Windchime Walker

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

the truth about Oaxaca 

If all I did was read the New York Times or watch CNN, I'd imagine that what is happening in Oaxaca was an appropriate government response to a city that has been taken over by rioters, many of them armed. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Because I regularly listen to Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, I've been aware of the situation in Oaxaca for months now. What started as a teachers' strike to try to get the bare minimum wages and benefits necessary to survive, we now have a popular uprising of at least a third of the state's people who are demanding that the repressive governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz, and his government step down. They want a participatory democracy not the iron rule they are chafing under now.

Their four-month encampment in Oaxaca's town square, the Zocalo, has been nonviolent and the protesters have organized into a body they call the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca or APPO. Representatives of APPO have done their best to make their requests through appropriate governmental channels, but to no avail. And now the Mexican President, Vicente Fox, has sent in helicoptors, tanks, water cannons, tear gas, 1000s of police in riot gear and military troops armed with submachine guns. People are being killed and wounded even as I write this.

Again, if I were just getting my news through mainstream media sources, I might believe the "official" story that the NYC Indymedia journalist Brad Will and two protesters had been killed by their fellow protesters, and that was why Fox had to quell the riots militarily. But not even Mexican newspapers are spreading that lie! Five men--two members of the local city hall, two municipal police officers and the former justice of the peace of a nearby town--have been identified and are now under arrest for commiting those three murders. The reason Fox brought in the military is that the people refuse to give up their struggle for a true democracy. And Mexico is losing all the tourist trade that Oaxaco was noted for. As always, I'm sure it comes down to money. Doesn't it always?

I invite you to go to click on this link to Monday's show on Democracy Now! and read for yourself what is really going on in Oaxaca. We cannot trust our American media to tell us the truth, especially about the popular uprisings of our neighbors to the south. They don't want us to get any ideas about reclaiming our own democracy here at home.

There are also articles on that tell the story from the perspective of the people on the ground. And this article put out by the Inter Press Service gives a more balanced view than most.

For me this news about Oaxaca hits deep.

In June 1992 I spent two weeks in Oaxaco as part of a three-week immersion program designed to give norte-americanos a taste of what life is like for the poor of that region. After one week of study in at Erie College in Pennsylvania, ten women and men aged 79-19 flew down to Oaxaca. Once there we walked for miles, carrying much of our luggage, from the airport down in the valley halfway up a mountain to a dwelling run by an amazing woman who was devoting her life to raising the awareness of her sister and brother Americans in this experiential way. We lived not near the Zocalo where tourists stayed, but where the real peoples of Oaxaca lived. Yes, they were dreadfully poor, but I've never met more generous people in my life.

I celebrated my 50th birthday in the dirt-floored one room dwelling of Patricia, her daughter Maricela, Maricela's 9 month-old baby Oscar and Patricia's two young daughers who were 5 and 4 at the time. To celebrate my birthday, they gave me a glass of grape koolaid made from water that Maricela had carried down that morning from the well at the top of the mountain. It did not make me sick even though everyone said it would.

Well, Oscar would now be 15 years old. And the children who'd come to our place every afternoon to play bingo, would be between 18-27. I can see them now; each face moves before my eyes as if they were here with me. Of course, in my mind's eye, they are still children. And now? I hope they are still alive. I hope they are not wounded. I hope their struggle will meet with more representation not more repression. I wish somehow they could know I am with them, thinking of them, educating others about them, supporting them, caring about them. May they be held safe.

The true cost of war 

My brother Rabih Haddad in Lebanon emailed me this article today. It makes sense to me. See what you think. If you click on "Read more," you'll see the official Department of Defense casualty lists for August 2006. Be forewarned: There is a graphic photo of a dead body at the beginning of this article.

Harring Report: The National Young Men's Meat Grinder

"The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labour power without producing anything that can be consumed."

George Orwell, '1984'

"Whether war is a necessary factor in the evolution of mankind may be disputed, but a fact which cannot be questioned is that, from the earliest records of man to the present age, war has been his dominant preoccupation. There has never been a period in human history altogether free from war, and seldom one of more than a generation which has not witnessed a major conflict: great wars flow and ebb almost as regularly as the tides. This becomes more noticeable when a civilization ages and begins to decay, as seemingly is happening to our world-wide industrial civilization. Whereas but a generation or two back, war was accepted as an instrument of policy, it has now become policy itself."

General J.F.C. Fuller, 1954

The Bush/Cheney Butcher's Bill: Officially, 16 US Military Deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan from 1 August 2006 - 7 August 2006- Official Total of 2,777 US dead to date (and rising) The actual total of dead American military personnel is now over 12,000 and also rising and the number of seriously wounded is now 25,000

by Brian Harring, Domestic Intelligence Reporter

Mr. President, why don't you pull your father should have?

Note: There is excellent reason to believe that the Department of Defense is deliberately not reporting a significant number of the dead in Iraq. We have received copies of manifests from the MATS that show far more bodies shipped into Dover AFP than are reported officially. The actual death toll is in excess of 10,000. (See the official records at the end of this piece.) Given the officially acknowledged number of over 15,000 seriously wounded (and a published total of 25,000 wounded overall,), this elevated death toll is far more realistic than the current 2,000+ now being officially published. When our research is complete, and watertight, we will publish the results along with the sources. In addition to the evident falsification of the death rolls, at least 5,500 American military personnel have deserted, most in Ireland but more have escaped to Canada and other European countries, none of whom are inclined to cooperate with vengeful American authorities. (See TBR News of 18 February for full coverage on the mass desertions) This means that of the 158,000 U.S. military shipped to Iraq, 26,000 deserted, were killed or seriously wounded. The DoD lists currently being very quietly circulated indicate over12,000 dead, over 25,000 seriously wounded and a large number of suicides, forced hospitalization for ongoing drug usage and sales, murder of Iraqi civilians and fellow soldiers, rapes, courts martial and so on.

