Windchime Walker

Windchime Walker <$BlogRSDUrl$>

Thursday, November 30, 2006

downtown Detroit 

It's 1 a.m. Wednesday night--OK, Thursday morning--and I'm in the process of putting up a new photo gallery on I'm calling it "downtown Detroit." I took all but one of the photos on Wednesday afternoon.

What an eye-opener! How could I have lived here for over 40 years yet not seen the architectural treasures this city possesses? Not until today, that is.

Anyway, I was in dog heaven this afternoon. Everyplace I looked there was something worth photographing. The fun part was composing the photos in my mind's eye, then trying to get my camera to give me what I wanted. In most cases, it worked. And I was delighted that I was comfortable changing settings depending on what I wanted and what the conditions were like. I have Pat Gloria, my Basic Photography instructor to thank for that.

By the way, tomorrow--OK, tonight--I'm starting another class with him. This one is called Travel Photography. Which is what I feel like I did today. Only it was my own city, not someone else's. The great thing about developing a photographer's eye is that everywhere you look you see something new. You can travel without leaving home.

It's now 3 a.m. and I've finally finished putting up my new photo gallery. Time for bed.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

on a roll... 

Sorry if my blog entries have been rather sparse and sporatic of late, but I have one thing and one thing only on my mind these days: photography! It is images that consume me, not words.

I stayed up until at least 3 a.m. four nights last week working on my photo galleries. I'm also learning from my sister and brother photographers who have galleries on this site. I've never been much for web surfing, but now I surf PBase with glee, finding superb photographers from across the globe, individuals who are discovering worlds within the world we all inhabit. When I'm not at the computer, I'm out with my camera. Yes, obsessed is not too strong a word.

I've been here before so it doesn't spook me. I know this level of intensity doesn't last, but while it does, I must ride the wave. This is what creativity is all about.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


This Thanksgiving holiday in the United States has not been as the Norman Rockwell painting portrayed it so many decades ago.

Yes, many of us have had wonderful visits with family and friends. We've cooked and eaten good food together. We've packed the malls with shoppers and crowded the roadways with cars. Airports have been mob scenes. Football games have been watched and Thanksgiving parades enjoyed in person and on TV.

But to many of us it has all had an air of unreality.

What is real is what is happening on the streets, in the mosques and in the neighborhoods of Iraq, specifically in Baghdad. The horrors of what my country has done to that country are unimaginable. Even calling it a civil war--which the Bush adminstration refuses to do--doesn't begin to describe what life is now like for the people of that city. Dante's Inferno comes closer to the truth.

So what should we do now? "We" being the occupying army that, no matter how good our intentions, just manages to further inflame all sides of the conflict by our very presence. As John Brown and Ray McGovern wrote in Wednesday's article on, "There simply are no good options."

Their assessment is shared by Rosa Brooks, a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, who concluded her article, "Iraq Is Broke Beyond Repair" with the following words:

For a long time, I remained ambivalent about whether the U.S. should pull out of Iraq. However foolish the invasion had been, however negligent the post-invasion planning had been, didn"t we have a responsibility to stay and make things right again?

But at this point, our presence is manifestly making things worse. Ask the Iraqis, who ought to know. In a poll released this week, 78% of Iraqis told researchers that the U.S. military presence is "provoking more conflict than it is preventing"; 71% said they want U.S. troops out within a year; 58% said they think inter-ethnic violence will diminish if the U.S. withdraws; and 61% think that a U.S. withdrawal will improve day-to-day security for average Iraqis. We should listen to them, this time.

And no, adding another 20,000 or 30,000 troops won't magically turn the tide. It's too little, too late. Adding another 200,000 to 300,000 troops might make a difference, but troops don't grow on trees. They grow in families, and this war has already damaged thousands of those.

We can withdraw quickly or slowly, all at once or in stages, but we should withdraw. If it makes anyone feel better, we can call it "strategic redeployment," and we can and should look for ongoing ways to use our financial resources and our technical expertise to help ordinary Iraqis and any legitimate, nonaggressive Iraqi government.

Before the war, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell told President Bush of the so-called Pottery Barn rule: "You break it, you own it." But Iraq is not a decorative dinner plate. We broke it, but we can't fix it, and we can never own it. All we can do now is leave and apologize for the terrible damage we've done.

It's hard to imagine our current president asking anyone's forgiveness for our "national transgressions," but this Thanksgiving season would be a pretty good time for him to start.

As this Thanksgiving holiday weekend draws to a close, it is time for us to turn our attention towards Iraq. It doesn't matter whether we are Democrats or Republicans; we are all human beings, members of the same species, individuals who want to live not die. The peace and security we want is the same that our sisters and brothers in Iraq want. We cannot sit back and watch their country slide ever more deeply into a hell-on-earth without doing or saying something. We have got to pull our American troops out of Iraq NOW.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

dinner with Pat & Emily 

Today was my first visit to Pat in her new apartment. We'd tried earlier but on that day the elevator wasn't working. This time everything was fine. Pat's daughter Emily--my goddess daughter--was there too which made it very special.

What a delight it was to see them all settled in and obviously happy in their new setting. After having lived in community for 13 years, simple things give Pat such pleasure. Having uninterrupted conversations with her daughter for one. And knowing the ingredients she'd bought to use in a particular recipe would still be there when she wanted them. So many things I take for granted.

As always, Pat cooked up a wonderfully creative vegetarian meal. Tonight it was homemade samosas, salad and fresh beets from Pat's garden. Just seeing Pat and Emily work together in the kitchen made me smile.

