Windchime Walker

Windchime Walker <$BlogRSDUrl$>

Saturday, December 31, 2005

2005 revisited; 2006 on the horizon 

When I think of 2005, the word "truth" comes to mind. It was a year when illusion after illusion was ripped from our nation's eyes. Even those of us who pride ourselves on being critical thinkers were shaken to our core by some of what was revealed. After the horrors of Abu Ghraib in 2004, we were innundated with ever more examples of how far our country has strayed from its roots. Justice and democracy became cruel parodies instead of guiding principles. Checks and balances applied more to our financial affairs than to our government. The Constitution and Bill of Rights came under as much bombardment as Baghdad.

2005 brought us...

George W. Bush's inauguration as president for four more years. The escalating nightmare in Iraq. Hurricane Katrina, people on roofs, in the Superdome and still homeless five months later. FEMA and "Brownie, you've done a heck of a job!" CIA renditioning, black sites and waterboarding. NSA's domestic surveillance and FISA ignored. Tax cuts for the wealthy and budget cuts penalizing the poor. John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales cutting the Constitution down to size for an imperial president. Revelations of Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham's long history of nepharious schemes and big-bucks' shenanigans. John Bolton, arrogant newly-appointed US representative to the UN whose intent is to destroy (he calls it "reform") that august body's power and influence. Supreme Court nominees John Roberts (now Chief Justice Roberts), Harriet Miers (now simply George W's #1 cheerleader/crony), and Samuel Alito (the most dangerous one of all). The New York Times ("All the news that's fit to print"...or withhold?) finally admitting: 1) with an apology, that it had let Judith Miller use their front pages to trump up a war based on lies in 2003; and 2) with no apology, that it had sat on the NSA domestic surveillance story for a year (October 2004-December 2005) because the White House asked them to. The list could go on and on but you get the picture.

At the same time we had...

Cindy Sheehan, Camp Casey and a reinvigorated peace movement. 500,000 people protesting the war in Washington, DC on October 24th. Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald indicting Scooter Libby and continuing to investigate Karl Rove and Dick Cheney for their cover-up of the outing of CIA undercover agent, Valerie Plame. Senators Russell Feingold (D), John McCain (R) and Robert Byrd (D) fighting for our civil liberties, against torture and for the Constitution in the Senate. Representatives Jack Murtha (R) calling for withdrawal of our troops in Iraq and John Conyers (D) introducing resolutions of censure and possible impeachment of our president and vice-president in the House. Mainstream and independent media and bloggers who tell it like it is: Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, The Nation,,,,, Juan Cole, Riverbend, Seymour Hersch, Helen Thomas, Maureen Dowd and Molly Ivins. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson for blowing the whistle on the inner workings of the Bush White House cabal. Medea Benjamin and the Code Pink women who show up in the most unlikely (and perfect!) places. And this list could go on as well.

So I see 2005 as the year when truth took its turn to shine a bright light on hidden realities. But now we come to 2006. This is the year when we must take these realities and do something about them. We must move beyond revelation into restoration. Truth is worthless if it doesn't promote change. And change is what we need.

On a more personal note, 2005 was beyond my wildest dreams. I recall saying to myself as 2004 turned towards 2005 that this would be the year I started traveling again. Believe it or not, I hadn't been on a plane since May 2001. Well, if you're a regular reader, you know that that resolution was kept and then some! San Francisco in March, Saskatchewan in June, and Beirut, Lebanon in November. Oh, yes, I definitely started traveling again. Two other significant events come to mind when I think of 2005: 1) being part of Camp Casey Detroit for 19 of its 21 days in August and September; and 2) attending a four-day writers' workshop at Leaven Center in July. I won't even begin to list the national and local anti-war protests, music festivals, women's gatherings, and live jazz that nourished and strengthened me this year.

So what do I see as my personal path in 2006? I don't know and that's the adventure of it all. But if I were to give image to my dream for 2006 it would be in the shape of a spiral dropping deeper as it expands its reach across the globe. Tune in next year at this time to see what that means.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

privilege & paintings 

I realized after I wrote Monday's entry that I am one of a small number of individuals who has the time and energy available to devote to the work of "transitioning" (not a proper verb but you know what I mean). Maybe that's why many persons who experience signs like the ones I listed would be more inclined to take meds to get back on track than to "sit with it" as I intend to do. If you have a full time job (or jobs), a family to feed, clothe, educate and house, plus your own needs, where would you find the time to "respect the process"? I can't imagine.

So let me say that I recognize my unique privilege and will do my best to use my time and attention in ways that will benefit others. It would make no sense at all to grow as an individual if that growth did not benefit the whole.

As I said on Monday, this time of quiet and reflection has led me to pick up my paint brushes again. I'm continuing a theme that Susan, the art teacher with whom I work at a Dearborn K-5 school, introduced me and the students to in October. It is the "hamsa" hand with an eye in the palm that symbolizes protection from the "evil eye." This ancient symbol is commonly seen in the Middle East. In fact, I brought back a number of hamsa-decorated souvenirs for my friends and family.

Before I traveled to Lebanon I painted this hamsa hand as a gift for Sulaima. I think she liked it. And yesterday I painted what I call "Hamsa 2." I've added both paintings to my online gallery of paintings. If you find this interesting, you might want to do a google image search of "hamsa." You'll find an amazing variety of images there.

No more comments 

Friends, today I have disabled the "comments" capacity on my blog. HaloSpan, the free software that Blogspot uses for comments, has taken to adding advertising links to every comment posted. Since I am not interested in being a billboard for advertisers, I choose not to add to their "sphere of influence."

I thank all of you who have taken the time to post comments on my blog in the past, and invite you to email me with any comments from today forward. Let's keep the lines of communication open.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

a new chapter 

All the signs are there--going to bed late and then lying awake for hours, a diminished appetite, avoiding people, and when I'm with them saying and doing things that cause me discomfort afterwards. To put it simply, I feel "betwixt and between."

But I've been here before--a number of times, actually--so I'm not concerned. I recognize the signs. They say I am at the end of one chapter of life and on the brink of another. There's no rushing the process, though; things unfold in their own sweet time. What I must do now is listen to my inner voice, follow her lead, and watch for the open door that's bound to appear. I must not force myself to fit into outgrown garments (familiar activities, ways of thinking and relating), but stay as free as possible.

While the outcome is never predictable, the process is. Before the "new" will appear, I must give up the old. In the early days this used to scare me. It's hard to sit in a void, especially if you're used to being busy about relevant things. And your colleagues aren't always delighted to see you disappear into the mist of inactivity. But that's what it takes. For me anyway.

I'm always given hints and inklings of what's next, but I don't usually recognize them at the time. Often months will pass before I look back and say, "So THAT'S where it all started." But this time I feel more in touch with where I believe I'm being led. Even at the time, I recognized certain events as likely harbingers of what was to come.

Like the unasked-for opportunities to read poems and other writings aloud to our Continent In Song community last June in Saskatchewan...and the positive responses I received. Like the four-day writers workshop at Leaven Center in July and Anya's questions that unlocked rivers of words about my past and present experiences with refugees and immigrants. Like being part of the Camp Casey Detroit peace encampment in August and September where an extraordinarily diverse, committed and loving community was formed. Like being interviewed along with Phillis Engelbert of Michigan Peaceworks about the peace movement by Lynn Rivers on her hour-long WEMU-FM radio show in September. Like giving a speech on the U.S. peace movement to 60-70 men and women at Al Muntada, a center for dialogue between Muslims and Christians in Beirut, Lebanon.

A phrase Jona Olsson used at the Racial Justice workshop I attended a few weeks ago is with me waking and sleeping. It is "sphere of influence." Jona encouraged us to know our sphere of influence so we could determine where our work for racial justice would be most effective. When I consider this phrase now, the WORLD comes to mind. All the harbingers seem to point in that direction. Another sign is my insatiable appetite for international news.

After years of not reading newspapers, I spend hours every day reading just about every article, editorial, letter and op-ed piece in the front section of the New York Times. Several times a day I check out the English language Aljazeera web site for news of the Middle East and the world. And these are in addition to my usual visits to and I'm absolutely devouring the book, "Exception to the Rulers," by Amy Goodman of "Democracy Now!" and her brother, investigative reporter David Goodman. Oh yes, I also check the Democracy Now! web site to see their news briefs and to read rush transcripts of their daily interviews when available.

It's a good thing I have an exercise regime to keep me grounded. I've also taken to dancing to a CD by Linda Tillery and the Heritage Choir for at least 20 minutes every day. Got to get on my feet and shake my bootie, as they say. I've started painting again too. And, of course, when the holiday break is over, I'll be back at school on Thursdays. If my kids there aren't part of the world, I don't know who is.