The government gets away with these huge lies because they claim, falsely, that only soldiers actually killed on the ground in Iraq are reported. The dying and critically wounded are listed as en route to military hospitals outside of the country and not reported on the daily postings. Anyone who dies just as the transport takes off from the Baghdad airport is not listed and neither are those who die in the US military hospitals. Their families are certainly notified that their son, husband, brother or lover was dead and the bodies, or what is left of them (refrigeration is very bad in Iraq what with constant power outages) are shipped home, to Dover AFB. This, we note, was the overall policy until very recently. Since it became well known that many had died at Landstuhl, in Germany, the DoD began to list a very few soldiers who had died at other non-theater locations. These numbers are only for show and are pathetically small in relationship to the actual figures. You ought to realize that President Bush personally ordered that no pictures be taken of the coffined and flag-draped dead under any circumstances. He claims that this is to comfort the bereaved relatives but is designed to keep the huge number of arriving bodies secret. Any civilian, or military personnel, taking pictures will be jailed at once and prosecuted. Bush has never attended any kind of a memorial service for his dead soldiers and never will. He is terrified some parent might curse him in front of the press or, worse, attack him. As Bush is a terrible physical coward and in a constant state of denial, this is not a surprise.Read more.

Monday, October 30, 2006

my discernment is complete 

Before I share with you the fruits of my discernment about whether or not to join the Gold Star Families for Peace election week sit-down strike in front of the White House, I want to thank all of you who took the time to share your thoughts and suggestions with me. Since I was also looking at the possibility of engaging in civil resistance at this event, I needed to hear from all the voices I could, especially from persons who had personal experience of doing direct action in Washington, DC. Being a woman who uses a mobility scooter, I needed to look at how that would impact any decision I would make about being arrested.

Scott Heinzman of ADAPT, a national disability rights organization that sponsors an annual civil resistance action in DC, was most helpful in his detailed reply to my email requesting information on how the DC police handle wheelchairs and scooters. He even attached the form they have participants fill out ahead of time. What I learned from Scott was the importance of having group support, including legal advocates, whenever any such action is planned. ADAPT obviously does these actions with great intentionality and forethought. What I also learned was that you can never know exactly how the police will respond to you, or how long you'll be held in jail. It can be up to 24 hours.

A wonderful woman I'd met at the Holly Near retreat at Leaven Center in May also gave me her personal knowledge of what it's like to be arrested. Her experience was not in DC nor was it a civil resistance action, but it did show me that you can't know ahead of time how you will be treated. She described being in a cell with an older woman who had cashed bad checks. This woman kept going up to the guards all night long, asking for her Parkinson's medication. They refused to give it to her and were quite abusive verbally to her. My friend said it took her months to heal from the stress of this experience.

Ray McGovern, the former CIA anaylist who now speaks all over the country on behalf of peace and truth, told me of his three experiences of doing civil resistance in DC. The two where he was arrested had occurred in front of the White House, so it was the U.S. Park Police who handled it. He said they were very respectful and handled the process professionally. But the one that involved the DC police was very unpleasant. Instead of arresting him and his fellow resisters, the police picked them up off the street where they were lying down and literally threw them onto the sidewalk. Ray said one of the women had been injured because she was thrown so forcefully.

As I considered all that I'd learned from these sources, I realized I wasn't ready to risk myself and my scooter to such an unknown fate. At least not now, and not so far from home. If anything happened to my scooter, I'd be up a creek without a paddle. How would I get around if I were staying by myself in a hotel room? If something happened to my scooter--or me--here in Detroit, Ed could come to my rescue and bring me a back-up scooter if necessary. In DC I'd be on my own with only my walker as back-up. And since I can only walk from one room to another with my walker, that would be no help at all.

Besides I wasn't getting any assurances that there would be legal or other support behind me when/if I were arrested in this action. The two emails I'd sent to the organizers of this event asking for more info about possible arrest had gone unanswered.

So I decided not to engage in civil resistance at what they're calling the Sit Down for Peace and Justice action in front of the White House.

My next discernment was whether I would go at all. I really had to ask myself the hard question about why I would be doing this. Was it simply out of a need to do "something" to counter my feelings of outrage, especially about the Senate and House passing the Military Commissions Act of 2006? If so, what did this action have to do with that? And, more to the point, what was the purpose of this particular action? Cindy Sheehan's call to action letter had gone all over the place in terms of her stated aims for mounting a sit down strike in front of the White House during election week. I sensed it was coming out of her feelings of outrage and frustration too.

I could certainly understand that, but I needed more than frustration to justify my making the long trip to DC and using up all the money it would take for me to stay in a hotel for a week--five nights in DC and two nights in transit--not to mention the cost of gas and food.

Another concern was the lack of publicity about this event. I'd only seen it posted two places: on the web sites run by Michael Moore and the Gold Star Families for Peace. Even there I couldn't find any details about the plans for this action.

So I decided not to go to DC. The miserable weather at Saturday's Windsor rally and march didn't exactly help either. I saw I was a great big wimp when it came to cold rain, so what would I do if it rained all week in DC, which it certainly could do at this time of year? Nope, I would save my time, energy and money for something that filled me with passion and commitment, something that had my name on it. Like Israel's war on Lebanon had done. That time I didn't even have to think; I just knew I had to be there. And so I was.

The longer I'm in this movement for peace, the more I see that whatever action I take will only have value if I feel passionate about it. It's your passion that people respond to. That's how change is made. Just doing something because it's there to do is not enough, not if you want your actions to make a difference. And, as I've said recently, I want what I do to be effective, not just to make me feel better or let me blow off steam. I'll know what is mine to do because it will be something I can't NOT do. It's that simple.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

my zoo photos--the mammals 

Today I spent seven hours in a state of ecstacy. Now, for some that might be a religious or sexual term, but not for me. To me it just means any state of pure and utter delight. Gawd but I LOVE taking pictures!!!