After dinner we got out the Motherpeace tarot cards to see what chapter we're each entering in our lives. As always, it was right on. Pat's card--the 7 of discs--advised patience during this time of gestation before the birth of something new. Mine--the 8 of wands--spoke of coming into a time of high energy when all my attention will be focused on a new endeavor (photography!!). Emily's--the Sun--was the most exciting since it is one of the Major Arcana. She is entering a time of manifestation and completion, a time when her true Self will shine. For a senior in college, I'm sure this sounded very good indeed.

Tomorrow Pat and I are going to the Capitol Theater in Windsor, Ontario to see a jazz legend on the guitar, Mundell Lowe, perform. Everyone says he is not to be missed. I'm sure it will be wonderful.

By the way, we've been having fabulous weather here in Detroit for this holiday weekend. Tonight it was still warm--54 degrees--when Eddie and I went for our walk beside the lake. As December approaches, days and nights like these are precious. Winter will soon be upon us.

Friday, November 24, 2006

fog, frost & photos 

It was the fog that got me up and out of bed early (for me) this morning. But once I got down to the lakefront park near our house and started taking photographs, it was the frost-covered grasses that kept me there.

By the way, I've been on a role since first putting up my Detroit Zoo and Summer Flora photo galleries on the PBase photo-sharing web site. I now have a People and a Thanksgiving photo gallery there too. It's like eating peanuts.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Liz and Frank Blumenthal invited Ed and me to join them at their home in Ann Arbor for Thanksgiving dinner. There were ten of us at the table: Liz and Frank, Ed and me, Liz's eldest daughter Deborah from Denver, her boyfriend Kyle, Liz's mother Trudy, her sister and brother-in-law Jackie and Larry, and Jorge, a friend from Ann Arbor.

It was such a lovely gathering. As Kyle said to Liz, "Your family is so functional! The dinner was delicious--even for a non-turkey-eater like me--and we sang before dessert to Ed's gentle touch at the piano. By the way, Eddie and Frankie have been friends since 1937 when they met in the third grade at Angell School in Ann Arbor! I'd say Frank is still Ed's best friend.

Of course I took photos. But I tried to be a bit creative. Let me know if you think I succeeded.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


There's nothing like family! Yesterday Ed and I were in great aunt and great uncle heaven with a visit from our nephew John, niece Kirsten and their daughters, 2 1/2 year-old Betty and 5 month-old Katie. We spent four wonderful hours together here at the house and then down at the playscape at the park.

How I wish they lived closer. Washington, DC is just too far away. But I can't get greedy; the time we had together yesterday was pure gift.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

our friend Pat 

These are pictures I took last night of our friend, Pat Kolon, as she read the magazine, "Nature's Best Photographs 2006." Her face says all that needs to be said about that!

But Pat's life deserves to be talked about...and celebrated. After 13 years living on staff at Detroit's Catholic Worker Day House, Pat recently moved into an apartment of her own. Her daughter, Emily, is a senior at the University of Michigan. Although she lives in Ann Arbor, Em comes to Detroit most weekends and sometimes stays with her Mom. Everything seems to be working out well, and I'm convinced it has done so because of Pat's grounded approach to this significant life change.

If you recall, Pat spent two weeks here at our house last August. At that time her heart was acting up, an indication that something was out of sync. She used those two weeks to rest and restore herself, but most importantly, she used it for discernment about her future. And what became clear was that it was time to move on to a new chapter. And so she did.

With trust, intentionality and patience, Pat allowed the process to unfold in its own time. And, you know, everything fit together just like the jigsaw puzzles Pat loves to put together...piece by piece by piece. She never lost her cool or tried to push the river. Such a model of right action! The zen approach to change.

May her life continue to flow like a river, bringing her joy and peace and fulfillment. She deserves every good thing.

Friday, November 17, 2006

passionate about photography 

If you've been a reader of either my blog (circa December 2003) or my web journal (circa February 2000), you know that I am prone to enthusiasms that border on the obsessive. Photography is the latest. I think, study, read, blog and dream about photography when I'm not out there doing it. Oh yes, I am hooked.

And that surprises me. I mean it isn't as if I haven't been taking photos for years. I bought my first digital camera in December 2000 and have taken hundreds of thousands of photos to accompany my web journal and blog entries for six years now. But that was different.

First of all, it was point-and-shoot. Not to disparage that way of taking photos, but it doesn't offer the creative choices and interesting challenges that setting your own aperture, ISO, white balance and shutter speed does. Secondly, my photos were in the service of my blog/journal entries. They were another way of archiving my day-to-day life. Yes, I would take photos of landscapes, seascapes and flowers, but that was because it was what I was seeing around me.

And now? Something else is going on. The photos have value to me in and of themselves. I am doing my best to develop my own unique eye, much as I've tried to find my own voice as a writer. And part of that process is learning to use the medium.

This reminds me of my years as a visual artist. I started out in 1976 painting landscapes, flowers and still lifes in watercolor. They looked pretty much like my teachers' except for my distinctive use of color. Bit by bit I got more serious, eventually entering a fine arts college here in Detroit. It was there that I explored lots of different techniques and media. Eventually I found my own unique way of saying what I needed to say. That was when I became an artist.

This process I'm going through with photography feels much the same. I have no idea where I am going with it, and I don't need to know. All I need to do is keep doing it, keep learning more about what is possible, and keep pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone. At present my photos are nice but they are much like everyone else's. I trust it will not always be that way. I trust if I keep following this path it will lead to someplace new. To my own pocket of creativity.

Last night I stayed up until 3:30 a.m. putting up my zoo photos on a photo sharing web site. Today I added what I call a "summer flora" gallery of photos, and now I'm hard at work preparing my photos of people for yet another gallery. You can go see what I'm up to by clicking on this link to While you're there be sure to explore some of the other galleries. There are amazing photos posted on this site!