So if I don't post daily entries, don't be surprised. What's going on with me now is more internal than external, and that isn't always easy to translate into words.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Margaretha's Lucka Peace Calendar 2005 

I have just finished creating a PowerPoint slide show of my friend Margaretha Essen-Hedin's Lucka (Advent) Peace Calendar for 2005. I put this together for two reasons: 1) I wanted to share it with a larger audience than her group email list of 60; and 2) I wanted to put it in a form that I could use for my own meditation and reflection. So much of what she quotes, I need to hear and learn.

To view these PowerPoint slide shows you can download the following software for free. For PC users, click HERE to do so; for Mac users, click HERE.

By the way, Margaretha has given me permission to bring her creation to life in this way. She asks if anyone wants to duplicate material from her Lucka Peace Calendar 2005, that they please do not separate the quotations from her photographs; they are intended to be viewed together. And, of course, be sure to give Margaretha proper attribution. She compiled all the quotations and took all the photos.

For as long as I've known her, Margaretha has been sending out an email Advent calendar with compilations of quotations she finds in her reading coupled with photographs she takes in her garden in rural Sweden. The past two years, for obvious reasons, her theme has been peace.

This year she sent one final email giving some information on the individuals she has quoted. You can find this information at the end of today's entry.

May Margaretha's gift feed your soul and mind as it does mine. And may it help bring about the peace we all long to see.


Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk born in 1926. He lives in exile in France where he founded a retreat center in the sixties. He has written many books. Read more about him at

Kathe Kollwitz (1867 - 1945), was a German artist who lost a son in the First World War and a grandson in the second. She was a committed socialist and pacifist who always took sides for the poor. The Nazis silenced Kathe Kollwitz when they came to power. is one of many sites where you can learn more about her. Two interesting books are: "The Diary and Letters of Kaethe Kollwitz", Edited by Hans Kollwitz, and "Kathe Kollwitz - Life in Art" by Mina C. Klein & H. Arthur Klein.

Vera Brittain (1893 - 1970), English pacifist, feminist and author. Read more about her at

Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948) is probably the most well known of these five peace activists. is one of many sites about him.
I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.
Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.
Mahatma Gandhi

Peace Pilgrim (1908 - 1981) was born as Mildred Norman Ryder. From Janurary 1953 until her death in July 1981 she walked as a pilgrim for peace all over the States. She walked until given shelter and fasted until given nourishment. Her message was a simple one: overcome evil with good, hatred with love and falsehood with truth. In 1982, the year after her death, five of Peace Pilgrim's friends gathered in Santa Fe, New Mexico to work on a book project that became "Peace Pilgrim, Her Life and Work in her Own Words."

Saturday, December 24, 2005

my Winter Solstice gift to you 

The following poem came into my life as a Winter Solstice gift from Elaine Morse via Pat Schwing...I send it on to you, my unseen yet always valued, friends. I apologize to the poet, Joy Harjo, that her original line breaks will not appear as she intended due to the space limitations of the blog template I use.

In Praise of Earth
by Joy Harjo

We kept on dancing last summer though the dancing had been called
We weren't alone at the end of this particular world and knew
it wouldn't be the last world, though wars
had broken out on all sides.

We kept on dancing and with us were the insects who had gathered at
the grounds
in the grasses and the trees. And with us were the stars and
a few lone planets who had been friends
with the earth for generations.

With us were the spirits who wished to honor this beloved earth in any
manner. And with us at dawn was the Sun who took the lead
and then we broke for camp, for stickball
and breakfast.

We all needed praise made of the heart's tattoo as it inspired our
feet or wings,
someone to admire us despite our tendency to war, to terrible
stumbles. So does the red cliff who is the heart
broken to the sky.

So do the stones who were the first to speak when we arrived. So does
the flaming
mountain who harbors the guardian spirits who refuse to abandon
us. And this Earth keeps faithfully to her journey, carrying us
around the Sun,

All of us in our rags and riches, our rages and promises, small talk
and suffering.
As we go to the store to buy our food and forget to plant, sing so
that we will be nourished in turn. As we walk out
into the dawn,

With our lists of desires that her gifts will fulfill, as she turns
our tears
into rivers of sweet water, we spiral between dusking and
dawn, wake up and sleep in this lush palace of creation,
rooted by blood, dreams, and history.

We are linked by leaf, fin, and root. When we climb through the sky to
new day our thoughts are clouds shifting weather within us.
When we step out of our minds into ceremonial
language we are humbled and amazed,

at the sacrifice. Those who forget become the people of stone who guard
the entrance to remembering. And the Earth keeps up her
dancing and she is neither perfect nor exactly in time.
She is one of us.

And she loves the dance for what it is. So does the Sun who calls the
beloved. And praises her with light.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Who is John Yoo? 

I realize my readers are probably getting sick to death of my endless belaboring this domestic surveillance issue, but I can't stress how important I think it is, not just to Americans but to the world.

If we let Messrs. Bush and Cheney get away with turning the executive branch into what The New York Times referred to in today's editorial as an "Imperial Presidency," we are in deep manure. The position of President of the United States is already at the pinnacle of power worldwide. Can you imagine what would happen if we let Mr. Cheney and his neo-con friends have their way? That position would soon be a dictatorship in everything but name--a dictatorship that sees the world as its realm. Think of the Holy Roman Empire...with nuclear weapons instead of swords.

One of the important players on the team that espouses the expansion of presidential powers is a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Yes, Berkeley! How's that for an anachronism? Mr. John Yoo has been quoted in the Bush adminstration's justification of torture, their insistence that if they call prisoners at Guantanamo Bay "foreign combatants" instead of prisoners-of-war then they don't have to abide by international conventions in their treatment, and now their defense that when Congress passed the bill soon after 9/11 giving the president permission to use "all necessary and appropriate force" to fight terrorism that gave him the right to authorize NSA to spy on Americans at home. Besides, Mr. Yoo maintains, if the President is the commander-in-chief during a time of war, that includes "signal communications."

Just who is this John Yoo?

Thanks to a front page article in today's New York Times, we finally have some idea. OK, my ageism is going to show here, but this man who has been so important as a legal advisor to Mr. Bush, was born in 1967. That's right. The man who maintained the Geneva Convention was outmoded in the war on terror, that "United States law prohibited only methods that would cause 'lasting psychological harm' or pain 'akin to that which accompanies serious physical injury such as death or organ failure" is now 38 years old! When he wrote that memo on torture, he was 35!

I'm sorry but this appalls me. If he were some aide working behind the scenes it would be one thing, but John Yoo has been quoted by the president, by the vice-president, by the Secretaries of State and Defense, the U.S. Attorney General, and by media all over the world, as if he were a proven expert in Constitutional law. He isn't. He has never even practiced law. He's been a deputy to important men for sure, has managed to be in the right place at the right time more than once, and has taught at a respected law school, but that's it.

What does this say about our government, our media and our people? Why hasn't anyone asked " Who is John Yoo?" before now? Why didn't I ask? Assumptions are SO dangerous.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

seeing it for what it is 

There couldn't be a worse time for a Constitutional crisis. Americans are busy. They're shopping, wrapping, decorating, writing cards, cooking, cleaning, entertaining, traveling and/or dealing with children who are underfoot for the next week and a half. How could they be expected to care about the Constitution; they barely have time to catch the nightly news. Domestic surveillance without a warrant? So what. Emily's been begging for the Magic of Pegasus Princess Barbie doll and it's not to be had anyplace. Now THERE'S a crisis!

But here we are, ready or not, right in the middle of a full-fledged attack on our Constitution, the Fourth Amendment, our system of federal checks and balances, our society based on law. Maybe it doesn't look like that on the face of it. So the president authorized our super-spy National Security Agency to wiretap hundreds, maybe a thousand, international phone calls and emails made by individuals within the United States to persons in other countries who have "suspected ties to terrorists." So he didn't bother to get the court-approved warrants required by the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act.

What's the big deal?

The big deal is that we have a man holding the most powerful office, not only in our country but in the world, who says openly that he is above the law, that any law that does not serve his purposes can be ignored. And he has "legal experts" like Prof. John Yoo and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who back him up with opinions based on their interpretation of the Constitution, of acts passed by Congress, and of decisions handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court. This president justifies his actions by saying the law "tied his hands" and was not "agile" enough to deal with HIS war, which is unlike any other war in the history of our country.

What he fails to mention is that the warrant needed to conduct such surveillance can be obtained AFTER THE FACT. If the government feels the need to spy on someone, they can just go ahead. All they have to do is apply for the warrant from the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act court within 72 hours. And getting that approval is almost a sure thing. Since 1979, the FISA court has declined to issue warrants only four times out of the 18,747 times the government has sought one.

So why is President Bush (with the vocal support of the most powerful vice-president in America's history) openly thumbing his nose at the law? What's he up to? These fellows (Mr. Bush's advisors) aren't dumb. Everything they do is carefully planned...except for the occasional unscripted statements out of their advisee's mouth. So why are they supporting the president's admitting to an impeachable offense?

I have a theory. Don't I always?