The day started with a bad dream. In my dream I was on my photography class field trip to the zoo but I couldn't get the shutter to depress no matter how hard I tried. I was particularly disappointed that I missed a great picture of a turtle riding on a goose's back in a pond. Everyone else in the class knew what to do except me. I was clueless.

I woke up realizing I really did feel clueless about photography. And today was our class field trip to the zoo. Can you imagine how happy I was when Ed said, "You've got an extra hour--the clocks were set back last night." That gave me an hour to cram like I used to do before exams at school. You see, I've been faithful about going to the three-hour photography classes for the past three Tuesday nights. I've even taken detailed notes. But then I'd go out to take photos and instead of trying out apertures, ISOs, shutter speeds and such, I'd just keep my camera set to automatic and shoot away. Just like always.

So you can see why I was nervous about going on a real live photo shoot where I'd be expected to make my own settings. What I hadn't counted on was how helpful the teacher and my classmates would be with ideas, suggestions and information. And you know what? I DID IT!! I actually set my camera to AV and kept changing my aperture and ISO all day long. The coolest part is that it worked! My pictures turned out fine.

But the strangest thing happened. At one point, my shutter wouldn't depress, just like in my dream. Not only that, the aperture and shutter speed settings had turned to 000s in the LCD screen. Luckily the teacher was beside me, so I handed it to him to fix. Turned out I had twisted the lens so that it was partially disengaged. Now, learning how to fix THAT problem was worth every penny of the tuition!

Another wonderful happenstance was meeting a professional photographer named Joe. By then it was after 4 p.m. and Karen and I were the only ones from our class still at the zoo. We decided to go back to the glorious Butterfly House to finish out the day. This is a domed conservatory building where you go inside double doors and there you are among flowering bushes and trees with butterflies flying free. They even land on you.

That's how I met Joe. A butterfly landed on his camera so I offered to take a picture of it. Then we got to talking. He told me about his work as a professional photographer who sells his photos on a "one time" basis to ad firms, magazines and even National Geographic. Big stuff! Anyway, when I saw some of his photos in his camera's LCD screen, I was amazed at the vivid colors. You know what Joe did then? He offered to set my camera--and Karen's--to the same custom setting he uses to get those colors and clarity. Of course we said, "Yes, please!" He even let me try out his tele-converter so I could get more macro (close-up) shots of the butterflies.

Everything about this day was magic, even Joe.

After telling you all about the Butterfly House, I'm going to wait to show you those photos another day. Today I want to introduce you to the mammals:

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Canada-wide Day Of Action 


Windsor Rally - 12 noon
Charles Clark Square
200 Chatham Street East
March through downtown following the rally.

Join with thousands in cities from Newfoundland to British Columbia this Saturday in taking a stand for peace and the right to self-determination of the people of Afghanistan. Let us demand together that Canada get out of US/NATO’s war of aggression and occupation. It is NOT OUR WAR. Bring a flag or banner to identify your union or group. Or make a sign to carry. Come with your family and friends. Dress warmly and be prepared for the possibility of rain.

Rally speakers include Member of Parliament, Brian Masse, public school trustee Shelley Harding-Smith, religious, labour, political and community represenatives, Michigan peace/anti-war activist and blogger Patricia Lay-Dorsey and others.

Windsor Peace Coalition. Website:

It's always an honour to be invited to join my Canadian sisters and brothers at their peace rallies and marches across the river in Windsor, Ontario. Especially now when my country is so poorly thought of by our neighbors to the north and practically all the world's peoples. But somehow these folks in Windsor manage to differentiate between my country's leaders and the American people, especially those of us who actively resist the wars, torture and abuses our leaders visit on the world. And to be asked to speak, to be a voice of the American peace movement, is a special honour, one I always accept with humility and the hope that I can say what needs to be said.

Today was the Canada-wide Day of Action when the people came out to tell the Prime Minister, Mr. Stephen Harper, and Members of Parliament, that they have had enough of war. Like those of us here in the U.S. who say, "Bring our troops home from Iraq!", our Canadian friends say, "Bring our troops home from Afghanistan!" They know so well that Afghanistan, like Iraq, is an unwinnable war. Besides, it is George W. Bush's war, not Canada's.

When millions of people across Canada mounted huge demonstrations in late 2002 and early 2003 to protest Prime Minister Paul Martin's and Parliament's plans to commit Canadian soldiers to Bush's upcoming war on Iraq, a behind-the-scenes deal was struck with the White House. In essence the PM and MPs said, "We won't send our troops to Iraq but we will send them to fight your war in Afghanistan. That way American soldiers can be freed up in Afghanistan so they can be deployed to fight in Iraq." The advantage of this plan was two-fold: 1) They could keep Mr. Bush happy, a man you don't want to get on the wrong side of; and 2) They could get their own people off our backs by assuring them they wouldn't be sending Canadian troops to Iraq.

Since that time, Canadians who question the wisdom of having their soldiers fight and die in Afghanistan have found themselves being called "unpatriotic," "traitors to the cause," and "friends of the terrorists." Sound familiar? There are the same "Support our troops" magnets and bumper stickers in Canada as we see in the U.S. And, of course, the corporate media are the greatest cheerleaders of the "don't cut and run" school of thought.

It's obvious that the U.S. doesn't export democracy; it exports war propaganda techniques.