Here are two portraits I took yesterday and today. The first is of my dear friends, Jeanne Peters and Peggy Case, and the second is of my sweetie, Ed. I used my 50mm/f 1.8 lens that allows me to take pictures in low light conditions without using a flash. I like the more natural colors it gives. I also used my new 1.4x tele-extender which allows me to take photos that zoom in closer.

Oh this is SO MUCH FUN!!!!!!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Six things I learned yesterday: 

1. Don't keep your scooter turned on while taking photos. A badly sprained finger from a fall after unintentionally hitting the accelerator lever keeps this lesson in the forefront of my mind today.

2. Using a tele-extender with a macro lens hampers the ability of auto-focus to function adequately. And if your eyesight isn't the greatest, manual focus doesn't necessarily give you the sharpest photos.

3. Serious photography and idle conversation are not compatible. I learned this yesterday when Clarence, a volunteer in the Detroit Zoo's butterfly house, kept asking me questions as I was trying to photograph the butterflies. Not one of those photos turned out.

4. Photography, for me, is a spiritual exercise. Clarence, by making it impossible, helped me see that if I want to photograph the outer characteristics of a creature--human or otherwise--I must allow its inner nature to touch me. And that requires my total energy and attention.

5. Living with someone who loves you is a wonderful thing, especially when you hurt. Ed was a dear help yesterday with my sprained finger.

6. My photos can be presented in many ways. In the image below, I placed one photo on top of another and framed them in black. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Questions for My Mother 

In looking for something in one of my journals, I came across this poem that I'd written back in the spring. The background is that my mother's parents were both non-speaking deaf persons. Mom and her two elder brothers were born hearing and grew up speaking both American Sign Language and verbal English.

I didn't understand your
language, yours and
your mother's. Words
punctuated by slaps
of your hands,

hands that flew in
front of your faces like
birds struggling to
escape their cages

of meaning. I don't
recall the gentle signs,
the ones that might
have brought you
closer together not

further apart. No, it
is the angry signs
I see and hear,
hands slapping
like screams.

Why did you fight so
much, you and your
mother? What were you
saying with your
slaps and her grunts?

Had it always been
like that between
you or had her old
age and your mid-life
frustrations removed

any semblance of love,
any tenderness or
understanding? Even so,
you taught my
sisters and me how to

say "I love you" in
your first language,
my pudgy hand
pointing first to
myself, then my two

hands crossed over
my heart, and finally
my finger pointing
directly at

Yes, now I remember.

Patricia Lay-Dorsey
April 15, 2006

Monday, November 13, 2006

Are we listening to that 13 year old's voice? 

The 13 year-old who in 2002 made such an impassioned plea for adults to make better choices would now be 17. How do you think he would feel after reading the following report?

US Is Top Purveyor on Weapons Sales List

By Bryan Bender
The Boston Globe
Monday 13 November 2006

Washington - The United States last year provided nearly half of the weapons sold to militaries in the developing world, as major arms sales to the most unstable regions - many already engaged in conflict - grew to the highest level in eight years, new US government figures show.

According to the annual assessment, the United States supplied $8.1 billion worth of weapons to developing countries in 2005 - 45.8 percent of the total and far more than second-ranked Russia with 15 percent and Britain with a little more than 13 percent.

Arms control specialists said the figures underscore how the largely unchecked arms trade to the developing world has become a major staple of the American weapons industry, even though introducing many of the weapons risks fueling conflicts rather than aiding long-term US interests.

The report was compiled by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

"We are at a point in history where many of these sales are not essential for the self-defense of these countries and the arms being sold continue to fuel conflicts and tensions in unstable areas," said Daryl G. Kimball , executive director of the nonpartisan Arms Control Association in Washington. "It doesn't make much sense over the long term." Read more...

Appeal from a 13 year old 

By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, Nov. 12-18. 2006

Delegates now meeting in Kenya at a UN Summit on Climate Change should revisit this appeal at the 2002 Earth Summit in Brazil:

"I'm Severn Suzuki speaking for the Environmental Children's organization. We're a group of twelve-and thirteen-year-olds from Canada. We raised all the money ourselves to come 6000 miles to tell you adults you must change your ways. I'm here to speak on behalf of the starving children around the world and for the countless animals dying across this planet.

I'm afraid to go out in the sun now because of the holes in the ozone. I'm afraid to breathe the air because I don't know what chemicals are in it. I used to go fishing in Vancouver with my dad until a few years ago we found the fish full of cancers.

In my life, I have dreamt of seeing the great herds of wild animals, jungles and rainforests full of birds and butterflies, but now I wonder if they will even exist for my children to see.

I'm only a child and I don't have all the solutions, but I want you to realize, neither do you!

You don't know how to fix the holes in our ozone layer.
You don't know how to bring salmon back up a dead stream.
You don't know how to bring back an animal now extinct.
And you can't bring back forests that once grew where there is now desert.

If you don't know how to fix it, please stop breaking it!

You may be delegates of your governments, business people, organizers, reporters or politicians - but really you are mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and all of you are somebody's child.

I'm only a child. Yet I know we are all part of a family, five billion strong, in fact, 30 million species strong and we all share the same air, water and soil. Borders and governments will never change that. I'm only a child. Yet I know we're all in this together and should act as one single world towards one single goal. In my anger I'm not blind, and in my fear I'm not afraid to tell the world how I feel.

In my country we make so much waste, we buy and throw away, and yet northern countries will not share with the needy. Even when we have more than enough, we are afraid to lose some of our wealth, afraid to share.

In Canada, we live the privileged life, with plenty of food, water and shelter. We have watches, bicycles, computers and TV sets. Two days ago here in Brazil we were shocked when we spent some time with children living on the streets. One child told us: 'I wish I was rich. If I were, I would give all the street children food, clothes, medicine, shelter and love and affection.'

