour flights each way!

I am feeling WAY better, knowing I'll be traveling with Ona, my tried and true scooter. The prospect of trying out a new mobility device in such a challenging environment was daunting, to say the least. I'm sure I'll meet curbs that are not cut and other non-ADA-type situations, but I can handle that. Hey, that's happened to me in Greenwich Village in NYC, and during peace marches in Washington, DC. I just ask passersby to pick me and Ona up and deposit us where we need to be. Since we only weigh 223 lbs. together, this usually works fine.

So I say to all differently-abled and temporarily able-bodied folks out there, don't let potential barriers keep you from broadening your horizons and taking uncharted paths. Just keep knocking at doors that seem to be closed and your willingness to persevere will find a way in. It may not be the front door you enter, but side and back doors lead to the same place in the end.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Circle of Feet, Bioneers & FAME 

Whew! What a weekend. No complaints, just gratitude that I had so many wonderful opportunities.

It started on Friday evening with our monthly meeting of the writers' group we've named "Circle of Feet." The name refers to a photo some of the women took of our feet during the four-day workshop where we first met at Leaven Center in July. Everything was great about our time together on Friday night except the drive there (to Lansing) which took 2 1/2 hours instead of the 1 hour and 45 minutes I'd hoped. Fortunately, Marti rode with me so we had interesting conversations both coming and going. And you'll be happy to hear that Jessi has extended the deadline for our submissions to our Circle Of Feet Anthology by 10 days. Thank you, dear Jessi.

Saturday morning I awoke to one of those crisp autumn days where the colors are so vivid you can taste them. After handling some unexpected computer and phone business regarding my trip to Lebanonon, I postponed my plans to drive down to Wayne State University for the Detroit Bioneers Conference, and instead, scooted down to Eddie's office where we visited while I ate my lunch and then walk/scooted back home together around 12:30 PM. I still made it to the conference in time for the afternoon Plenary Session which was being aired from the National Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, California to regional conference sites around the country. The talks were superb!

Emily, Pat Kolon's daughter, joined the two of us for dinner at the Cass Cafe, and then we went across the street to the Bioneers dance party at the First Unitarian Universalist church on Cass at Forest. Pat left early but I stayed and danced until 10:45 PM. It was such fun! When I got home, I fell into bed and went to sleep almost before my feet left the ground.

I set my alarm for 7:45 AM this morning (Sunday) so I could make it back to the conference for the 9 AM workshops. Now you're going to see why I'm tired. I attended two excellent workshops on Environmental Justice, both given by Michelle Linn of ACCESS (Arab American Center for Economic and Social Services). The first was experiential--based on exercises developed by the Theatre of the Oppressed--and the second, more informational where we examined the relationship between median income, the percentage of racial minorities in each zip code in the Detroit Metro area, and incinerator emissions in the air and cancer rates. The statistics and maps Michelle shared were based on research compiled by Elaine Hockman of the University of Michigan.

We were not surprised to find that there is worse air pollution and higher cancer rates in low income areas with high percentages of persons of color living there, but I WAS surprised to learn that my zip code, which is in a high income, predominantly white community, has the next to highest rates of incinerator emissions and incidence of cancer. I've got to follow this up with some serious investigation.

After a sumptuous vegan lunch that the conference planners arranged to be held at the First UU church, I drove out to yet another UU church--this one in the north end--for a three-hour FAME (Finding Alternatives to Military Enlistment) training session. I'm still not sure that giving FAME workshops at local high schools is a good fit for me, but I so admire what they're trying to do that I wanted to participate in their training and see. I think I'll know better after I've had a chance to read the materials--a thick packet!--that they handed out.

For me the most gratifying part of the entire weekend was being surrounded by people of diverse ages, races, ethnicities, classes and educational backgrounds, who not only care about the planet, its people and all living species, but authentically walk their talk. How fortunate I am to live in a city that seems to attract such people, and then offer them unlimited opportunities to work for change. How I love Detroit!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

"Orwell Rolls In His Grave" 

This is going to be a short entry because it's late, but I wanted to check in because the next few days and nights are packed full so I may not have time to update my journal/blog.