Anyway, it was good to stand on this blustery cold, rainy day with over 150-200 persons who obviously think for themselves and don't buy the propaganda. Young and old, women and men, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Atheist--together we raised our signs, banners and voices against the militarism that brings death not freedom. We cried, "Bring Our Troops Home Now!". And the two Members of Parliament--Brian Masse and Joe Comartin--who spoke at the rally, joined their voices to ours.

At this point I must apologize for not taking one single picture at today's event. To be honest, I was too wet and cold to take my hands out of my mittens, and I also didn't want to subject my expensive camera to the rain. I've asked Bob Chester, who was taking photos of the event, to email me some so I can post them here. When he does, you'll be the first to know.

So, yes, it was blustery, cold and rainy at the rally, but, as it turned out, we didn't know anything yet! It was during the 2 km march that we saw what late October can bring in the way of utterly miserable weather. In fact today I learned for the first time what a "wind chill factor" really means.

As you know if you're a regular reader, I've marched in untold numbers of demos in my time, but this one just about did me in. I found that, for me anyway, snow and freezing temps are easier to deal with than cold windy rain.

It was like this: The winds would gust over 30 mph throwing cold rain in your face, under your raingear--at least mine since my rain poncho kept blowing up and over to one side--drenching your gloves or mittens, shoes and socks--why didn't I wear my boots?--and turning umbrellas inside out with regularity.

For the first time EVER in my years as an activist, I couldn't take it anymore and three-quarters of the way into the march, I had to take cover in a warm restaurant. I must thank Vitto and Margaret for their special help along the route and then, in helping me find refuge at the Ramada Inn on Ouelette Avenue.

A cuppa hot tea helped--mainly to warm my freezing hands--as did the lovely spinach and feta cheese omelet to which Margaret treated me for lunch. In the restaurant, we met Tammy, a social worker from Toronto who has just moved to Windsor and is looking for a job, and a group of college students from Toledo, Ohio who asked us to fill out their questionnaire about when we think women should be sterilized against their will (NEVER in my opinion!).

I can't begin to describe how glorious my steaming hot shower felt after I'd gotten back home late this afternoon!

But even with the cold, wet conditions, I wouldn't have missed today's rally and march for anything. We need to stand together to put an end to wars. And the single best way we can support our troops--whether in Afghanistan and/or Iraq--is to BRING THEM HOME NOW!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Guess who's back? 

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now! reported on Thursday's program how the Bush administration is doing their best to sabotage the Nicaraguan elections so that Daniel Ortega doesn't win. Sound familiar? Even some of the old players are back, as in Oliver North. Yes, the same Ollie North who had his fingers all over the Iran-Contra affair under President Reagan.

Gosh, where is Bush finding these folks? We've recently learned that Henry Kissinger has been a regular visitor to the Oval Office to advise our president about how to handle the war on Iraq. James Baker is back as the head of a newly-formed committee to assess that disaster too. And now we hear that Oliver North is again involved in Nicaraguan affairs. According to Democracy Now!,

"On Tuesday Oliver North traveled to Nicaragua and said a victory by Ortega would be 'the worst thing' for the country. North is the former White House aide who was at the center of the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s when the Reagan administration secretly helped arm the Contras to fight Ortega and the Sandinistas."

Deja vu anyone?

You might find Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez's interviews with veteran Nicaraguan human rights defender Vilma Nunez and Katherine Hoyt, National Coordinator of the Nicaragua Network, interesting.

What would we do without Democracy Now!?

St. Louis Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers 4-2 in Game 5 of the World Series. They're the new world champs! 

You've gotta hand it to the St. Louis Cardinals--they outplayed the Tigers to win the World Series 4 games to 1. And they hadn't won the Series in 24 years. Congratulations to the Cards!

Now it's back to my non-TV life again. Finally. To be honest I only watched the first inning of tonight's game. After the Detroit Tigers' starting pitcher had walked three and thrown two wild pitches in that inning, I realized this just wasn't fun anymore, so I watched a mindless DVD instead. I did watch the top of the ninth when the Tiers actually had the go-ahead run at home plate, but they couldn't pull it off. This just wasn't their year, but it's a young club and my guess is they'll be back.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

seeing things from all sides 

Pointes for Peace 26th Peace Talk
A Jewish Perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Kenneth Knoppow, a Southfield attorney, has been working for Israeli-Palestinian peace for almost three decades. In 1977 he attended the national conference of Breira, the first national Jewish organization to advocate a two state solution, a position considered treasonous at the time. In 1980 he was on the first national board of New Jewish Agenda, a successor organization to Breira.

Knoppow also served as chair of the metro Detroit chapter's Mid-East Committee for many years. He coordinated the joining of several organizations into the Greater Detroit Chapter of the Jewish Coalition for Peace. He has met, dialogued, debated, and co-taught with people of very different backgrounds and perspectives.

Thursday, October 26 at 7:30 p.m.

I attended this talk tonight and found it interesting. Yes, there were portions of it that made me shake my head in disgust, but also parts that set my head nodding in agreement. And I learned new things, especially about what Knoppow called "the Jewish narrative," ie., how Jews view their place in the Middle East, historically and today. It helped me better understand the historical context out of which Israel's current attitudes and actions towards the Palestinians and Lebanese arise.

I'm glad I went.

And then I came home to find the Detroit Tigers ahead 2-0 in the 3rd inning of the 4th World Series game against the St. Louis Cardinals. But, alas, they couldn't hold onto their lead and lost the game 5-4. Now the Cards are up in the Series 3-1 and have one more game (tomorrow night) at home. It's going to tough for the Tigers to pull this out. Very tough. But as Ed said when Busch Stadium was going bonkers with this latest win, "At least we made someone happy!"

He's right. And St. Louis, like Detroit, can use a boost. They're having their economic problems too. I guess we're in a WIN/WIN situation. Whichever team wins the Series will bring joy to a depressed city, and that counts for a lot. I still hope it's Detroit, but if it's St. Louis instead, more power to them.

tech difficulties 

Blogger is experiencing technical difficulties at present so if I can't update my blog you'll know why.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The operation was a success! 