If a child on the street who has nothing is willing to share, why are we who have everything still so greedy? I can't stop thinking that these children are my age, that it makes a tremendous difference where you are born, that I could be one of those children living in the favellas of Rio. I could be a child starving in Somalia, a victim of war in the Middle East or a beggar in India.

I'm only a child yet I know if all the money spent on war was spent on ending poverty and finding environmental answers, what a wonderful place this earth would be!

You teach us to behave in the world. Not to fight with others, to work things out, to respect others, to clean up our mess, not to hurt other creatures, to share, to not be greedy

Then why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do?

Parents should be able to comfort their children by saying 'Everything's going to be alright.' 'We're doing the best we can' and 'It's not the end of the world.' But I don't think you can say that to us any more. My father always says 'You are what you do, not what you say.' Well, what you do makes me cry at night. You grownups say you love us. Please make your actions reflect your words."

Sunday, November 12, 2006

such a short honeymoon 

I just wanted to spend this quiet Sunday savoring last night's jazz, reading the photography magazine I'd bought last week, and taking care of computer-type business like deleting some of my huge photo files to make room for more. My lovely chilled-out state lasted until I decided to check the Al-Jazeerah web site to read the latest global news.

I guess Mr. Bush just didn't get it. I mean what the American people were trying to say with their votes on Tuesday. He just keeps making our country look like stooges for militaristic world leaders like Ehud Olmert of Israel.

According to Al-Jazeerah, on Saturday, the U.S. "used its veto to halt the draft resolution, sponsored by the Gulf state of Qatar, that criticised the Israeli tank shelling of a home in Beit Hanoun on Wednesday in which seven children and four women were killed as they slept...John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN, earlier described the text of the resolution as 'unbalanced' and 'biased against Israel and politically motivated'."


"Biased...and politically motivated"?

The pot is calling the kettle black.

By the way, this is the same John Bolton whose nomination the Senate has refused to confirm TWICE in the past year and a half. But again, Mr. Bush just doesn't get it.

On Thursday he re-submitted John Bolton's name as US ambassador to the UN to the lame-duck Senate and urged them to confirm him before they leave office. Actually, I guess Bush does get it. He knows that if he waits until the 110th Congress convenes in January, there's not a snowball's chance in hell that this arrogant bully would be confirmed.

The only way Bolton got to the UN in the first place was that Mr. Bush made a "recess appointment" after the Senate had failed to confirm his appointment in the summer of 2005. That recess appointment will come due when the Congress reconvenes in January 2007.

I sure hope the Democrats and moderate Republicans in the 109th Congress stand together to block Bolton's nomination. Especially now. The last thing the US needs is Bolton as our face and voice in the UN. What we need is a diplomat who can listen as well as speak. Someone who can begin to heal the torn fabric of our international reputation, and show the world that we're not monsters. John Bolton is part of the problem not the solution. We need him out of the UN!

And we also need to get out of Israel's pocket. They need to be held accountable for what is looking more and more like genocide of Palestinians on the Gaza Strip. Over 450 persons, many of them women and children, have been killed there since the end of June. And it just keeps getting worse.

Tomorrow Ehud Olmert will meet with George W. Bush at the White House. The primary focus of their talks? Iran's nuclear program. Well, don't we know what Olmert and Bush will say about that: nuke 'em!

Will 2008 never come???!!!

another wonderful night of jazz 

The young man at the piano is Cyrus Chestnut, a shining star on the jazz scene. I heard him live last night at The Firefly Club in Ann Arbor and am still shaking my head in wonder at his talent, heart and unique sound. Absolutely stunning! No flourishes. No trills or show-off techniques. Simply pure music coming from a heart brimming with love. A true original. Check out his web site to hear for yourself. Give yourself a treat by buying one or more of his CDs. But always keep in mind that there's nothing like experiencing him or any other great musician LIVE. Let's support our national treasures!

By the way, the trio was comprised of Cyrus on piano, Neal Smith on drums, and Ben Williams on bass. Now, Neal--who has his own uniquely wonderful sound on the drums--was touring with Cyrus, but Ben Williams? A senior Jazz Students and Music Education major at Michigan State University! The audience didn't know this until the final number of the two-set gig, and when Cyrus said it, you could hear a collective intake of breath from everyone there. This young man was superb! He more than held his own with these two experienced professional musicians; he shone in his own right. And Cyrus gave Ben lots of solos so he could show us who he was and what he can do. I suspect we'll be looking back and saying we "knew him when."

Oh yes, jazz is alive and well in the 21st century!

*Technical note: I used my new Canon 50mm/f 1.8 lens to take these pictures without a flash. To try it out before I left home, I took photos of Eddie at our piano under low light conditions. It amazes me that a wide aperture and slow shutter speed can make such a difference. Of course, if you're not using a tripod, the trick is to keep your camera from shaking. For me, this is the advantage of a digital as opposed to a film camera. With a digital, I can take dozens of pictures in the hopes of getting one good one...and it doesn't cost me a penny to "develop" them. Let's hear it for digital technology!

Here's my Eddie at the piano. "Tea For Two" anyone?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

more on Robert Gates & the Senate confirmation process 

Today Ray McGovern added significant observations to a revised edition of the article I linked to yesterday. He calls this article "Robert Gates-Gate" and you can find it on I find his additions so significant that I'm posting them here:

...Confirming Gates Must Not Be a Slam Dunk

There are early indications that Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), ranking Democrat on the Armed Forces Committee, intends to acquiesce in the maneuvering of the White House's cat's paw chairman of that committee, Sen. John Warner (R, VA), to rush the nomination through the lame-duck Senate before a new Congress is in place. At times in the past Levin has shown considerable courage, but so many years in the minority seem to have dulled his edge, prompting him to acquiesce in compromises to which he would have been allergic in the past--the unsavory deal with Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) on the rights of "detainees," for example. Not to mention Levin's sudden cave-in, in the aftermath of 9/11, on funding for the National Missile Defense program, which he earlier recognized as obscenely expensive, of unproven reliability, and of dubious utility given the changing nature of the threats to our security.