If you're interested in examining what's been happening to our national media in the past twenty years or so, be sure to see the DVD documentary, "Orwell Rolls In His Grave", written, produced and directed by a most courageous man, Robert Kane Pappas. Ed rented it from our library and we watched it tonight. I'd heard and read (only online) much of what he reports, but seeing it all pulled together in one place packs quite a punch. Orwell's "1984" is no longer a fantasy. Chilling.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Working things out 

I feel like the student who thought she had two more weeks to finish a paper, only to find out it's due tomorrow. Well, not tomorrow actually, but Friday. For some reason--probably wishful thinking--I thought Jessi had set October 31 as the deadline for our submissions to the Writers' Workshop anthology. But yesterday's email from her said otherwise. She wants all submissions emailed to her by this Friday, October 14. So I worked on this project all day long. Even cancelled out of swimming. I've asked for an extension but even if I don't get it, I'll have several pieces ready to submit.

I also worked some more on my travel plans to Beirut. After learning that I would not have my scooter for a seven-hour layover in London's Heathrow Airport on the way to Beirut, but would instead be placed in an "assistance area" where my only hope for getting to the toilet or getting food would be if an employee would push me in an airport-owned wheelchair, I immediately started looking at other options. I mean, can you imagine being in a huge airport in a foreign country and not being able to explore it at all??!! The thought makes my skin crawl. Remember, my favorite song as a child was "Don't Fence Me In."

So I'm going to take a 24-hour layover (only adds $30 to my ticket), get my scooter out of baggage, take the Heathrow Express Train into London's Paddington Station (15 miles in 15 minutes) and rent a room at one of the many hotels in the area. I'd already been exploring this plan for my trip home as I have an enforced 24-hour layover on that leg of the journey. I think taking 24 hours off in the middle of a 16-hour flight is a good idea anyway. I've never been that good at sleeping in planes, so I'm sure that after 8 hours in the air, that bed will feel fabulous. It should also help with jet lag coming and going (Beirut is 7 hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone in the U.S.).

I also called Sulaima in Beirut and talked to her about some of my anxieties about my special disability needs as a guest in their apartment. I was amazed and relieved to find out that not only do they have five bedrooms but five bathrooms as well, so I'll have my own bedroom AND bathroom! If you're a regular reader, you know how that news--especially about the bathroom--comforts me. I also had a chance to talk to Rami, their 11 year-old son. Now I know exactly what to bring him, his 12 year-old brother Sami and 6 year-old Oussama. I'd already bought 16 year-old Sami's gift at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, and 17-month old Ibrahim is easy. Actually, I think I've pretty much settled on what gifts to take everyone in the family. Of course, they all tell me, "Just bring yourself!" but I want to bring them some small reminders of the country they lived in for so many years. I'm particularly excited about my gift for Rabih, but I can't tell you what it is because he sometimes reads my journal/blog. I want it to be a surprise.

As you can imagine, I am getting VERY excited about my trip. What a treat it will be to meet my brother Rabih face-to-face for the first time. If you recall, he was deported directly from jail after 19 months as a political prisoner, so we never had a chance to meet. I think we'd better have some tissues handy; this is going to be very emotional for all of us.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Granny D's loving intervention 

"Those enthrall to authority, cowering under it, lose sight of their own lives. They will venerate above all else the symbol of the yet unruined potential of life: the curled-up unborn. The authority clan will have the image of an unborn baby as its flag, and they will claim to honor and defend innocent life, but that will be a great lie to themselves. For they will not be the ones to demand DNA testing of all prisoners on death row; they will not be the ones to demand health insurance for all children, or better nutrition in all schools, or peaceful alternatives to international conflicts. They will be the ones to rail against these things, for the authority clan parades itself as pro-life while it is truly more like a cult of death. Having died themselves, strangled by authority and fear, they cannot wish happy lives for others--they cling only to that magic symbol of what might have been. They relate to the unborn baby selfishly; it is themselves: unborn, unlived, still hoping for a life."