My theory rests in large part on what Vice-President Cheney said in his interview with the press on Air Force Two as he rushed back to Washington, DC to cast the deciding vote in favor of the draconian budget-cutting bill. Tim Harper of the Toronto Star reports Cheney's remarks as follows:

"Watergate and a lot of things around Watergate and Vietnam, both during the '70s served, I think, to erode the authority ... the president needs to be effective, especially in the national security area," Cheney told reporters aboard the Air Force Two aircraft after a visit to Pakistan.

But the vice-president said he thought the Bush administration has been able to restore some of "the legitimate authority of the presidency."

He also said he believes that the U.S. War Powers Act, which gives the U.S. Congress the power to be fully engaged in a president's decision to go to war is unconstitutional.

"I am one of those who believe that was an infringement on the authority of the president," he said.

"I believe that the president is entitled and needs to have unfiltered advice in formulating policy. He ought to be able to seek the opinion of anybody he wants to and that he should not have to reveal, for example, who he talked to that morning.

"That issue was litigated all the way up to the Supreme Court and we won."

The Supreme Court decision to which Cheny refers was his own successful court case regarding his refusal to name the participants in the task force he appointed to form U.S. energy policy.

I don't think it's a stretch to read between the lines and figure that Messrs. Cheney, Bush, Gonzalez and Yoo want to take this issue about FISA court-mandated domestic surveillance to the Supreme Court, a court soon to be dominated by Bush I & II appointees who give every indication of deciding in favor of expanded powers for the executive branch. Iraq hasn't gone so well, so let's up the ante. Let's give this president--and all the Republican presidents who are sure to follow--unlimited power. Forget checks and balances. Forget the messy Congress. Let's go for the prize: a dictatorship masquerading as a democracy.

But is anyone watching? Does anyone except constitutional experts, members of the independent media, and radical peace activists like me even care? After all, it's just three days till Christmas.

Now where did I put that wrapping paper?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

NYC Transit Strike 1980 

It was April 1980. My friend Mary Aljian and I were part of a group of current and former students of Detroit's Center for Creative Studies who had come to New York City to attend the opening reception of our painting professor Aris Koutroulis' show of paintings at the OK Harris gallery on West Broadway. He'd arranged for us to stay at the famed Chelsea Hotel where Welsh poet Dylan Thomas had met his end (after 18 whiskies in a row) and such diverse luminaries as Mark Twain, Janis Joplin, Arthur Miller, Leonard Cohen, Jimi Hendrix and Thomas Wolfe had stayed and/or lived for varying amounts of time.

What we saw when we entered this cultural icon on W. 23rd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues was a dark, dirty lobby smelling of marijuana, with paintings hung floor-to-ceiling, a dark-haired rather intimidating fellow behind the desk and unsavory-looking folks wandering around like lost souls.

From there, things went from bad to worse. Instead of Mary and me sharing a double room as promised, we were put with four other women in a second floor room stuffed with cots, french doors (with no locks) leading directly onto 23rd Street via an easy-to-climb fire escape, a bathroom so grimy there was a dirty dried-up washcloth stuck to the bathtub drain. Oh yes, I almost forgot. On the stairs going up to our room we'd been met by a dead rat. Not a mouse; a rat. The desk clerk laughed it off as just part of the hotel's beatnik ambience. Right.

My friend Mary, a can-do sort of person as well as a bit of a neatnik, went right to the phone to call her husband Andy in Michigan to see what he could do about getting us a room at any other hotel in town. After all, we'd be staying in NYC for five nights and this place was unacceptable for five minutes.

But guess what? The Transit Strike was due to start at 12:01 AM that night and there was not one room available in all of Manhattan.

So Mary found a nearby store where she bought cleaning supplies including LOTS of disinfectant, and took to scrubbing our shared bathroom. To "protect" us from whomever or whatever might decide to climb up the fire escape and sneak through our unlocked french doors, we placed an open umbrella on the floor in front of the doors. We figured at least one of us would hear anyone who bumped into it, and that person would set up a scream. I don't know how West 23rd Street looked when Mark Twain had stayed there, but by 1980 it had the air of an anything-might-happen kind of place.

By the way, Mary and I at 38 were 15-20 years older than anyone else on the trip. The resident "elders" so to speak. So our younger roommates looked to us for advice and counsel. But, as I remember it, we weren't feeling particularly wise at the moment. Spooked would be more like it.

The longer we stayed at the historic Chelsea Hotel the more we saw. For instance, many of those "lost souls" in the lobby were dealing drugs and who knows what else. And the hotel policy that you had to ask the desk clerk for your room key didn't make us feel any more secure.

It would go like this: We'd walk--I was able bodied at the time--up as close to the desk as possible and say, "Room 215" in a soft voice. The clerk would yell "Whatdya say? Room 215?" All eyes would turn in the direction of these obviously innocent out-of-towners, and we'd scurry as fast as we could up the stairs past the rat to our room.

My most vivid memory is of the night Mary and I had returned late after going to a dance performance uptown. We hadn't had time to eat beforehand and were starved. So we decided to walk to the all-night diner at the corner and get some scrambled eggs. By then it was about 1 AM.

We got there with no problem, sat down at the counter and picked up the greasy menu. There were perhaps five other people sitting around the U-shaped counter with one bored-looking frizzy-haired woman serving them. Think of that famous painting by Edward Hopper and you'll know what I mean. Before we'd had a chance to order, a man came in off the street, stomped over to the counter near the cash register, picked up a catsup bottle, slammed it down, breaking it against the countertop, and started yelling and cursing as he waved the broken bottle threateningly overhead.

Luckily Mary and I were closer to the door than he, so we slipped out as quickly and quietly as possible, and practically ran back to the hotel. But when we looked behind us, we saw we were being followed by another man. He didn't have a broken bottle in his hand, but he still made us nervous. Breathess, we rushed into the lobby, up to the desk and asked sotto voice for our key. By then the fellow who'd been following us had come in the front door and was standing there looking at us. Of course, the desk clerk said in his loudest voice, "Whatdya say? Room 215?" We nodded our heads, grabbed the key and ran up the stairs. Once there, we put an extra umbrella in front of the french doors. I don't remember sleeping very soundly that night.

So, for us, the 1980 NYC Transit Strike was less of a bother in terms of getting around the city--we walked every place and even managed to snare the occasional taxi--and more of a test of our ability to survive.

New York is not for the faint of heart.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Truth will prevail 

As I read President Bush's and Attorney General Juan Gonzales' rationale for authorizing the NSA to spy on Americans without getting the FISA warrants required by law, I recall my concern when Congress passed S.J. Resolution 23 on September 14, 2001 authorizing the president "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."

At the time I feared Mr. Bush and his gang would see it as a blank check to spend any way they pleased. And so they have.

It obviously didn't matter to them that they were breaking the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act enacted in 1978 to curb just such an abuse of power as Mr. Bush has been indulging in since 2002. Nor did it bother them that the warrants they now say would have taken too long to get can actually be obtained in five minutes, or even within 72 hours after the fact. So this song and dance about the War on Terror needing more "agile" (their word) means to intercept phone calls and emails between suspected al-Quaeda terrorists (like Rabih and me?) has as many holes as a slice of swiss cheese (to thoroughly mix my metaphors).

The best part about the revelations this week of 1) the Department of Defense database being full of such "threatening" groups as the Quakers and the Raging Grannies; 2) George W. Bush's unlawful secret surveillance by the National Security Agency of persons within the US; and 3) the FBI's monitoring Catholic Workers, Greenpeace and animal advocacy groups is that we can see it for what it is.

I'm sure there are more "secrets" to come, but you know, I'm beginning to believe the old adage that the truth always prevails. And that is comfortng.

Thank you, Senator Byrd! 

No President Is Above the Law
by US Senator Robert C. Byrd
Floor Speech
December 19, 2005

Americans have been stunned at the recent news of the abuses of power by an overzealous President. It has become apparent that this Administration has engaged in a consistent and unrelenting pattern of abuse against our Country's law-abiding citizens, and against our Constitution.

We have been stunned to hear reports about the Pentagon gathering information and creating databases to spy on ordinary Americans whose only sin is choose to exercise their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble. Those Americans who choose to question the Administration's flawed policy in Iraq are labeled by this Administration as "domestic terrorists."

We now know that the F.B.I.'s use of National Security Letters on American citizens has increased one hundred fold, requiring tens of thousands of individuals to turn over personal information and records. These letters are issued without prior judicial review, and provide no real means for an individual to challenge a permanent gag order.

Through news reports, we have been shocked to learn of the CIA's practice of rendition, and the so-called "black sites," secret locations in foreign countries, where abuse and interrogation have been exported, to escape the reach of U.S. laws protecting against human rights abuses.

We know that Vice President Dick Cheney has asked for exemptions for the CIA from the language contained in the McCain torture amendment banning cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment. Thank God his pleas have been rejected by this Congress.