Whether Levin steps up to the plate on Gates will be an early indication of whether the election has implanted any spine into Democrats--whether they still have it in them to act like winners. Levin has had a running dispute with the Bush administration regarding what he calls a lack of candor (the correct word is "lies") in sworn testimony on Iraq. If he allows the Gates nomination to sail through without a thorough investigation of Gates' record, he will be giving a nihil obstat to the practice of no-fault dissembling before Congress.

In 1991, Levin joined 30 other Senators in voting against Gates' confirmation as CIA director because Gates was a good deal less than candid about his role in Iran-Contra and unconvincing in his denials that he had politicized intelligence. But Levin said this week that he wanted to give Gates a "fair and fresh look; a lot of time has passed."

Fair enough. If Levin wants to know what has happened in the interim, he can start with the fresh, documentary evidence adduced in award-winning investigative reporter Robert Parry's recent article, "The Secret World of Robert Gates". Parry's article contains unique and highly damaging information on Gates' role in the original "October Surprise"--the successful Republican effort to prevent the release of the 52 American hostages imprisoned for 14 months in the US embassy in Tehran until Ronald Reagan had won the election in 1980--and on Gates' involvement in the illegal sale of weapons, including cluster bombs to Iraq in the early eighties.

Another excellent source of updated information on Gates' involvement in the secret arming of Saddam Hussein (yes, the same Saddam) and the Iran-Contra scandal is the transcript of an interview of Robert Parry and former CIA analyst Mel Goodman on Democracy Now, November 9th.

Gates knew about many of Oliver North's illegal activities, but under oath, he just couldn’t remember. And Gates has been able to escape close scrutiny of his own involvement in extralegal and illegal activities largely because there are far too few journalists with the enterprise and courage of Robert Parry. While all the above-mentioned escapades are significantly damaging, the corruption of intelligence should be placed front and center, given the huge role this played in 2002 in deceiving Congress in to voting for an unnecessary war.

Whether or not Levin is fully aware of it, Gates is the archetypal intelligence fixer, employing all the tricks of that dishonorable trade--including memory loss, when caught. I find myself wondering if Levin still has it in him to stand up and say, "Never Again." Even before he formally becomes chair of Armed Services, Levin has the power to require a serious vetting of Gates' past behavior and to make "Never Again" stick.

At a hearing on his first (abortive) nomination to be CIA director in 1987, Gates denied that he had tailored intelligence to please his superiors, adding, "Sycophants can only rise to a certain level." Whether that was an unintentionally prophetic observation or not now depends largely on Carl Levin and his newly empowered, but apparently not yet emboldened, fellow Democrats.


Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. He was a CIA analyst from 1963 to 1990, and in 2003 co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Friday, November 10, 2006

An open letter to the Democratic members of the 110th Congress 

Congratulations on being part of an historic election in American history! We voters welcome you to positions of leadership, and trust that you will continue to listen to our voices even after our votes have been counted.

It should be clear to you that the landslide victory of the Democratic Congressional candidates reflects a wrenching cry from the American people. That cry is for CHANGE!

We want our troops brought home from Iraq. We want our elected officials to act in ethical and responsible ways as they enact laws and investigate abuses and infringements on our Constitutional form of government. Speaking of the Constitution, we want it restored to its former place as the ultimate Law under which our government operates. We want the Bill of Rights back too, and habeas corpus. And we don't want to be a nation that tortures prisoners or spies on its own people.

Oh, there is so much to be done by this 110th Congress.

And one of the main reasons you Democrats will be sitting in positions of power in both the House and the Senate is that we expect you to act as a check and balance on the Executive branch as our Constitution instructs you to do. We're sick up to here with a rubber-stamp Congress.

So we must ask you a few questions just to clear the air.

Like what was the new Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi thinking when she was quoted as saying "Impeachment is off the table"?

Whose table? Not mine. Not the majority of the American people's. And it certainly shouldn't be off the table of the 110th Congress either. Let's not confuse bipartisanship with not holding President George W. Bush accountable for his obviously impeachable offenses, including those of his vice-president, Mr. Cheney.

A six-year lack of presidential accountability is why we voted the Republicans out. Don't forget that in your excitement over regaining the majority in the House and the Senate, my dear Democratic leaders. If you "make nice" and let the Bush administration get away with their six-year destruction of our Constitution, international reputation and rule of law, you too will be run out of town in two short years.

Listen to our voices of outrage! Our votes should speak loud and clear that we are not going to stand by and let a small group of men and one woman bring down our country. We say, "Take it back! Show courage and let truth prevail."

We're done with making nice. Now is the time to clean up our houses of government, starting with the White House.

And don't forget K Street while you're at it. Get the lobbyists OUT of government. We didn't elect them, and we refuse to allow those we DID elect to be wined and dined out of their Constitutionally-mandated responsibility to serve the common good rather than the vested interests of corporate and foreign lobbyists.

One more thing.

Sure it's great to have Rummy gone, but Robert Gates isn't much better. Maybe he's not as abrasive but look at his history before you confirm yet another bad nomination by Mr. Bush.