These are some of the sentiments expressed by 95 year-old Doris 'Granny D' Haddock in a speech--"We Are Resolved to Follow Our National Dream"--given at Orchard House, Home of the Alcotts, in Concord, Massachusetts on October 6, 2005. But she doesn't stop there. As always, Granny D gives us options, ways to begin changing what needs to be changed. And she says it like she sees it. For example,

"We must help people see the mental traps that they are victim to, and we must do this by telling it like we see it, by asking them to see that the pro-life, pro-war movement is really a cult of death, that fundamental Christianity represents the opposite of Christ's teachings, that authoritarian control and elite profiteering are the strings of the far right's puppet show.

Let us indeed believe that all people are equal, but let us not assume that all political opinions are equal, for some are toxic and sociopathic and require our loving intervention. Let us intervene. Let us stand up in church gatherings, let us confront our friends. Let us use the tools of mass communication to awaken people to the lies that bind them.

And let us return to real politics in the neighborhoods--especially those neighborhoods where we are most needed. As it stands now, people who do not receive the support they need from an ever-receding community are turning to the very churches that have been politically killing those needed government services. This is a dangerous tailspin that we can only arrest with a political return to the neighborhoods. Let us demand of our party leaders that we move from electoral to social organizing, so that there is more rock and less hot air under our candidates as we move into the future."

As you can see, Granny D doesn't tiptoe around difficult subjects. I've heard her speak for years now and have never before seen her lay it out quite so bluntly. But maybe that's what is needed at this critical juncture in history. When dealing with the alcoholic crisis of a loved one, the family is instructed to cut through the polite silence that has allowed things get to this fix and institute a plan of active intervention. That's just what Granny D has done in this speech. She so loves our country that she is not willing to stand by and let it hit rock bottom without trying to wake it--and us--up.

This is a long speech but I encourage you to take the time to read it from start to finish. Whether you agree with her or not, Granny D deserves to be heard. Let me conclude with my favorite quote from the entire speech:

"Life is about living, and about helping other real people get through this world with a minimum of pain and a maximum of human dignity."

Monday, October 10, 2005

an inside kind of day 

Listening to the news these days is incredibly painful. The numbers of dead from the earthquake in Pakistan is unimaginable. How could anyone in today's world not be seeing the connection between these horrendous "natural" disasters and global warming? But when are we here in the U.S. ever going to do something about it?

Before I forget, let me show you the painting I made for Ed for our 39th anniversary on Saturday, October 8. I call it "The Colors & Shapes of Marriage." I've also put it up in my Gallery of Paintings. I was surprised to see that I hadn't painted since May 23. Guess my summer was pretty busy!

Actually it was a relief to awaken to a chilly grey day. It meant I could work at my computer without feeling I should be outside. We're getting to that time of year when you feel you can't waste one minute of beautiful weather. Soon enough we'll be spending LOTS of time inside.

And I have much to do at my computer these days. Jessi from our writers' group has volunteered to compile a hard-copy anthology of the writings we nineteen women brought forth during our four-day workshop with Anya Achtenberg and Demetria Martinez at Leaven Center in July. I'd not even transferred any of my writings from my loose-leaf notebook onto my computer, much less looked at them with an editor's eye, so I definitely had my work cut out for me. I started this project yesterday and it's coming along nicely. So far, I have two pieces that I'll probably submit. But I still have two days of writings to transcribe and revise. I'm enjoying the process.

I also spent a goodly amount of time exploring flight options for my early November trip to visit Rabih, Sulaima and the children in Beirut, Lebanon. This has been an ongoing project, and one that has already shown me that Beirut is not exactly on the fast track of travel destinations. After checking the web sites of 6 airlines and 3-4 phone calls to British Airways, it's looking like that's my best bet. The only challenge is a 24-hour layover at London's Heathrow Airport on my return flight home. Being a scooter-user makes such layovers a bit more complicated. But, according to the last person I talked to, there's a tube station directly under the terminal, so that should make it easier for me to get to a hotel in town. By the way, there's no hotel within scooting distance of the airport. I have a friend from WoMaMu music camp who lives in London, so I've emailed Marianne to see if we can meet up for dinner or something. I'm getting VERY excited about this adventure!