Another sunny day! And it was a good thing because this was the day the tree surgeon came to operate on our beloved maple tree.

This tree has been special to us since we moved into this house in 1971. She stands right in front of our house, nestled in the myrtle bed and protecting our front window from curious onlookers. We've done all we can to keep her healthy but these old silver maples don't live forever. Not that she'd died, but one of her three large branches had. In fact, it had been dead since last summer. So today was the day for the amputation.

Oh, we were SO fortunate to have a wonderful tree doctor attend to her and two excellent crew members to attend him. Manuel, the crew chief who did the actual cutting, was so respectful toward the tree (and towards us) that the operation was much less painful than I'd expected. In fact I found it so fascinating that I took photos throughout. And the final determination of her health was good. The fork that had to be removed was not hollow as we'd feared but quite solid. Well, a little spongy, but definitely OK. That was such a relief! So our now two-instead of-three-armed maple will hopefully continue to have a long and happy life.

Here is the first set of photos:

After this large job, there was a small one in the back. This younger, healthier silver maple just needed a bit of a trim. But the job was made more challenging because our neighbor feared their heavy truck would crack her asphalt driveway. So Manuel, whom his crew member (and brother-in-law) Dan assured me is the best climber in the business, proved it!

Here is the second set of photos for today:

Let me conclude by introducing you to Joe, Dan and the crew chief/tree surgeon/climber extraordinaire Manuel:

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

gratitude to my readers 

The sun. Finally! Thanks to those of you who sent it our way. Even though it was still chilly--in the low 40s F--the sun made a BIG difference.

Special thanks also go to readers who have taken the time to send me emails regarding my discernment about possibly engaging in civil resistance in DC during election week. Your views are helping me look at this from all angles, which is essential when considering such a serious course of action. Please feel free to contact me with any thoughts, questions and/or suggestions. My mind is still wide open on the subject.

Monday, October 23, 2006


I can't remember a greyer, colder October than the one we're having here in Detroit. The first week of the month was great--our anniversary on October 8th utterly gorgeous!-- but since then the sun has been a rare visitor. And the rich colors of autumn need sun to show off their splendor. So that's why you've seen few photos here of riotous reds, outrageous oranges and yummy yellows. We still have time but not much. If you have sun where you live, would you send some our way?

I continue with my discernment process about whether or not to join Cindy Sheehan and the Gold Star Families for Peace in front of the White House from November 4-9. Their "Sit Down for Peace & Justice" seems to have my name on it but I'm taking my time deciding for sure. I have received word that the Hotel Harrington has moved people around so as to free up the wheelchair-accessible room for me that week. I so appreciate their doing that; they're such wonderful people.

To be honest, my major discernment is whether or not to engage in civil resistance during this Gandhi-inspired sit-in. I have never done so before, but under the present circumstances it seems like an appropriate response to

--the disastrous war on and occupation of Iraq with 2799 American troops and 655,000 Iraqis dead and more dying every day. An ancient yet civilized country destroyed by our president's infantile need to pay back the two-bit dictator who insulted his Daddy.

--Quantanamo Bay and secret CIA prisons around the world where people are kept and tortured with no chance of appeal, trial or release.

--the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and its abdication of Congress's Constitutionally-imposed responsibility to offer checks and balances on the Executive branch, not to mention its legalizing torture and eliminating habeas corpus.

--the threat of yet another war started by this madman and his cronies, this one on Iran...or maybe Syria or maybe North Korea.

--the most secretive Adminstration in U.S. history, one that considers itself above any laws, accountable to no one, and with the power to do whatever it pleases.

--government surveillance of peace groups and the illegal wiretapping of phones, email & internet communications of millions of Americans, thus creating the most massive databases in history.

I can't bear to go on. The list is endless. My point being that it is time that I joined the courageous ones who have put their bodies where their principles lie.

But I'm not there yet, not decided, that is. I'm trying to research this decision as I research all decisions, with intentionality and forethought. I also want to respect my dear Ed's concerns. I'm hoping if I get enough information from people who have taken this path it might quell his fears. If we know ahead of time what to expect, it would help. The unknown is always more scary than the known.

I'll keep you posted as my discernment continues.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Tigers lose but Democrats plan to win! 

It may have been a dark day for the Detroit Tigers--the St. Louis Cardinals beat them 7-2 in Game 1 of the 2006 World Series--but it was an enlightening day for me. Enlightening and VERY encouraging!

In all my years of on-the-street activism NEVER have I had such positive responses to my sign! First I could see them read it--most people mouth the words as they read--then they'd laugh out loud, and finally they'd say "You got that right!" or "God bless you for being out here!" or "Can I have my picture taken with you?"

It never stopped. Person after person after person after person. I'd guess 200 people took a picture of me and my sign, and that's probably underestimating by a couple hundred or so.

I was out there for over five hours, scooting up and down Witherell Street beside Comerica Park, cruising nearby sidewalks where folks were waiting in line to get into local bars or waiting to try to buy tickets at the box office. I even parked out on Adams Street beside a barricade to catch people as they were coming in.

The media was out in full force and they liked my sign too. At least they took tons of pictures of it. The Christian Science Monitor, the Associated Press (AP), USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News were among those who came up to get my name, age and city.

I was interviewed at length by reporters from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Detroit News, but the Fox TV camerapersons avoided me like the plague. Fox TV is the one broadcasting the post-season games and, maybe I'm reading something into it that isn't there, but I don't think my message would be one that Rupert Murdock (the Fox TV News owner) would like to see broadcast worldwide. Some other TV camerapersons did take my picture but I have no idea where they were from.