Gates was smack in the middle of President Reagan's Iran-Contra scandal, not to mention how he consistently skewed intelligence to please the White House policymakers during his years at the CIA. There was so much distrust of Gates when he was first nominated as director of the CIA in 1987 that his name was withdrawn before it ever came to a vote in the Senate. Then in 1991 he was nominated again. This time the Senate confirmed him but "he attracted 31 negative votes, more than all of the votes against all of the CIA directors in history going back to 1947."

Even in these days of electoral celebration, voices are being raised objecting to Gates' suitability as the new Secretary of the Department of Defense. Check out these links before you confirm yet another incompetent, untrustworthy Bush appointee:

"The Cheney-Gates Cabal" by Ray McGovern, whose aquaintance with Robert Gates goes back 36 years to when Gates was a journeyman analyst in the CIA's Soviet Foreign Policy branch led by McGovern.

"Wrong Man to Replace Rumsfeld" by former CIA analyst Melvin Goodman who testified before the Senate in 1991 against the nomination of Robert Gates to be Director of CIA.

"Defense Secretary Nominee Robert Gates Tied to Iran-Contra Scandal and the Secret Arming of Saddam Hussein". Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! interview Melvin Goodman and Robert Parry, veteran investigative journalist and editor of

"Walking Through the Gates of a Well-Laid Trap" by Sean Gonsalves

Yes, we feel great about having Democratic majorities in the House and Senate...but only if you do your job of checking and balancing an out-of-control Executive branch. Please don't let us down.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

a wonderful day 

This morning I attended a meeting to discuss the possibility of Pointes For Peace sponsoring a townhall-type gathering for people to discuss their thoughts on peace in the Middle East. This idea had come after the second in a series of two Pointes for Peace talks about the Israeli-Arab conflict in the Middle East.

In September, the Lebanese Consul-General for our region had spoken about Israel's war on Lebanon, and in October, a local lawyer who identifies as a leftist Zionist had given his perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But as we tried to determine how best to organize an open discussion of such an emotionally charged topic, concern was raised over the likelihood that participants would use it as forum simply to express their own opinions rather than as an opportunity to listen to and learn from one another.

This led me to share with the group my experiences in DC last July and August of entering into nonviolent dialogue with persons who held very different views from mine. I told them of the workshop on "Nonviolent Dialogue for Activists" that I've been invited to give at the state Pax Christi conference in Lansing, Michigan next April. They were so interested that they ended up asking me to be the speaker at April's Pointes for Peace talk too. My talk there will be called "Nonviolent Dialogue as a Tool for Change." And two of the women present expressed interest in having me give a workshop to the Detroit Area Theosophical Society.

I am gratified that what I experienced and learned during those 18 days of solitary vigil in front of the White House can now be shared with a larger community of peace-minded people. This is just what I'd hoped would happen. Now I need to continue to grow into those learnings before I can share them with others.

After this meeting, I joined my dear friends Casey and Jeanne for lunch at Inn Seasons in Royal Oak, one of the Detroit area's best vegetarian restaurants. It was so good to see them and to hear their stories. Since I'm no longer singing with the Great Lakes Gaia group, I'm missing being with my friends. I need to make more dates like this so we can keep up.

Inn Seasons is just a few miles from the zoo, so quess where I went next? Pretty easy to guess, actually, especially on this gorgeous sunny day when the temps hit 70 degrees F. I spent the next two hours in photographer's heaven. I wasn't surprised to run into Karen, a classmate from the photography class, over by her beloved snow monkeys.

Here are some of today's photos:

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

the emotional ramifications of Election 2006 

Do you find yourself smiling for no reason? Feeling like you're walking on air? Whistling happy tunes under your breath? Having more energy than you've had in months or even years? Finding that elusive friend, hope, sitting on your shoulder?

I feel like I've come out from under a dark cloud into the sun. Now I see how depressed I've been by all that's been going on. I think what pushed me over the edge was when the House and Senate passed that monstrous Military Commissions Act of 2006. The knowledge that my Congress had legalized torture, eliminated habeas corpus, had granted the folks in the White House and Pentagon immunity for all the war crimes they'd committed since 2001, and given the current president the legal right to throw anyone in prison for the rest of their lives with no appeal or due process of law...well, that just about did me in. I've not been myself since that day.

And now? I'm myself again. I am happy, hopeful and feel lighter and brighter than I've felt in a long, long time. As I wrote a friend in an email early this morning, I can finally see the light at the end of what has been a seemingly endless and dreadfully dark tunnel. Not that the Democrats are going to be perfect. They won't. But now there's a chance we can begin digging ourselves out of this mass grave into which Mr. Bush and his policies have thrown us as a nation.

You know, having people commit torture in your name wounds the deepest part of your inner being. You can say you don't agree, you can even do everything you can to stop it, but it still gets to you. Don't you feel our nation has been in a deep, dark depression ever since we saw those first horrific photos coming out of Abu Ghraib?

Well, that's still happening, even today. But hopefully it won't go on much longer. Hopefully this 110th Congress will say, "No! The United States of America is NOT a country that tortures prisoners. We abide by the Geneva Conventions and international rules of law. We treat all prisoners humanely."

Personally I have seen such a difference in myself today. I swam my laps tonight with energy and enthusiasm. I could focus my mind on my photography and try different camera settings with confidence. Even the most simple objects looked beautiful. As I wrote earlier, I found myself singing as I scooted down the street. When I finally got to bed early this morning, I fell asleep right away and slept soundly instead of tossing and turning like I've been doing lately.

If you want to see what happened yesterday in a graphic way, click on this link to a New York Times web page. There you can see color-coded maps of any state you choose. These maps compare the Senate races county by county in Elections 2004 and 2006. The shifts between red and blue will take your breath away.

Oh, how I LOVE change, especially when it is change for the better.