Tonight was a swimming night so I had a chance to get off my bum and away from the computer. How I love to swim laps! Not only is it good exercise, but it makes me feel like I'm flying. I use the 45-60 minutes in different ways, depending on what I need. Sometimes I need to work things out in my head--like where to carry my laptop so my hands are free when I travel (in my backpack)--or if I'm carrying a load of anger, I can get it out of my system by swimming more aggressively than normal (Tim gives me my own lane so how I swim makes no difference to anyone else), or I often just use the time to trance out. How fortunate I am to be able to swim like this twice a week, even in the winter.

Saturday, October 08, 2005


Oh my gawd. Pat Metheny on guitar. Christian McBride on bass. Antonio Sanchez on drums. David Sanchez on sax. In concert at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor.

As long as there's music like this in our world, we're going to be all right. So please support our musicians. Buy their CDs, don't copy them. Go to see them live whenever possible. Introduce your friends to the musicians you love. Encourage your radio stations to play their music.

Whatever we do, we can't let the music die. For it is music, live music, that feeds our souls, enlivens our bodies, and helps us dream. Keep music free of governmental/corporate/religious control. Protect the integrity of our musicians.

Friday, October 07, 2005

How to treat yourself right 

My body is so happy tonight. After a good hard workout at the gym with Matt this morning, I received a 45-minute massage with Jolynn. She has been a massage therapist since 1986 and it shows. I could tell she was finding and attending to the specific places in my body where I tend to carry muscle tension. And the best part is that all I had to do was scoot from the machines over to the massage table in the corner of the gym for her to work her magic. I've now made standing massage appointments to follow my usual Tuesday and Friday morning workouts. As I say, my body is very happy tonight!

And I'm happy too. Ed and I celebrated our anniversary--39 years tomorrow (October 8th)--by going to the 7 PM show at the Detroit Film Theatre in the Detroit Institute of Arts. We saw an excellent Italian film called "Caterina In the Big City." After the show we went to our favorite Lebanese restaurant for a late supper. A rare night out on the town for the Dorseys!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

beauty everywhere I look... 

Yesterday I alluded to the beautiful weather we've been having. Now it's time to show you what I meant. Time for some pictures...

A pink rose and one of the first colorful maples that I saw while scooting last week on the "singing street."

Our house in the late afternoon light.

My dear Eddie during a visit we had on his office patio.

And finally, the photos that I took yesterday during the restful hours I spent at Rheame Park in Windsor, Ontario:

The path (photos #1 & #2) that winds through the lush gardens (photos #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6 & #7) beside the river where my city of Detroit looks its very best. I also took photos of the "creatures" in the garden (photos #1, #2, #3 & #4), and close-ups of flowers (photos #1, #2 & #3). Let me end with the gull I saw napping contentedly on the grass.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

My Sept. 24/DC photo/journal is complete! 

We've been having a spate of glorious summer-like days so I've tried to be outside as much as possible. That's meant my nights have been filled with computer business, in particular, preparing and (FINALLY!) putting up the tons of photos I took at the "End the War On Iraq" mobilization in Washington, DC on September 24th. I'd been having nightime dreams about that amazing event and realized it was important that I do all I can to document what I saw and experienced. I don't want to forget what happened in our nations' capitol on the day the people reclaimed their power.

I invite you to visit my Sept. 24/DC photo/journal. May it give you a sense of being there...for you were. Everyone who wants this war to end NOW was with us.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Urban Legend #1 about Cindy Sheehan 

It's really just an hour and a half into Tuesday morning (1:30 AM) but I want to put up another entry without moving the focus of Monday's entry away from Harriet Miers. This entry deals with urban legends about Cindy Sheehan.