Here are links to two photos galleries and two articles in which I appear:

Detroit News Sports Photo Gallery

Detroit Free Press Photo Gallery

"SIGHTS SOUNDS from detroit" in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Giddy fans upbeat despite loss" in the Detroit News

Yes, there were Republicans who weren't real fond of at least the bottom half of my sign, but except for one fellow who expressed outrage that I would use this occasion for my political purposes, everyone was good natured. Even Dick DeVos, the Republican challenger to our incumbent Democratic governor, Jennifer Granholm, came up and shook my hand. When I smiled and said, "I bet you at least like the TOP half of my sign," he laughed and said, "That's right."

You know what it reminded me of? When I'd had my "hair done" by Osadia during the Detroit Festival of the Arts last June. I'd scooted around for hours that day too, and had been met with laughter and photo-taking every place I'd gone. It really feels great to give people something to laugh at, especially in tough times like these. Now I know why comedians enjoy their jobs.

But my purpose yesterday was far from humorous. Yes, I'd tried to word my sign in a way that would engage baseball fans, but I wasn't out there for the Tigers: I was out there for our country. I hoped people would connect the dots and see how important it is for each of us to do everything we can to help turn our country around, and voting for a "regime change" in DC is one way to do it. I think they GOT it!

Speaking of "getting it," I found my assumption about ticketholders being rich Republicans was all wet. Of course I saw some of those too--you could tell by the way they dressed and the tight-lipped expressions on their faces after they'd read my sign--but the vast majority of Tiger fans were Just Plain Folks. Folks who obviously felt that seeing the Detroit Tigers in a World Series game for the first time in 22 years was worth paying a hefty amount for their tickets. There was an article in the Detroit Free Press that said the fans they'd talked to had paid between $175 and $450 for their ticket. And judging by the expressions on the faces of the tens of thousands of people I saw, everyone considered it worth every penny.

I also met out-of-towners who considered it worthwhile to lay down a goodly hunk of money (and time and energy) to be here. I met a couple of young men who had driven all the way from Winston Salem, North Carolina. I met a couple from South Carolina, and a number of folks from Washington, DC. One of them works at the National Democratic Headquarters so he was particularly pleased to see me there. Another was the father of a member of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi's staff. Of course she would become Speaker of the House if the Democrats get a majority of seats there. I also met a Democratic candidate for office in Ohio. He liked my sign too. Actually, I met lots of people from Ohio and most of them stopped to talk politics. It's looking good for their Senate race but we agreed that you can't trust the voting machines. Not anymore.

Lots of fans had orange-and-black painted faces, many made-up to look like tigers. Some children and adults were wearing full Tiger costumes, and thousands had on Detroit Tiger baseball hats, jackets or shirts. Some smart young entrepreneurs were selling "tiger tails" for $15 apiece. But probably the most remarkable costumes were not Tiger-related at all.

A couple had come with their bridemaids and groomsmen straight from their wedding to Comerica Park via stretch limo! They didn't have tickets to the game but I guess the groom is a big Tigers' fan and wanted to celebrate in a place he loved. He is also a Democrat as were those in his wedding party, so I was embraced like a long-lost auntie.

But they weren't the only ones who didn't have a ticket. Lots of folks were down there simply to party and partake in the excitement. In fact, after the game started there were still people coming into the area, and the lines to get into the nearby bars were longer than ever. Detroit was really hopping last night!

I was so busy I never stopped to eat all day. I also didn't take photos beyond the two I've already posted. There simply was no time! But here are a couple of pictures I asked passersby to take:

In front of the Spirit of Detroit statue at the Coleman Young City-County Building at Woodward & East Jefferson. The last time this statue was decked out like this was in 1984:

With some of the many fans who appreciated my sign:

Coming home I was listening to the Tigers' game on radio. Just about the time Rosen hit his two-run homer that put the Cards ahead 3-1 in the 3rd, I saw red-and-blue flashing lights in my rearview mirror. Uh Oh. As I pulled over, the lights stopped right behind me. Not a good sign.

The first thing I did was to hang my blue handicapped parking card from the rearview mirror, hoping that he/she would have pity on this poor old disabled woman. I admit it: I'm shameless! Then I opened the window, undid my seat belt, moved the driver's seat back and stood up so I could look for my wallet (with my driver's license) in the very crowded basket of Sassy my scooter. It's parked right behind the driver's seat in my wheelchair-accessible van.

A young policeofficer came up to the window and courteously introduced himself as Officer So-And-So. I asked, "Was I speeding?"

"Yes. I clocked you going 47 mph." This was in a 35 mph zone.

I smiled as engagingly as I know how and said, "I was listening to the Tigers and just wasn't thinking."

I got lucky. This nice young man gave me a warning instead of a ticket.

You know that old sexist maxim, "As rare as a pretty face in traffic court"? Well, last night it was rewritten to say, "As rare as a Tigers' fan in traffic court"!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The BIG day! 

Today is one of Detroit's biggest days in recent history: Game 1 of the World Series between our own Detroit Tigers and the St. Louis Cardinals.

I am getting ready to go downtown and join the crowds. Maybe my message is a bit different from most but I think that many Detroiters will relate. Of course, those who can afford to pay $1000s for a box seat or even $420 for a Standing Room ticket will probably not appreciate my sign at all. But I'll be there anyway, with a smile and a "Go Tigers!" on my lips.

Friday, October 20, 2006

upcoming actions 

If you're a regular reader of my blog you know that it can't be "business as usual" for me anymore. Not when I see my government swiftly becoming like the governments Bush & Co. have insisted need a "regime change." From what I can tell we've had a coup d'etat that no one acknowledges.