AP projects Democrat Jim Webb has taken Virginia's Senate race, giving the Democrats a majority in the Senate too! 

Just in from the New York Times online:

November 8, 2006
New York Times

Dems Complete Election Sweep of Congress

Filed at 10:00 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democrats completed an improbable double-barreled election sweep of Congress on Wednesday, taking control of the Senate with a victory in Virginia as they padded their day-old majority in the House.

''The days of the do-nothing Congress are over,'' declared Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, in line to become majority leader, adding that Americans spoke ''clearly and decisively in favor of Democrats leading this country in a new direction.''

Jim Webb's victory over Sen. George Allen in Virginia assured Democrats of 51 seats when the Senate convenes in January. That marked a gain of six in midterm elections in which the war in Iraq and President Bush were major issues.

Earlier, State Sen. Jon Tester triumphed over Republican Sen. Conrad Burns in a long, late count in Montana.

With a handful of House races too close to call, Democrats had gained 28 seats, enough to regain the majority after 12 years of Republican rule and place Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California in line to become the first female speaker in history.

''It was a thumping,'' Bush conceded at the White House. ''It's clear the Democrat Party had a good night.''

Allen's campaign issued a statement noting that state officials are conducting a canvass of the votes cast in Tuesday's balloting.

''At the conclusion of those efforts, Senator George Allen plans to make a statement regarding the outcome,'' it said.

The Senate had teetered at 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans for most of Wednesday, with Virginia hanging in the balance. Webb's victory ended Republican hopes of eking out a 50-50 split, with Vice President Dick Cheney wielding tie-breaking authority.

The Associated Press contacted election officials in all 134 localities in Virginia where voting occurred, obtaining updated numbers Wednesday. About half the localities said they had completed their postelection canvassing and nearly all had counted outstanding absentees. Most were expected to be finished by Friday.

The new AP count showed Webb with 1,172,538 votes and Allen with 1,165,302, a difference of 7,236. Virginia has had two statewide vote recounts in modern history, but both resulted in vote changes of no more than a few hundred votes.

It had been clear for weeks leading up to the election that Democrats were strongly positioned to challenge Republicans for House control.

But Democrats began the year with fewer seats than at any time since Herbert Hoover occupied the White House. Even Reid, the party leader, mused aloud at one point that it might take a miracle to capture Senate control.

''From changing course in Iraq to raising the minimum wage to fixing the health care crisis to making this country energy independent, we're ready to get to work,'' he said in a statement late Wednesday.

Earlier, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in line to become the next minority leader, said: ''In the Senate, the minority is never irrelevant unless it falls down into the very small numbers. I don't think, as a practical matter, it's going to make a whole lot of difference in the Senate, being at 49.''

Webb's win capped a banner election year for Democrats, who benefited from the voters' desire to issue a searing rebuke of the status quo.

The president, who spoke of spending his political capital after his successful re-election two years ago, acknowledged, ''As the head of the Republican Party, I share a large part of the responsibility.''

With power on Capitol Hill tilting, Bush faced the reality of at least half of Congress in the opposition's hands for the final two years of his presidency. He announced that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld would step down as Democrats have demanded.

The war in Iraq, scandals in Congress and declining support for Bush and Republicans on Capitol Hill defined the battle for House and Senate control, with the public embracing the Democrats' call for change to end a decade of one-party rule in Washington.

''This new Democratic majority has heard the voices of the American people,'' said Pelosi, the California Democrat all but certain to become the nation's first female House speaker, adding that Americans placed their trust in Democrats. ''We will honor that trust. We will not disappoint.''

With the GOP booted from power, lame-duck Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., announced he will not run for leader of House Republicans when Democrats take control in January.

''Obviously I wish my party had won,'' Hastert said in a statement that added he intends to return to the ''full-time task'' of representing his Illinois constituents.

In the Senate, Democrats soundly defeated Republicans in Ohio, Missouri, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania. The battle for Senate power came down to Virginia and Montana -- and vote counts for those stretched into Wednesday.

By midday, Tester rode to victory over Burns, a three-term senator whose campaign was shadowed by a series of missteps and his ties to Jack Abramoff, the disgraced lobbyist at the center of an influence-peddling investigation.

''One hundred thousand miles and 15 hours later, here we did it,'' said Tester, an organic farmer with a flattop haircut who lost three fingers in a meat grinder.

In Virginia, Webb, a former Navy secretary under Ronald Reagan, had declared victory, and began to set a transition team in motion and calling himself senator-elect. Allen, a swaggering cowboy boot-wearing former Virginia governor who favors football metaphors, refused to concede and waited to make a move until after the completion of the county-by-county canvassing.

Overall, Republicans lost ground with swing voters such as Catholics, independents, Hispanics and suburbanites, according to exit polls conducted for the AP and the television networks. The GOP held its conservative base, but Democrats made inroads with moderates.

''We came to Washington to change government and government changed us,'' lamented Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., his eye on the next election in 2008. ''We departed rather tragically from our conservative principles.''

In the House, Democrats won 230 seats and led in two races, while Republicans won 196 seats and led in seven races. If current trends hold, Democrats would have a 232-203 majority.

Without losing any seats of their own, Democrats captured 28 GOP-held seats. The party won in every region of the country and hoped to strengthen their majority by besting Republican incumbents in races that were too close to call.

Putting another notch in the Democratic column on Wednesday, Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, a freshman, lost his re-election bid to Democrat Patrick Murphy, a decorated Iraq war veteran, by about 1,500 votes.

In Ohio, Rep. Deborah Pryce, the No. 4-ranking Republican in the House, struggled to fend off a fierce challenge from Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy in Columbus, and GOP Rep. Jean Schmidt, who famously suggested that a decorated Marine veteran of Vietnam named John Murtha was a coward, faced the possibility of defeat in her southern Ohio district. Both were leading but the final tallies were complicated by provisional and absentee ballots.