Now comes the stomach-churning revelation through an executive order, that President Bush has circumvented both the Congress and the courts. He has usurped the Third Branch of government - the branch charged with protecting the civil liberties of our people - by directing the National Security Agency to intercept and eavesdrop on the phone conversations and e-mails of American citizens without a warrant, which is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. He has stiff-armed the People's Branch of government. He has rationalized the use of domestic, civilian surveillance with a flimsy claim that he has such authority because we are at war. The executive order, which has been acknowledged by the President, is an end-run around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which makes it unlawful for any official to monitor the communications of an individual on American soil without the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

What is the President thinking? Congress has provided for the very situations which the President is blatantly exploiting. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, housed in the Department of Justice, reviews requests for warrants for domestic surveillance. The Court can review these requests expeditiously and in times of great emergency. In extreme cases, where time is of the essence and national security is at stake, surveillance can be conducted before the warrant is even applied for.

This secret court was established so that sensitive surveillance could be conducted, and information could be gathered without compromising the security of the investigation. The purpose of the FISA Court is to balance the government's role in fighting the war on terror with the Fourth Amendment rights afforded to each and every American.

The American public is given vague and empty assurances by the President that amount to little more than "trust me." But, we are a nation of laws and not of men. Where is the source of that authority he claims? I defy the Administration to show me where in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or the U.S. Constitution, they are allowed to steal into the lives of innocent America citizens and spy.

When asked yesterday what the source of this authority was, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had no answer. Secretary Rice seemed to insinuate that eavesdropping on Americans was acceptable because FISA was an outdated law, and could not address the needs of the government in combating the new war on terror. This is a patent falsehood. The USA Patriot Act expanded FISA significantly, equipping the government with the tools it needed to fight terrorism. Further amendments to FISA were granted under the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2002 and the Homeland Security Act of 2002. In fact, in its final report, the 9/11 Commission noted that the removal of the pre-9/11 "wall" between intelligence officials and law enforcement was significant in that it "opened up new opportunities for cooperative action."

The President claims that these powers are within his role as Commander in Chief. Make no mistake, the powers granted to the Commander in Chief are specifically those as head of the Armed Forces. These warrantless searches are conducted not against a foreign power, but against unsuspecting and unknowing American citizens. They are conducted against individuals living on American soil, not in Iraq or Afghanistan. There is nothing within the powers granted in the Commander in Chief clause that grants the President the ability to conduct clandestine surveillance of American civilians. We must not allow such groundless, foolish claims to stand.

The President claims a boundless authority through the resolution that authorized the war on those who perpetrated the September 11th attacks. But that resolution does not give the President unchecked power to spy on our own people. That resolution does not give the Administration the power to create covert prisons for secret prisoners. That resolution does not authorize the torture of prisoners to extract information from them. That resolution does not authorize running black-hole secret prisons in foreign countries to get around U.S. law. That resolution does not give the President the powers reserved only for kings and potentates.

I continue to be shocked and astounded by the breadth with which the Administration undermines the constitutional protections afforded to the people, and the arrogance with which it rebukes the powers held by the Legislative and Judicial Branches. The President has cast off federal law, enacted by Congress, often bearing his own signature, as mere formality. He has rebuffed the rule of law, and he has trivialized and trampled upon the prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizures guaranteed to Americans by the United States Constitution.

We are supposed to accept these dirty little secrets. We are told that it is irresponsible to draw attention to President Bush's gross abuse of power and Constitutional violations. But what is truly irresponsible is to neglect to uphold the rule of law. We listened to the President speak last night on the potential for democracy in Iraq. He claims to want to instill in the Iraqi people a tangible freedom and a working democracy, at the same time he violates our own U.S. laws and checks and balances? President Bush called the recent Iraqi election "a landmark day in the history of liberty." I dare say in this country we may have reached our own sort of landmark. Never have the promises and protections of Liberty seemed so illusory. Never have the freedoms we cherish seemed so imperiled.

These renegade assaults on the Constitution and our system of laws strike at the very core of our values, and foster a sense of mistrust and apprehension about the reach of government.

I am reminded of Thomas Payne's famous words, "These are the times that try men's souls."

These astounding revelations about the bending and contorting of the Constitution to justify a grasping, irresponsible Administration under the banner of "national security" are an outrage. Congress can no longer sit on the sidelines. It is time to ask hard questions of the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the Director of the CIA. The White House should not be allowed to exempt itself from answering the same questions simply because it might assert some kind of "executive privilege" in order to avoid further embarrassment.

Monday, December 19, 2005

blowing off steam 

I know I'm becoming a pest, but I can't help it. Every time I read the New York Times--which is every day since I returned home from Lebanon--I get more and more disturbed. So what do I do? I fire off a letter to the editor. Two in the past two days! Here they are:

December 18, 2005

Dear editors:

As an individual who may well be one of the thousands being spied upon by the NSA--I communicate regularly by phone and email with a Muslim cleric who was detained for 19 months in U.S. jails on the suspicion of having "terrorist ties" until he was secretly deported (with no charges ever having been made against him) to Lebanon in August 2003--I support everything you say in your editorial "This Call May Be Monitored..."

Yes, we obviously have a president who seems to feel he is above the law and can do as he pleases in his "War on Terror." And yes, the Congress must find a way to check Mr. Bush's misuse of his presidential powers, especially his disregard for laws that were enacted to protect our civil liberties.

My question to you, though, does not regard Mr. Bush's overstepping his bounds, but your "understepping" yours. Why did it take The New York Times an entire year before you made this information available to the public? Of course the White House "requested the article not be published." Wouldn't you if you were in their place?

I certainly understand Mr. Bush's desire to keep his actions secret, but your willingness to help him keep not only the people, but the Congress in the dark, leaves me baffled. Why did you do it?


Patricia Lay-Dorsey


December 19, 2005

Dear editors:

How long before the American people realize their president has committed impeachable offense after impeachable offense with no checks and no balances?

Is it not enough that he has sent our children off to die in a war based on lies? That he allowed the torture of prisoners by U.S. military, CIA agents and private contractors in violation of the Geneva Convention? That he supports the practice of the secret rendition of prisoners by CIA operatives who establish secret prisons in foreign countries where they can do what they want with no oversight by Congress or the American people? And now we find that since 2002 our president has been secretly authorizing the National Security Agency to spy on Americans at home with no court warrants, warrants that are required by law?

Doesn't this list, partial though it is, make former President Bill Clinton's impeachment seem like a bad joke? Since when is a private indiscretion worse than mounting a war based on lies, unlawful torture and illegal spying? Impeach him!


Patricia Lay-Dorsey

And now, after hearing me blow off steam, let me send you to the transcript of today's "Democracy Now!" program with Amy Goodman where she interviews James Bamford, author of several books, including the first book ever written about the National Security Agency, Martin Garbus, First Amendment attorney, and Christopher Pyle, Professor of Politics at Mount Holyoke and former military intelligence analyst. This segment of the show explores the topic, "An Impeachable Offense? Bush Admits Authorizing NSA to Eavesdrop on Americans Without Court Approval."

Sunday, December 18, 2005

my answers to some deep questions 

I was recently asked by an email correspondent to articulate my "Philosophy of Existence" and my place in it. There were specific questions regarding life and death, an afterlife, humanity's purpose for being, my views about a Creator/God, how my philosophy of life impacts my actions, and more. This is how I answered:

I will do my best to answer your questions, but please be aware that these subjects do not lend themselves easily to articulation with words. Let me give you a little background first.

I was born in 1942 to a mother who was Protestant (Presbyterian) and a father who was Roman Catholic. My mother converted to Catholicism a few years later. Growing up, we went to church every Sunday, to confession and communion once a month, and to children's Catechism classes every Saturday. My two sisters and I always went to public school instead of the Catholic parochial school where the classes were overcrowded.

In 1984 I had what can only be called a "mystical" experience of prayer. That led me to become a much more committed Christian. I joined an inner-city Detroit Catholic church where the parishioners were primarily African-American and the pastor was a charismatic priest who wrote popular books on prayer and travelled the world giving retreats. Unfortunately he also had a weakness where women were concerned, and I'm afraid I fell into his web. In 1989 I extricated myself from his unhealthy orbit, and joined another church in the inner city.

The pastor of my new church was Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, a well-respected peace advocate who is known around the world. Tom has made many trips to Iraq, worked hard to have the economic sanctions lifted, and did all he could to stop George W. Bush's war on and occupation of Iraq. I joined his church in 1991 immediately following the first Gulf War, a war that deeply traumatized me. It was during that war that I became a committed peace activist.

By 1993 I was discovering my feminist values and was no longer comfortable in what I saw was a male-dominated religion with beliefs that made little sense to me. I left Christianity at that time and since then have had no inclination to pursue any other religion. The beliefs I will try to articulate here are those that have naturally evolved in me over the past 12 years. To someone else, especially a believer in an established religion, my beliefs may well seem overly simplistic, but to me, they are all I need to try to keep my life "on track."