How could such a small group of individuals take over a functioning democracy and in six years turn it into an oligarchy, dictatorship or whatever you choose to call it? It certainly isn't a democracy, at least not the democracy our Founding Fathers established in 1776.

Anyway, I'm going ahead and doing what I need to do. That includes:

1) Taking the sign I made tonight--"Sweep the Cards AND the Republicans"--downtown tomorrow afternoon and stand around as folks converge on Comerica Park for Game 1 of the World Series between the Detroit Tigers and the St. Louis Cardinals. The game doesn't start until 7:30 p.m. but I know there will be loads of people hanging around for hours beforehand. It can't hurt to try to raise a little consciousness even in this Tigers' obsessed town!

2) The likelihood that I will be making another trip to DC within the next two weeks. Cindy Sheehan and the Gold Star Families for Peace are calling for people to join them in a Gandhi-inspired sit down strike--what they're calling "Sit Down for Peace and Justice"--in front of the White House from November 4-9. This action will coincide with the midterm elections and will show the American people's unhappiness with how our country is being run and what is being done in our name. I am waiting to hear back from the Hotel Harrington to see if one of their wheelchair-accessible rooms with the roll-in shower would be available for me that week. If it is, I plan to be there.

As I say, it is definitely NOT business as usual.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

a pantoum 

"It is a rare occasion when a President can sign a bill he knows will save American lives. I have that privilege this morning."

President George W. Bush as he signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 on October 17, 2006

Autumn skies hang heavy and grey
Squirrels cross streets slick with leaves
Last night's rain threatens to return
I cannot shake my sense of loss

Squirrels cross streets slick with leaves
Most reach the other side; some do not
I cannot shake my sense of loss
That which we treasure most is gone

Most reach the other side; some do not
Am I speaking of squirrels or my country?
That which we treasure most is gone
On October 17, 2006 America lost its soul

Am I speaking of squirrels or my country?
Last night's rain threatens to return
On October 17, 2006 America lost its soul
Autumn skies hang heavy and grey

Patricia Lay-Dorsey
Detroit, Michigan
October 19, 2006

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Why, Senator Stabenow, WHY? 

Today I found out that I am not the only Michigander who is outraged by our Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow's vote in favor of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Heather, shown above, is another. And her sister and brother "detainees" and even "George W. Bush" and "Dick Cheney" came out today to say, "Shame on Stabenow!"

There were probably 30-40 of us who took to the streets today in front of the Marriott Hotel in the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit. The Detroit Economic Club was sponsoring a debate between Senator Stabenow and her Republican challenger, Mike Bouchard, that was scheduled to start at noon. And the fact that there were only two candidates debating was another reason for our protest.

David Sole, the Green Party candidate for Senate--the ONLY anti-war candidate, I might add--had been excluded from the debate. David had filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission after the Detroit Economic Club did not respond to his request to be included in the debate. He called it a violation of FEC laws, but to no avail: the exclusion stood. Here is David Sole in the tweed jacket and tie:

Only one member of the press took any notice of us, but we knew we were doing what had to be done.

On my drive downtown this morning, I'd rehearsed what I might say if asked why I was out there. Well, no one asked but I'll tell you, my readers:

I am out here because I consider it my civic duty to hold Senator Stabenow accountable for her vote in favor of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. This Senate has passed countless bad bills in the past six years, but none as dangerous to our Constitution and system of government as this one.

By voting for the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Senator Stabenow--a Democrat--endorsed torture and CIA extraordinary renditions, eliminated habeas corpus for anyone said to be an "unlawful combatant," and gave retroactive immunity to the President and all those who have brazenly violated the U.S. War Crimes Act of 1996. But the most distressing aspect of this bill is how it legally expands presidential powers while eliminating the checks and balances upon which our democracy was founded.

The eleven Democratic senators who joined Senator Stabenow in voting for this bill are all running for re-election. I believe they voted on politics not principle. Well, I am out here today on principle NOT politics.

Here are some more photos from our demonstration:

Riverbend is OK! 

I know I'm not the only one who has gone to Riverbend's blog, Baghdad Burning, every day or so to see if she'd posted a new entry. Her last one had been dated August 5th, and those of us--millions, I suspect--who care about her and her family have been very anxious for their safety.

So it was with a deep sigh of relief that I found her new entry posted today. She titles it "The Lancet Study..." and it is written with the same mental acuity, human touch and critical analysis of the situation in Iraq and its relationship to Mr. Bush et. al. that we've come to expect from this extraordinary Iraqi woman.

The main thing is, they are safe! May they remain so.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

An excellent weekend 

It started with the Detroit Tigers winning--handily, I might add--their third American League playoff game against the Oakland A's on Friday afternoon.

Yes, I admit that I am a Fair Weather Fan, but, hey, I did my Tigers Fan Time for ten years (1974-84). During the 1984 season, I attended nineteen evening games by myself, in addition to numerous games where I was a guest of the Tigers' team doctor, Dr. Clarence Livinggood, in his third row box seats behind the Tiger's batting cage. I could and did keep a scorecard on every game, and could talk baseball with the best of 'em.

Until 2006, '84 had been the last year Detroit had made it to the World Series...and it had been '68 before that. In 1984 I was at every playoff and World Series home game except the final one when they won the World Series on Kirk Gibson's second towering homerun of the game. I'd tried to sneak into that game by dressing as I'd seen the volunteers dressing--in a navy blue blazer, white shirt and slacks--and entering through a special gate, but I'd been busted when they asked for my Volunteer ID card after I'd gotten in. Ended up watching it at home on our TV and running outside screaming and pounding on pots and pans after we'd won.

By the way, that was the year I made my very first sign. It was for the playoff game and had a very artistic--if I say so myself--drawing of our cartoon Detroit Tiger holding up a sign that said, "One More Win!" The national TV cameraperson liked it so much he broadcast it--with only my hands and eyes showing--to the nationwide audience. My signs have certainly evolved in subject matter over the years!