I'd heard that there was a smear campaign against Cindy Sheehan being waged by pro-war bloggers and right-wing radio talk hosts since she'd become national news, but I hadn't bothered to read or listen to any of it. That is, until now.

During Sunday's walk/scoot down what I call the "singing street," Ann B., a woman who used to be in a tennis group Ed and I were affiliated with back in the '70s and early '80s, stopped her SUV to talk with Eddie and me for a few minutes. After hearing her news about their move to a bigger house, and Ed's sharing about his semi-retired status, Ann asked me how I was doing.

As so often happens with people who knew me back when I was able-bodied, her tone of voice became tinged with pity. Of course, that always makes me want to bring out all the examples of how perfectly-fine-I-am-thank-you-very-much. On Sunday I brought out the facts that I was planning a trip to Lebanon in November and had been in DC for the big anti-war rally and march a week ago. Ann surprised me by saying, "I was there too!"

You have to understand that Ann is definitely not someone you would expect to see at a peace rally. And, after hearing her story about how she got there, I am impressed with her willingness to place herself among people she probably disagreed with on many, many issues.

In town for a 4 PM Saturday wedding, Ann decided not to join her friends at the museums, but to go off on her own to see the new World War II Memorial on the Mall. She didn't know about the September 24th anti-war mobilization until she saw the huge crowds and heard the rally speakers whose voices carried for blocks around.

Ann made her way over to the Ellipse and stayed for three hours listening to the speeches. She said that the rhetoric was such that everyone would agree with it. "The peace movement doesn't have a corner on hating war and wanting peace," she said to me. "No one wants war."

When I mentioned Cindy Sheehan's name, Ann narrowed her eyes and said, "Cindy Sheehan didn't even raise her own son. She divorced her husband when her son was little and her husband was the one who raised him." The implication was clear: If that woman didn't care enough about her son to raise him herself, how can she get away with using his death to justify questioning the President's war on Iraq.

All I could say was, "I didn't know that."

Not that it would make much difference to me anyway. I have a friend who divorced her husband, was not given custody of their children, moved away because her husband continued to harass her, and dearly loves her children and stays deeply involved in their lives. But I know that for someone like Ann, this would be unthinkable.

On Monday I got curious and googled "Cindy Sheehan, her life." I found a site that dispelled this particular urban legend. The truth is as follows:

Cindy Sheehan and her husband, Patrick, were high school sweethearts who wed while both were in their early 20's and who have been married to each other for over 28 years. (Neither has ever been married to anyone else.) The couple had four children together, of whom Casey was the oldest. Both parents raised Casey together, first in the southern California community of Norwalk and later in the northern California town of Vacaville, where the Sheehans moved when Casey was 14.

Ms. Sheehan has maintained that her recent political activities placed a strain on her marriage that caused her and her husband to separate, as she expressed in an August 2005 interview.

I wonder where Ann got her information. Maybe she listens to Rush Limbaugh, or maybe she heard it from friends who do. Who knows, maybe this is just another of Karl Rove's nasty smears. He certainly has a history of starting such rumors to try to discredit anyone he sees as a threat to his boss's war on Iraq.

Obviously, someone sees Cindy Sheehan as a significant threat to the continuation of this disastrous war, and that is very good news indeed.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Who is Harriet Miers? 

I've just learned that President Bush has nominated his White House Counsel, Harriet Miers, as Sandra Day O'Connor's replacement on the U.S. Supreme Court. Ms. Miers, a Texas attorney, has never been a judge and is described as a "longtime confidante" of the president. Since he took office as president in January 2001, she has also served Mr. Bush in the posts of assistant to the president, staff secretary and as deputy chief of staff. While he was the governor of Texas, Ms. Miers was Mr. Bush's personal lawyer.

In this morning's online article, "Longtime Confidante of Bush Has Never Been a Judge," the New York Times states that "Ms. Miers lacks a track record that would shed light on her views."