Regarding the Existence of the Universe and Humanity's place in it, I see the Universe as a Symphony with each species--humans included--having their own uniquely beautiful place in the song. As a human, my responsibility is to add harmonious notes by my every word, attitude and action. As with any piece of music, though, a dissonant note can add interest--thus my comfort with being outside of the "mainstream" American cultural value system and their nationalistic way of being in the world. As we say, I march to my own drumbeat. But that drumbeat must add to the symphony, not draw attention to itself or destroy the rhythm of the whole.

My life and its meaning can only be seen within the context of the Whole...the whole of humanity, the whole of the planet, even the whole of the galaxy. We are all One in this symphony, each with unique gifts and responsibilities. Mutual respect is essential to our relationship with one another, especially respect for our differences. For it is these differences that give our symphony texture and dynamic grace.

In relation to the fleeting nature of Life, birth and death are merely two ends of the continuum. Where others might need the comfort of a belief in an afterlife, I do not. I believe this short life holds more than I can ever recognize or appreciate. How could I need any more than this? Those who have died stay alive in my heart and memory. The love we've shared is a strand that will never break.

I do not use the words Creator, God, Allah, or Higher Power, but see everything as sacred. I do not differentiate between the sacred and the secular, but find Divinity in all. Actually, that is my greatest challenge, to see the divinity in persons who make choices that harm others, our world and our planet. To see another as Evil is not how I choose to relate to my sister and brother humans. It is here that my political awareness intersects with my spiritual consciousness. It often creates a paradox that is hard for me to tolerate. But I believe it is that Paradox that holds the key to our humanity.

How I personally choose to act depends upon my willingness to look beyond myself to the whole. Everything I think, say and do must benefit the whole. This is where truth and justice, respect and dignity, authenticity and love manifest themselves. It is what defines my humanity. Living this way requires self-reflection, self-discipline, concern for others, and a willingness to admit when I've made a mistake and try to rectify it. Humility, compassion, tolerance and a sense of humour are essential tools that I must always have at my side.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

civil liberties vs. presidential powers, part 2 

5:20 PM

It always takes me awhile. As I wrote early this morning about the latest chapter in our President's successful attempts to secretly eviscerate our civil liberties, it never occurred to me that I might have been--and perhaps still am--one of those being spied upon by NSA. But now I'm beginning to wonder.

After all, I've been communicating internationally by phone and email since August 2003 with a man whom the US government jailed for 19 months in its determined--yet unsuccessful--attempts to prove he had "terrorist ties." As you all know, I even traveled to Lebanon to visit him and his family. And while there, I spoke publicly at a Muslim-run center in Beirut where I was openly critical of Mr. Bush, his war on Iraq and his dealings with the Middle East. Then, after returning home, I posted my speech word-for-word on my blog, and just this week the center where I spoke sent a copy of my speech out to everyone on their group email list.

If wiretaps are being conducted on Americans with suspicious international contacts, wouldn't you put me on that list? Am I being paranoid or simply realistic?

But if they have listened in on Rabih's and my phone calls and read our emails, I fear they've been bored to the point of exhaustion. What a waste of taxpayer's dollars, not to mention being totally against the law. This, my friends, is what Orwell was talking about in "1984." Big Brother is watching you...

civil liberties vs. presidential powers, part 1 

12:30 AM

A lot has been going on in Washington, DC these past few days.

First I'd like to congratulate the US Senate for blocking the reauthorization of the US Patriot Act on Friday afternoon. But I fear Mr. Bush and the Republican senators who support his desire to continue to curtail Americans' civil liberties are not done fighting for their favorite legislative tool. My hope is that those Democratic and Republican senators who won the battle today will not lose the war tomorrow...or next week or next month. I know the US Patriot Act is essential to business-as-usual for Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Rumsfeld. But we can't let them have it. Unfortunately the House of Representatives rolled over and gave it away. Shame on them.

Am I the only one who is not at all surprised to learn that, since 2001, our President has been secretly authorizing unlawful wiretapping by the National Security Agency--that is supposedly prohibited by law from engaging in domestic spying--of the international phone calls and emails of thousands of Americans and other individuals in the US?

What does surprise me is our senators' and representatives' shock that this has been going on. I often wonder if we're living in the same country. Why do these almost daily examples of Bush's overreaching his presidential powers seem to catch the members of our Congress by surprise? Don't they see what we're dealing with here, or are their eyes blinded by that crazy inside-the-beltway world in which they live? Do they really believe they are being told by Bush & Co. what the executive branch is up to? Gosh, folks, wake up and smell the sewage.


The New York Times
December 17, 2005

News Analysis
Behind Power, One Principle as Bush Pushes Prerogatives


WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 - A single, fiercely debated legal principle lies behind nearly every major initiative in the Bush administration's war on terror, scholars say: the sweeping assertion of the powers of the presidency.

From the government's detention of Americans as "enemy combatants" to the just-disclosed eavesdropping in the United States without court warrants, the administration has relied on an unusually expansive interpretation of the president's authority. That stance has given the administration leeway for decisive action, but it has come under severe criticism from some scholars and the courts.

With the strong support of Vice President Dick Cheney, legal theorists in the White House and Justice Department have argued that previous presidents unjustifiably gave up some of the legitimate power of their office. The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, made it especially critical that the full power of the executive be restored and exercised, they said.

The administration's legal experts, including David S. Addington, the vice president's former counsel and now his chief of staff, and John C. Yoo, deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel of the Justice Department from 2001 to 2003, have pointed to several sources of presidential authority.

The bedrock source is Article 2 of the Constitution, which describes the "executive power" of the president, including his authority as commander in chief of the armed forces. Several landmark court decisions have elaborated the extent of the powers.

Another key recent document cited by the administration is the joint resolution passed by Congress on Sept. 14, 2001, authorizing the president to "use all necessary and appropriate force" against those responsible for Sept. 11 in order to prevent further attacks.

Mr. Yoo, who is believed to have helped write a legal justification for the National Security Agency's secret domestic eavesdropping, first laid out the basis for the war on terror in a Sept. 25, 2001, memorandum that said no statute passed by Congress "can place any limits on the president's determinations as to any terrorist threat, the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing and nature of the response."

That became the underlying justification for numerous actions apart from the eavesdropping program, disclosed by The New York Times on Thursday night. Those include the order to try accused terrorists before military tribunals; the detention of so-called enemy combatants at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and in secret overseas jails operated by the Central Intelligence Agency; the holding of two Americans, Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi, as enemy combatants; and the use of severe interrogation techniques, including some banned by international agreements, on Al Qaeda figures.

Mr. Yoo, now a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, declined to comment for this article. But Bradford A. Berenson, who served as associate counsel to President Bush from 2001 to 2003, explained the logic behind the assertion of executive power.

"After 9/11 the president felt it was incumbent on him to use every ounce of authority available to him to protect the American people," Mr. Berenson said.

He said he was not familiar with the N.S.A. program, in which the intelligence agency, without warrants, has monitored international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of people inside the United States. He said that he could not comment on whether the program was justified, but that he believed intelligence gathering on an enemy was clearly part of the president's constitutional war powers.

"Any program like this would have been very carefully analyzed by administration lawyers," Mr. Berenson said. "It's easy, now that four years have passed without another attack, to forget the sense of urgency that pervaded the country when the ruins of the World Trade Center were still smoking."

But some legal experts outside the administration, including some who served previously in the intelligence agencies, said the administration had pushed the presidential-powers argument beyond what was legally justified or prudent. They say the N.S.A. domestic eavesdropping illustrates the flaws in Mr. Bush's assertion of his powers.

"Obviously we have to do things differently because of the terrorist threat," said Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, former general counsel of both N.S.A. and the Central Intelligence Agency, who served under both Republican and Democratic administrations. "But to do it without the participation of the Congress and the courts is unwise in the extreme."

Even if the administration believes the president has the authority to direct warrantless eavesdropping, she said, ordering it without seeking Congressional approval was politically wrongheaded. "We're just relearning the lessons of Vietnam and Watergate," said Ms. Parker, now dean of the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law.

Jeffrey H. Smith, who served as C.I.A. general counsel in 1995 and 1996, said he was dismayed by the N.S.A. program, which he said was the latest instance of legal overreach by the administration.

"Clearly the president felt after 9/11 that he needed more powers than his predecessors had exercised," Mr. Smith said. "He chose to assert as much power as he thought he needed. Now the question is whether that was wise and consistent with our values."

William C. Banks, a widely respected authority on national security law at Syracuse University, said the N.S.A. revelation came as a shock, even given the administration's past assertions of presidential powers.

"I was frankly astonished by the story," he said. "My head is spinning."

Professor Banks said the president's power as commander in chief "is really limited to situations involving military force - anything needed to repel an attack. I don't think the commander in chief power allows" the warrantless eavesdropping, he said.

Mr. Berenson, the former White House associate counsel, said that in rare cases, the presidents' advisers may decide that an existing law violates the Constitution "by invading the president's executive powers as commander in chief."