To complete this thread, on Saturday afternoon the Detroit Tigers pulled off a stunning win on Placido Polanco's three-run homer in the ninth inning with two outs to take the American League Title. Next Saturday they'll be playing either the St. Louis Cardinals or the New York Mets here at home in Game #1 of the 2006 World Series. GO TIGERS!!!

I didn't watch Saturday's game on TV because I was at a 4 p.m. Edgefest concert at the Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor. This four-day festival of avant, edgy jazz-related music is celebrating its tenth anniversary. According to Pierre Tanguay, a highly-respected jazz drummer and percussionist from Montreal with whom I talked later in the day, Ann Arbor's Edgefest is the only such festival in the United States. Apparently cities in Canada and Europe host music festivals that push the boundaries of jazz, but our own Dave Lynch is the only U.S producer/director who brings together artists from across the U.S., Canada and Europe to do so here at home. Lucky us!

Oliver Lake, saxophonist, and Mary Redhouse, vocalist, flutist & drummer, performed together in what can only be called a feast for the spirit, heart and ears. Their improvisations took us places where our imaginations soared and our minds soon gave up any attempts to figure out where we were going or what it all meant. If you closed your eyes, as I did throughout much of their concert, you often could not tell whether you were hearing Oliver's sax or Mary's voice. Her five-octave range combined with her unique ability to scat sing gave a multi-layered texture to Oliver's extraordinarily creative saxophone improvisations. I did take a few pictures with my eyes open.

The next concert was at 7 p.m. This was Lars Hollmer's Ann Arbor Global Home Project. Lars, a world-respected musician/composer from Sweden, played accordion and piano and directed nine other musicians who came together from Montreal and Michigan to form an ensemble for this particular place and time. All the songs were Lars' compositions and I wish I could describe them to you, but I can't. Trying to contain Lars' music within the narrow confines of language would be like trying to confine a gaggle of geese out on Lake Michigan. It just can't be done. All I can say is that this was a performance that will stay with me for life, one I am deeply grateful to have experienced. And, although Lars has built ensembles like this in Europe, it was the first time he had done so in America.

Let me introduce you to the musicians in Lars Hollmer's Ann Arbor Global Home Project: Lars Hollmer on accordion, melodica, vocals and piano; Andrew Bishop on saxophones and clarinet; Gabe Bolkosky on violin; Jean Derome on baritone sax and flute; Katri Ervamaa on cello; Normand Guilbeault on bass: Julien Labro on accordion; Ryan Mackstaller on guitar, mandolin and banjo; Steve Rush on keyboards and glockenspiel; Pierre Tanguay on what he calls his "toys & tools" but the program called percussion; Alex Trajano on drums.

Here are a few pictures I took while they performed:

My final concert of the evening was the 8 Bold Souls performing in the Kerrytown Shops across the street from the Kerrytown Concert House. This concert started at 9 p.m., and like most of today's Edgefest concerts was totally sold out. And I soon saw why!

Edward Wilkerson, Jr., the well-known Chicago saxophonist, originally formed this band ten years ago as a one-time thing, but the audience and critics' responses made it into a favorite Chicago institution. Again, this group is hard to categorize beyond saying they are a tight, musically excellent ensemble that goes wherever the spirit takes them. I heard jazz, gospel, African, Latin and just plain funky sounds coming from these seven men and one woman. It appeared that all except the tuba player were mature musicians who had obviously honed their craft over many years and in untold kinds of settings. I'd like to say something special about Mwata Bowden whose clarinet solo is being held up by Detroit's most avid jazz fans as the finest clarinet solo they have ever heard. I agree. It was unbelievable.

Let me introduce you to the 8 Bold Souls: Edward Wilkerson, Jr. on saxophones and clarinet; Harrison Bankhead on bass; Mwata Bowden on saxophones and clarinet; Robert Griffin, Jr. on trumpet and flugelhorn; Isaiah Jackson on trombone; Naomi Millender on cello; Dushun Moseley on drums; gerald Deon Powell on tuba.

Here are some pictures I took of them:

I got home Saturday night at midnight but didn't get to bed until 4 a.m. Don't even ask what I was doing all that time! I have no idea; it just happened.

On Sunday I was invited to a Windsor, Ontario gathering of peace and social activists for a potluck dinner celebration of Margaret Villamizar's 60th birthday. Margaret is one of the most remarkably faithful, informed, committed activists I've ever met on either side of the border, so this would be a celebration that was well deserved.

I'm always honored to be included in any events put on by these folks, especially since my country's president has made America such an international pariah. I'm often the only American in attendance and am treated with such respect and admiration for my small efforts to change things here at home.

Tonight, 88 year-old Lyle Dolyert, whom I've known since the 2000 teach-ins and protests when the Organization of American States (OAS) had their summit meeting in Windsor, said to me, "Knowing you keeps me from hating Americans." And Enver, Margaret and Pedro's global activist son, said as I left, "We need you in America!"

Margaret and the Windsor Peace Coalition have invited me to be one of the speakers at their rally on October 28th, the Pan-Canadian Day of Action to Get Canada out of Afghanistan and Bring All the Troops Home. As always, I am honored to represent the millions in America who do NOT agree with Mr. Bush and his policies of war and aggression.

A most touching part of the party was when Enver spoke of his mother's life and her uncompromising commitment to bring social, political and socialist changes to Canada. If I recall correctly, he said that Margaret has run for office in their Riding every election since the 1970s!

Here are pictures of Enver toasting his mother, and one of Margaret speaking later in the evening:

And finally here is 88 year-old Lyle Dolyert with his young and old friends:

I think now you can see why I titled this entry, "An excellent weekend." It was!

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