I disagree. Not only do we know that President Bush only surrounds himself with persons who share his views, but a simple Google search gives more information on Harriet Miers, her background and opinions, than you could ever read. The first search result led me to the following telling bit of information:

On October 29, 2004, Harriet Miers, then Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, was the featured speaker on "Ask the White House," an online interactive forum sponsored by The White House. In response to the question, "Are we better off now than we were four years ago?", Ms. Miers responded in part:

In response to the economic problems, the President acted immediately to implement tax relief to get the economy going again. He signed into law corporate governance reforms to address the wrongdoing that had been occurring, and those reforms were the most far-reaching since President Franklin Roosevelt's time. The President's optimism and faith in the American people and our economy helped inspire a remarkable recovery. Just today, we saw new statistics showing that our economy continues to grow solidly and compensation for our workers continues steady growth. Working families now keep more of their paychecks, and we are growing faster than any other among major industrialized nations.

The President responded swiftly to the attacks on September 11th. He has our country on the offensive against terrorism. American is waging a global war on terrorism with the help of many friends and allies from around the globe. The President believed it important to confront regimes that harbored or supported terrorists as well as the terrorists. And he is also confronting outlaw regimes that pursue weapons of mass destruction, and he is committed to ensuring that the terrorists do not obtain the world's most dangerous weapons. At the same time, the President led in the creation of the Homeland Security Department and strengthening our defenses here at home. Although I am sure the President would be the first to say more needs to be done, we are a safer Nation today than we were four years ago.

Additionally, with victories in Afghanistan and in the toppling of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and other efforts around the world, we are promoting freedom and democracy in the greater Middle East as well as elsewhere. Sowing the seeds of freedom around the world brings the goal of peace for all nations ever closer. All these efforts require great resolve and sacrifice, but we are making our Nation safer and we will leave a better world for our children and grandchildren. The last four years have been in many ways difficult years, but we have accomplished a lot and as the President has said: "because we have made the hard journey, we can see the valley below. Now, because we have faced challenges with resolve, we have historic goals within our reach, and greatness in our future. We will build a safer world and a more hopeful America -- and nothing will hold us back."

Does this sound like the "moderate" choice our Democratic Senators and Representatives were promised if they approved John Roberts as the Chief Justice? I think not. And that doesn't even touch on her obvious lack of qualifications and experience for the job.


By the way, the answer to the question, "Who is Harriet Miers?" is simple: Crony/ultra-loyalist of George W. Bush. But it sounds like the right-wing is as disgusted with this choice as the rest of us. I say it could be worse, ie., Alberto "Torture-Is-OK-if-it's-us-doing-it" Gonzales.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

unexpected joys 

Just when I was feeling so blue about the condition of our country, the Universe or whatever you call that generous spirit that provides us with all we need, opened a window of opportunity and I went flying through!

After Friday's WEMU-FM radio interview about the peace movement on the Lynn Rivers Show (Which went well--thank you for sending good energy my way) I drove to nearby Ann Arbor for lunch. It was one of those crystal clear autumn days that you dream about in the middle of winter, and all I wanted to do was be outside.

Guchi, a wise and loving woman whom I've known for years, brought me a plate full of delicious vegetarian food from her Indian restaurant, set up a stool on the sidewalk to serve as my table--her restaurant is in an old building that is not scooter-accessible--and sat on the steps and visited with me while I ate. This was a rare treat, and one that, for me, was as spiritually nourishing as going to the Source.

After lunch I scooted down to the Firefly Club to see what was going on in the Ann Arbor jazz scene. Come to find out, Friday--the very day I was there--was the start of the annual Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival. Not only were there jazz concerts that night, one at the Firefly with a group I'd not heard of called the Moutin Reunion Quartet, but Saturday (today) there was a free jazz and blues festival-in-the-streets from 11 AM to 8:30 PM. Talk about timing!