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 typically requires warrants for the kind of eavesdropping carried out under the special N.S.A. program. Whether administration lawyers argued that that statute unconstitutionally infringed the president's powers is not known.

But Mr. Smith, formerly of the C.I.A., noted that when President Carter signed the act into law in 1978, he seemed to rule out any domestic eavesdropping without court approval.

"The bill requires, for the first time, a prior judicial warrant for all electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence or counterintelligence purposes in the United States" if an American's communications might be intercepted, President Carter said when he signed the act.

By asserting excessive powers, Mr. Smith said, President Bush may provoke a reaction from Congress and the courts that ultimately thwarts executive power.

"The president may wind up eroding the very powers he was seeking to exert," Mr. Smith said.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A snowy December day 

Heavy wet snow started falling before I left the house to go to school at 7:45 AM, kept coming down all day, and was still at it when it was time for me to leave at 2:45 PM. Sean, the school custodian, kindly came outside and shoveled a path for me to my minivan, then brushed Sojourner's windows clear of snow. I then had a long, slow, slushy drive home. When I arrived, my sweet Eddie, who by the way is suffering from a painful, arthritic hip, had come home early to shovel and salt my ramp into the house. Talk about feeling cared for!

Later Ed received his share of help. In his case it was our neighbor's daughter Jenny who came over unasked and shoveled our long walk up to the front door. And she didn't even know about Ed's painful hip. She just did it to help us out.

But this is an adult talking about snow. The kids were like puppies playing in the school playground at recess. No worries about shoveling or driving for them...just fun! Maybe they'll even have a snow day tomorrow. But I'll bet you they don't want it. Tomorrow (Friday) is their last day of school before the two-week holiday break and most classes are having parties. And kids LOVE parties!

Susan, the wonderful art teacher I help, gave me a very special holiday gift--a handknit scarf that is not only colorful but soft and warm. It makes me smile every time I look at it. I told Susan it reminds me of spring. Hold that thought...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Two perspectives on Lebanon's latest tragedy 

I hope my brother Rabih Haddad will not mind if I quote his most recent entry on his blog, "Enduring Mercy."

Yesterday I called Rabih and Sulaima to share my sadness over the assassination of the MP and well-known journalist, Jebran Tueni, in Beirut on Monday. During our conversation I encouraged Rabih to write a blog entry sharing his insights into this tragedy. He told me he didn't see where he could find the time to do so.

This morning I received an email from my brother saying, "Thanks to you, dear sister, I couldn't go back to sleep after the dawn prayers. I just had to make an entry on my blog!!"

Even though I know he needs his sleep, I think the perspective Rabih brings to the worldwide discussion of who might have planned this dastardly act is worth any tiredness he might have suffered later.

So here are Rabih Haddad's words exactly as they appear on his blog:

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Lebanon: Death's Name and Address

Our fate and destiny,it seems, in this beautiful little country on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean is to grapple with endless violence and death, the latest manifestation of which was the assassination of Jibran Twayni, MP, and managing editor of the longest running and most prominent daily newspaper in Lebanon: Al-Nahar (pronounced: annahar which means 'the day').

Watching the live T.V. coverage of the aftermath cast a gripping surreal feeling over me as the cameras reflected the devastation caused by the explosion and the pointless death and injuries of the victims. My heart was saying enough already, but my brain was asking who's next?

The fingers of accusation immediately pointed at Syria. Twayni had been an outspoken critic of the Syrian regime and its policies in Lebanon. His last editorial was a well-articulated, bold dissection of Syria's foreign policy with regards to Lebanon and the region. In the past few months, he had toured Europe and had met with a number of Western officials rallying support for the UN Security Council's Resolutions 1559 and 1595 that targeted Syria for the most part. He had received numerous death threats eventually causing him to leave Lebanon last August. So yes, Syria is the obvious suspect in this latest assassination. But here in the Middle East, and especially in politics, nothing is as it seems and nothing should be taken at face value!

The question that any objective observer should ask is: who else has a stake in this? Who else would benefit?

Syria is already in international 'hot water' because it was implicated in the assassination of our late Prime Minister Rafik Hareeri, G. W. Bush has Syria in his sights for a possible sequel to Iraq, the UN is threatening sanctions, are the Syrians that stupid? Maybe, but not likely.

But if Syria was to be slapped with sanctions or invaded by the Americans, and if the political and security situation was to spiral downward in Lebanon, who stands to benefit the most on all fronts? The answer is not that hard. A quick overview of recent history in the Middle East will reveal that there has always been, by far, a single beneficiary of US foreign policy there. One who spares no effort in de-stabilizing the whole region for its own ends. One who has benefited the most, so far, from the tragic events of 9-11.

Need I say more?

by Rabih Haddad


I also encourage you to read the rush transcript of the interview Juan Gonzalez of "Democracy Now!" conducted today with Robert Fisk, the Independent/UK's Middle Eastern correspondent who has lived in Beirut for the last 30 years. The interview is titled "Robert Fisk on The Murders of Gibran Tueni, Rafik Hariri and the Changing Tide in Lebanon." You can listen to it on streaming audio if you prefer. I suspect Robert Fisk's perspective is shared by many people in Lebanon. But who knows the truth? I wonder if we will ever know.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

the ugly face of racism 

When you have 5000 people, most of them young white men, descend on a beach in Australia--or anywhere for that matter--"chanting racial slogans and attacking people of Middle Eastern appearance," you are obviously seeing the ugly face of racism. For Australia's prime minister to refuse to call these attacks by their rightful name belies his own bias.

How do you find a solution to a problem you refuse to name?

A simple google search turned up evidence of a long history of racial unrest in Australia. White discomfort with the differences between them and the Aboriginal population, coupled with the influx of large numbers of immigrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa has unfortunately led to longstanding tensions between the races. I cite just a few articles about this problem at the end of today's entry.

But the point I want to make is not to criticize Australia for its current and historic racial shortcomings; my own country has more than its fair share of racist attitudes and actions. No, my point is one that was brought up by Jona Olsson, the facilitator of the Racial Justice workshop I attended in Ann Arbor on Sunday, and that is the necessity of naming racism when you see it. Skirting around that most unpleasant word simply allows racism to remain alive and well in society.

Isn't this true of any problem? You must recognize and name it directly before any change can be made. None of us wants to do this. We seem to feel if we downplay its importance, any negativity will simply pack up its bags and leave. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. If we ignore the elephant in the corner, it grows in power and influence. If we shine the light of truth on it, its power diminishes. And then we have a chance to work with the problem that it represents.

We have to go head-to-head with the beast.

I see this need in Australia, but Australia is not my country and their problem(s) are not mine to tackle. But the United States IS my country and the racism I see here IS my responsibility. And not just the institutionalized and group-to-group racism either; I must acknowledge and deal with my own personal racism. For you can't be raised in a racist society without becoming racist yourself. All the good intentions in the world won't protect you from that toxic legacy.

But I don't need to stay there. It's up to me to keep peeling away the onion skins of racist attitudes and actions that all white Americans share. And to replace those hurtful ways of being in the world with ways that respect and celebrate our wondrous differences. And this, my friends, is what they call the "college of lifelong learning."

As Jona repeated throughout our hours together on Sunday, shame and guilt do no one any good. If anything, they block change and growth. I may not be responsible for the racism that I took in with my mother's milk, but I AM responsible for what I do once I see it for what it is. Change is not only possible but expected.


What follows are a few articles and links to articles dealing with Australia's current and historic racial difficulties:

PM condemns racial violence

December 12, 2005

ATTACKING people on their basis of their race is totally unacceptable, Prime Minister John Howard says.

But Mr Howard today refused to call Australians racist following the mob violence in Sydney yesterday. He condemned
incidents in which up to 5,000 people descended on North Cronulla Beach, chanting racist slogans and attacking people
of Middle Eastern appearance.

The violence sparked apparent reprisal attacks late last night, with cars damaged at Maroubra Beach.

"Mob violence is always sickening," Mr Howard told reporters.

"Attacking people on the basis of their race, their appearance, their ethnicity, is totally unacceptable and should be repudiated by all Australians irrespective of their own background and their politics," he said.

"I believe yesterday's behaviour was completely unacceptable but I'm not going to put a general tag (of) racism on the Australian community.

"I think it's a term that is flung around sometimes carelessly and I'm simply not going to do so."

Mr Howard also dismissed any suggestion his government's warnings about home-grown terrorists had fuelled the rampage.

"It is impossible to know how individuals react but everything this government's said about home-grown terrorism has been totally justified," Mr Howard told reporters in Sydney.

"It is a potential threat. To suggest that one should remain silent ... knowing what I know because that might antagonise someone else is a complete failure of leadership."

Mr Howard said he fully supported the actions of police at Cronulla and anybody who broke the law yesterday or on the
previous weekend, when two lifeguards and a camera crew were assaulted, should be apprehended and prosecuted.

Mr Howard warned anyone considering further violent behaviour they would face the full force of the law.

"Nobody in this country has a right to take the law into their own hands.

"It applied to the behaviour of people yesterday, it applied to the behaviour of people on the beach the previous weekend.

"Any action the NSW Police take in response to that has my full support."

"We don't want to see Australia become like this – it's not the Australia we know, it's not the Australia we want," he told the ABC.

"We don't want gangs fighting each other in public places, what we want is we want the opportunity for people to safely go about their business and enjoy the beach."



KKK pic 'no joke'
11/11/2004 21:41 - (SA)

Canberra - The defence department is investigating allegations of racism in its ranks after a photograph was taken of soldiers wearing Ku Klux Klan-style hoods as they stood behind dark-skinned colleagues.

The photograph, published on the front page of Sydney's the Daily Telegraph newspaper on Thursday, was condemned by defence chief General Peter Cosgrove as galling, and by Prime Minister John Howard as bad taste.

The newspaper said victims of racist abuse at Australia's largest army barracks in Townsville, in Queensland, were planning court action against the army about the photograph and other acts of victimisation.

The newspaper also reported claims that a dark-skinned soldier had the armour removed from his flak jacket while serving in East Timor while others had offensive slogans written on their gear. Read more...


Racism alive and well down under
03/12/2001 09:13 - (SA)

Canberra, Australia - Racism remains a problem in Australia and is making life a misery for many immigrants and Aborigines, the government's human rights watchdog said on Monday.

Releasing a report from a six-month study of racism in Australia, Federal Race Discrimination Commissioner William Jonas said the marginalisation felt by some segments of the population was striking.

"It is clear that racism is still alive and well in Australian society. People spoke of the covert and systemic racism they experience in employment, education and in the delivery of government services," he said.

The report, titled "I Want Respect and Equality," was prepared by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission from six months of community consultations with people from non-English speaking backgrounds and indigenous Australians. Read more...

Monday, December 12, 2005

another assassination in Lebanon 

At 4 PM today I returned home after having driven Jona Olsson, our Racial Justice workshop facilitator, to the Lansing airport. Yesterday's workshop was excellent, and so was the time Jona and I spent at dinner afterwards and staying overnight at the Michigan League last night. Whenever I'm in the presence of someone like Jona, an individual who has consistently used her considerable gifts and talents to benefit the world, my own commitment to change is deepened. It waters my roots.

Then less than an hour ago I turned on my computer for the first time since yesterday (Sunday) morning. I immediately clicked onto my favorite news sources, first to see if there was any news of the four CPT hostages in Baghdad--there wasn't--and then to see what had happened in the world since yesterday.

I was shocked and saddened to read of the assassination of Jebran Tueni, a journalist and current publisher of Lebanon's leading newspaper Al-Nahar. He was also a respected politician, member of Parliament and an outspoken critic of Syria. The article I read on reported that Mr. Tueni had left the country in August after learning he was #1 on an "assassination list," and had only returned home to Beirut on Sunday night. Less than 24 hours later, he was dead.

The explosion that destroyed his vehicle and killed two men in addition to Mr. Tueni, came just hours before the chief UN investigator Detlev Mehlis was to submit his final report to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the investigation into the February 14th assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri. The report reiterates Mr. Mehlis's initial finding that top Syrian officials are the primary suspects in this assassination that continues to be on everyone's mind in Lebanon.

I don't know if I'd mentioned before that every place I went in Lebanon there were pictures and remembrances of Prime Minister al-Hariri. It seemed like every shop had his picture in the window with a message in Arabic that his death would be remembered and justice would be done. His picture was on the bulletin board at The Muntada where I spoke in Beirut. There were banners hanging from the sides of buildings, many with pictures of both Rafiq al-Hariri and his son, Saad, a recently-elected member of Parliament. Coming into the Hamra district in Beirut there was a huge billboard all lit up with a picture of the former PM Rafiq al-Hariri with flashing numbers noting the number of days since his death.

And now this. Another assassination of an individual who means a lot to the Lebanese people. I gather that Jebran Tueni was highly admired for his vocal opposition to the Syrian domination of Lebanon. Many are already seeing his assassination as part of an ongoing attempt to silence Lebanese media criticism of Syria.

It's important to know that the 29-year Syrian military occupation of Lebanon only ended last April. Their historic withdrawal is seen in Lebanon as a direct result of the people's outraged response to the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, an assassination that many felt had been planned and carried out by Syria. PM Rafiq al-Hariri was also an outspoken opponent of Syria's military and political power in Lebanon.

And now I gather that, even though the UN investigation into former PM Rafiq al-Hariri's assassination is going to continue, Detlev Mehlis has asked to be released from his position as chief UN investigator. I can certainly see why. It seems like a very dangerous investigation in which to be involved. There is a lot at stake, especially for Syria. If it can be proven that top Syrian officials masterminded that assassination, President Bashar al-Assad could bear the cost, especially if Syria were hit with economic sanctions, as has been threatened. My main fear is that the Bush adminstration would use this as an excuse to bring military action against Syria. We all know that Syria is already on their "axis of evil" hit list.

After having spent time in Lebanon, I can no longer read news like today's without feeling deeply involved. May the cycle of violence be broken. May the people, pro- and anti-Syrian factions alike, learn to live in peace.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

workshop tomorrow 

Tomorrow I'll be in Ann Arbor for a much-anticipated Racial Justice workshop facilitated by Jona Olsson, the founder and director of Cultural Bridges with whom I took a White Privilege workshop at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival in August. The workshop is from 3-7 PM, and afterwards Jona and I will go out to dinner and then spend the night at the Michigan League. On Monday I'll drive her to the airport outside of Lansing so she can return home to rural New Mexico where she is the Fire Chief(!).

I'm quite impressed that 36 women and men have signed up for this workshop during a time when most people are running around doing holiday things. We even have a waiting list.

So I'll be away from my computer until Monday evening. Until then, please continue to keep the peacemakers, their families, friends and communities in your heart...and their captors too. May they choose life.

Hold them safe... 

It is now 10:40 PM in Baghdad and there is still no news about the four Christian Peacemaker Teams humanitarian workers who are being held by the group who call themselves the Swords of Righteousness Brigades. I'm sure people join me the world over in my deep concern about their safety. Today was the day their kidnappers said was the deadline for their demands to be met. Since they have demanded the release of all detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, their demands will certainly not be met. Oh, please hold the Canadians Jim Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden, the Briton Norman Kember, and the American Tom Fox in your heart.

I am saddened to hear that an Egyptian translator at a U.S. military base in Iraq, Ibrahim al-Sayyid al-Hilali, has been killed by his captors. This cycle of violence hurts us all. If only the Bush adminstration had not started this war in the first place. War never brings peace; violence only breeds violence. Jim, Harmeet, Norman and Tom know that. That is why they put their lives at risk in the name of peace. May they receive the peace they sow.

If you want to express your desire for their safe return, you can still add your name and a comment to this online petition. Reading what people from around the world have written is one way I've found to hold them in my heart. Just looking at these photos of Jim Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden also help me stay focused on how much our world needs these men to continue the work to which they've devoted their lives.

And here are two more photos from the Christian Peacemaker Teams web site--Tom Fox in Palestine protesting the Israeli barrier, and Norman Kember leafletting for peace. Let us not forget that these are not "four CPT hostages" but four individuals with families, friends and communities who care deeply about them. May their kidnappers see them this way too.

Friday, December 09, 2005

snow for the kids 

I'm posting this picture for Sana, Sami, Rami and Oussama who miss snowy Michigan days like today. I had a wonderful phone visit with my kids in Lebanon this afternoon and when I told them about last night's snowfall, they were so jealous. Then when they told me about their unseasonably warm weather in Beirut, I was the jealous one.

By the way, I was delighted to hear that Oussama, the second grader, has transferred to the American school. No more two hours of homework a night. Yippee! When I told him I would give him a big kiss to celebrate if I were there, he said, "I'll send my lips through the phone." He did and after I'd kissed them, I sent them back. Amazing what phones can do!!!

Misplaced priorities 

According to an editorial published in The New York Times on December 5, 2005,

"Poverty has risen across the past four years to 37 million and counting, by the government's own measure, while the number of homeless children in public schools is at 600,000 and up. In 2004, some 38 million Americans - including nearly one in five children - lived in households that found it difficult to afford food, 6 million more than in 1999."

Yet, before its Thanksgiving recess, the U.S. Congress held a midnight vote on a budget-cutting bill that slashed safety nets for the poor including Medicaid, food stamps and child care for mothers who are forced to work in order to receive Welfare assistance. This bill, that the NY Times editors called "draconian," passed by two votes. The editorial went on to say that these slashes in spending would mean that "more than 200,000 poor Americans each face the loss of food stamps worth $140 a month in nourishment."

Today we read that the very same lawmakers passed the last and biggest part of $95 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy.