I checked at the Michigan League to see if they had a room available, and they did! My next stop was Orchid Lane, my favorite Ann Arbor clothing store, where I bought a nightgown and a handknit rainbow-colored wool poncho (made by a woman in an Equadoran women's cooperative who received a fair price for her work). It's been quite chilly at night of late. The Michigan League gift shop had a toothbrush and toothpaste, so there I was...ready for an unplanned overnight stay in AA.

My evening started at the Michigan Theatre where I saw the 7 PM premiere showing of "Dreammaker," a film by a first-time director from Ann Arbor. She introduced the film in person which was very cool. I think she did a good job with it.

When the film ended, I scooted down to the Firefly and was one of the first arrivals for the 9 PM show. I told Susan, the owner, that I wanted to be seated at a table in the back so I could stand up and dance. I had a perfect view and loved getting off my bum and onto my feet.

The Moutin Reunion Quartet put on a show that immediately shot to the top of my all-time great jazz performances!

This group was started by a pair of twins from Paris--Francois and Louis Moutin--and includes another Parisian, Pierre de Bethmann, on piano, and American-born Paris resident, Rick Margitza, on sax. Their repertoire is predominantly made up of original compositions. It moves seamlessly from intricate high energy pieces to exquisitely tender-but-not-sentimental ballads. And something very special happens when the twins, Francois on upright bass and Louis on drums, improv together. It's as if they read one another's minds.

Each of these four men is an exceptional musician, but what happens when they play together puts them in a class unto themselves. If you ever get a chance to see the Moutin Reunion Quartet live, DO IT!!! I know they're playing at the Bohemian Cavern tomorrow (Sunday) night in Washington, DC, then will be in Philadelphia, and finally in New York City, where Francois has lived for nine years. Then it's back to France for the start of a European tour. In the winter they're scheduled for a West Coast tour which will start at Dizzy's in San Diego, CA on January 4th. We here in Detroit will see them at the 2006 International Jazz Festival on Labor Day, if not before. Check the Moutin Reunion Quartet website at to see if they'll be playing anywhere near you.

After a not-long-enough sleep at the Michigan League, I was down at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival outdoor stage on Washington Street between Main and Ashley by 11:30 AM. And there I stayed, often on my feet dancing, until 8:30 PM tonight.

During the day, I visited with my jazz buddies Akira and Charles, Lynn Rivers and Phillis Engelbert with whom I'd been on yesterday's WEMU-FM radio show, and some musician friends who performed with the Detroit Jazz Orchestra (photos #1, #2 & #3) at 7 PM, in particular, Donald Walden (sax), Marion Hayden (bass) and Vincent Chandler (trombone).

Around 2 PM Pat Kolon drove in from Detroit to join me. Pat's daughter (my goddess daughter) Emily, a student at the University of Michigan, met us for the final act of the outdoor segment of the festival, the Duke Robillard Blues Band--that had LOTS of folks on their feet dancing--and we three ended the evening by having dinner together at a sidewalk cafe on Main Street.

Scooting back to my car, I met up with two women I know from the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, and another jazz friend, Charles from Lansing, the jazz bassist Rodney Whittaker's best buddy. He and his friend Mary were among the hundreds of folks streaming out of Hill Auditorium after having seen the jazz great, Sonny Rollins.

I was home with my dear stay-at-home sweetie by 11:45 PM.

Thanks to these past two days, I am no longer feeling disheartened or discouraged. That's what live music (photos #1, #2, #3, #4 & #5), dancing (photos #1, #2 & #3), friends, children (photos #1, #2 & #3), spending time outside, experiencing the goodness of strangers, and doing what I can to promote peace, does for me.

Yes, decisions by our president, George W. Bush, his appointees and advisors, our senators and representatives on Capitol Hill, and members of the U.S. Supreme Court, impact my life and the lives of my sisters and brothers across our nation and around the world, but in the long run, each of us is solely responsible for our own actions and attitudes. Nothing anyone else does can damage me in my core, unless I let it. My friends Rabih Haddad and Guchi have taught me that. May I never again forget it.

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