"Voting 234 to 197, almost purely along party lines, the House approved $56 billion in tax cuts over five years, one day after it passed other tax cuts totaling $39 billion over five years. The biggest provision would extend President Bush's 2001 tax cut for stock dividends and capital gains for two years at a cost of $20 billion."

"All the maverick Republican conservatives in House, who had pushed party leaders to pass $51 billion in spending cuts, voted enthusiastically for tax cuts costing nearly twice as much."

Does anyone wonder who stands to benefit from this Republican-dominated Congress and its Republican president?

Yet does anyone stop and look at the Federal Deficit? I just did and found that as of yesterday, December 8, 2005, the U.S. government coffers were $8,131,033,535,598.31 in the red. In case you, like I, have trouble understanding all those numbers, that means we are over 8 trillion dollars in debt.

In January 2004, The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had projected that under current policies, the federal deficit would be $535 billion in 2005. Of course that was before anyone knew that President Bush's occupaton of Iraq was going to cost the American people $5.8 billion a month, or a total of $225,323,983,266 and counting. It was also before most of President Bush's proposed tax cuts for the wealthy had been passed by Congress.

Even though the wealthiest one percent of our country's population will personally benefit immensely from the Bush-initiated tax cuts, I can't help but wonder how this spiralling federal debt will affect us all. We have certainly seen in New Orleans what happens when the federal government cannot honor its commitments to care for its citizens. Having more cash in your personal bank account will not help a whit if the infrastructure upon which we all depend fails due to lack of funds and/or poor management.

And what kind of legacy are we leaving our children and grandchildren? It is painful to imagine.

Yet what can we do when those individuals who are supposed to be representing our best interests make poor choice after poor choice after poor choice? Call and let them know what we think--Do they listen?--but beyond that, I wish I knew. For now, perhaps the best we can do is wake up to the realities of what is being done "in our names" and sound the alert to our families, neighbors, co-workers and friends. Awareness is the first step to change.

Three quotes of Mohandas Gandhi speak to me today:

"Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth."

"Healthy discontent is the prelude to progress."

"If I seem to take part in politics, it is only because politics encircles us today like the coil of a snake from which one cannot get out, no matter how much one tries. I wish therefore to wrestle with the snake."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

what people care about 

I can't help but note that I've received more comments regarding my rant about the garish christmas light display than about any other entry since I started keeping this blog two years ago. If you're a regular reader you know that this space has seen countless rants against Bush's war on Iraq, the loss of civil liberties in the US since 9/11, Bush's war on the environment, his approval of torture, his lies and the damage wrought by his cabal of neo-con advisors. Yet what people seem to get their knickers in a twist about is christmas decorations. Interesting.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Please keep them safe 

4:50 PM

Tomorrow, December 8, is the day the kidnappers of the four men from the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraq have set as a deadline. Please please hold these good men in your hearts. May those holding them have a change of heart. May Jim, Norman, Tom and Harmeet be released safely. May it be so.
10 PM

I just heard the news that the deadline has been extended until Saturday. Hope lives...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

my apologies 

Sorry folks, I'm afraid I went over the top in yesterday's blog entry...especially in my mean-spirited judgement of the homeowners. As a reader said, " have a self-righteous streak that is, frankly, getting annoying." She's right. Time to step back and consider more carefully how I present my views here on my blog. Being opinionated is one thing, but being self-righteous quite another.

information you will not find in the mainstream media 

In the article,Hidden in Plane Sight: Media dodging air war in Iraq by Norman Solomon, we read:

The U.S. government is waging an air war in Iraq. "In recent months, the tempo of American bombing seems to have increased," Seymour Hersh reported in the Dec. 5 edition of The New Yorker. "Most of the targets appear to be in the hostile, predominantly Sunni provinces that surround Baghdad and along the Syrian border."

Hersh added: "As yet, neither Congress nor the public has engaged in a significant discussion or debate about the air war."

Here's a big reason why: Major U.S. news outlets are dodging the extent of the Pentagon's bombardment from the air, an avoidance all the more egregious because any drawdown of U.S. troop levels in Iraq is very likely to be accompanied by a step-up of the air war.

So, according to the LexisNexis media database, how often has the phrase "air war" appeared in The New York Times this year with reference to the current U.S. military effort in Iraq?

As of early December, the answer is: Zero.

And how often has the phrase "air war" appeared in The Washington Post in 2005?

The answer: Zero.

And how often has "air war" been printed in Time, the nation's largest-circulation news magazine, this year?


This extreme media avoidance needs to change. Now. Especially because all the recent talk in Washington about withdrawing some U.S. troops from Iraq is setting the stage for the American military to do more of its killing in that country from the air... read more

Monday, December 05, 2005

thinking outside the box 

I'm beginning to suspect that my journey to Beirut, the time I spent living with Rabih, Sulaima and the children, the conversations and dialogues I entered into with Sulaima's women friends and at The Muntada where I spoke about the U.S. peace movement, have all served to move me even further out of the American "mainstream" than I was before. Being exposed to such different attitudes and priorities has expanded my views in ways large and small.

For instance, on my way to swimming tonight I drove by two lakefront homes that had enough Christmas lights out front to power a small city. It made me gag. When I see such obvious misuse of energy resources, I can't help judging those responsible--in this case, the homeowners--as self-centered and clueless.

What immediately came to my mind were the residents of Baghdad who are now lucky if they get one hour of electricity a day. I also thought of the hundreds of thousands of refugees in the mountains of Pakistan where even a tent and sleeping bag--forget electricity--would be a priceless treasure. And what about the persons whose homes--if they even survived--are still not inhabitable in most parts of New Orleans? What does electricity mean to them? Even my friends Rabih and Sulaima in Lebanon have to watch their use of electricity--it is very expensive and not all that dependable. As I've written before, every day brought at least one hour without electricity. Thank goddess for apartment-sized generators.

Do the folks who festoon their lawns with hundreds of thousands--it actually looked like billions--of Christmas lights and spotlights think of any of these people who come to my mind? And if not, why not? Yes, my knowledge of Lebanon is from personal experience, but anyone can read Riverbend's blog and find out about the impossible electricity situation in Baghdad. And doesn't everyone know about those individuals and families freezing in the mountains of Pakistan, and the suffering people still without homes in New Orleans?

Or maybe they simply see those situations as separate from them and their way of life. Do they not see that every day-to-day choice they make impacts people around the globe?

I'm not saying I'm innocent of making poor choices either. It's just that mine are a bit less egregious. At least I hope they are.

a new web page about my trip 

I've spent much of the day putting up a web page called "My 2005 Journey to Beirut, Lebanon" in which I have posted journal entries relating to my trip. This is a work in progress because I will be adding reflections/stories as they occur to me, as well as more PowerPoint slide shows, and--the most time-consuming project of all--photo links within the text of the journal entries. Stay tuned...

Sunday, December 04, 2005

the Middle East of the Midwest 

Re-entry is hard. Especially after such an amazing journey, one I'd been anticipating and preparing for since last April. I find myself reluctant to enter too completely into my life here in Michigan. If I do, I'm afraid I'll lose touch with all that I experienced during those magical ten days with Rabih, Sulaima and the kids. Even now, after 12 days home, I sometimes feel I'm more there than here. Now I know what my family in Lebanon is doing at different times of the day, and even though we're seven hours apart, it's easy to place myself in their time zone, in their world. It's a world and a family I miss very much.

Of course it's sweet to be with my Eddie again. I value every minute we're together. Being so far away from my dear one helped me appreciate him all the more. And I love being in my home, in my own bed...all of that. But I still miss my life in Lebanon. And my family there.

I'm more fortunate than most, though, because I can visit Lebanon any time I want. I just drive 20 minutes west on I94, exit onto Addison Road, turn left on Ford Road...and there I am, in East Dearborn, Michigan, the Middle East of the Midwest.

My friend Pat Kolon and I did just that yesterday evening. We ate a yummy Lebanese dinner at the PineLand restaurant on Michigan Avenue just west of Schaeffer. Our server, Miyah, was born in Beirut and got tears in her eyes when I talked of having just been there two weeks ago. She, like everyone I've ever met, adores Beirut and longs to visit there as soon as possible. Maybe in January, she hopes.

After dinner, we drove a mile over to Fordson High School where the Palestine Office-Michigan was putting on a fundraiser featuring El-Funoun, Palestine's popular dance troupe. We'd been advised to get there an hour early and it's a good thing we did. Even though it was an 1100-seat auditorium, they'd oversold and there must have been 100 people standing! I'd worn the Palestinian-embroidered dress Sulaima's sister had given me, and I was right in style. A good number of women were wearing Palestinian dresses and even more men and women had the kuffiyeh, the Palestinian black-and-white scarf, draped over their shoulders. I got lots of compliments on my dress and was able to say where I'd gotten it. That led to a number of interesting conversations. I felt so at home there; it was like being back in Lebanon.

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