Republican incumbents also were slightly ahead in four other states but those margins were too tight to declare a winner. They were GOP Reps. Heather Wilson in New Mexico, Robin Hayes in North Carolina, Dave Reichart in Washington and Barbara Cubin in Wyoming.

In Connecticut, Democrat Joe Courtney sought to hang on to a minuscule 170-vote lead over Rep. Rob Simmons in a race that appeared headed for an automatic recount.

Elsewhere, Texas GOP Rep. Henry Bonilla was headed to a December runoff against Democrat Ciro Rodriguez because the congressman got only 48 percent of the vote in an eight-candidate field. He needed 50 percent to avoid a runoff.

Aside from gains in Congress, Democrats took 20 of 36 governors' races to give them a majority of top state jobs -- 28 -- for the first time in a dozen years. Arkansas, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Ohio went into the Democratic column.

Democrats also gained a decisive edge in state legislatures, taking control of several and solidifying their hold on others. With the wins, Democrats will be in a better position to shape state policy agendas and will play a key role in drawing congressional districts.


EDITOR'S NOTE -- Liz Sidoti reported from Washington and Bob Lewis from Richmond, Va.

a day for singing 

For the first time in ever so long I sang as I scooted along the "singing street." Just haven't felt much like singing--except at the piano with Ed--what with all the bad news coming out of Iraq, Afghanistan, Washington, DC, Darfur and oh so many places around the world. But today? Today was made for singing!

A landslide (228 Democats & 196 Republicans with 11 still undecided) victory for Democrats in the House races. At least a tie in the Senate with the very real possibility of a Democratic majority if Virginia goes to Jim Webb. A majority of Democratic governors for the first time since the 1990s. The first Muslim (Keith Ellison, D-MN) elected to the House. A self-proclaimed socialist (Bernie Sanders, I-VT) elected to the Senate. The second African-American in American history to be elected governor (Deval Patrick of Massachusetts).

Here in Michigan, my only real disapointment was that the ban on affirmative action passed. But I was grateful to read that Mary Sue Coleman, the president of the University of Michigan, says she is exploring legal options because she believes the ban is unlawful, particularly as it relates to higher education. She will ask the courts to allow U-M to keep using its admission system for now until the question is decided.

I was also disappointed that ballot initiatives to ban same sex marriage passed in seven states. But Arizona surprised and delighted me by rejecting such a proposal, even as they agreed to anti-immigrant "English only" in the state.

In all six states that had a raise in the minimum wage on the ballot, it passed. And South Dakota voters said they did NOT agree with their legislature's strict ban on abortions. They voted against a ballot initation that would outlaw all abortions in the state. Missouri didn't take kindly to Rush Limbaugh's mocking Michael Fox's Parkinsonian tremors on that TV ad and voted to allow stem cell research within their state.

All in all, a VERY satisfying midterm election! One that shows a sesmic shift in the country's attitudes towards the Republicans, in particular Mr. Bush, his people and policies. For this ended up being a referendum on the Iraq war, GOP corruption, uninsured Americans, and an economy that Mr. Bush says is going swimmingly and the person on the street says is doing her/him in. I sense people were not so much voting FOR the Democrats, as voting AGAINST the Republicans.

But whatever their reasons, as my friend Jeff said today, now we have the wind at our backs.

And Rummy is out! Oh yes, this is a day for singing.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

WE DID IT!!!!!! 

It's 11:50 p.m. and the word is in! The Democrats have taken the House majority!!!!!!!!!!

I can't begin to say how I feel about this news. Not that I trust the Democrats. I don't. But I do trust individual Democrats like Detroit's U.S. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. who will now be the chair of the House Judiciary Committee. John has been a consistent critic of the Bush administration and its abuses, war crimes and illegalities. Last December he introduced a Resolution of Censure of the president, vice-president and other members of the adminstration.

Oh yes, things are going to change in DC. It won't be as cozy for Bush & Co. as it's been for the past six years. There might even be some checks and balances. And may I offer a heartfelt wish that there will even be some restoration of the civil liberties and Constitutional guarantees we'd lost. Like revisiting the Military Commissions Act 2006, for starters.

Now let's bring our thoughts and energies towards taking over the Senate too! As of now, we've picked up 3 seats. Only 3 to go!

election day 2006 

I am feeling so unsettled today. I know I'm not alone. So much rests on the outcome of this election. Like the fundamental democratic principle of checks and balances, for one. If the Republicans manage to maintain control over both houses of Congress, we are in for a terrible two more years. As we know too well, an unchecked George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld is a recipe for worldwide disaster.

Sure it would be great to get Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, but I am focusing my attention and energy on the House of Representatives. If the Democrats get the majority there, significant changes will soon follow. The main thing is the committee chairs. Just the thought that Detroit Representative John Conyers, Jr. might be the new chair of the House Judiciary Committee is enough to give me hope in the possibility of restoring our pre-2001 democratic system of government.

I was going to leaflet in front of the polls in my community but the steady all-day rain took care of that. My scooter couldn't handle it. The leaflets I was going to give out were to urge voters to vote NO on Proposition 2 that would dismantle any affirmative action initiatives in Michigan universities. Talk about going backwards!

Instead, I've spent the day uploading my photos of flowers to my Kodak Gallery web page. I needed their gentle spirit to try to calm my agitation. I also listened to "Democracy Now!" and much of "All Things Considered" on our local NPR station. I know that has added to my agitation, but I couldn't help it. I needed to hear what was going on.

I had my usual workout with Matt at the gym, but was pretty worthless. I had to stop after a half hour because I had used up what little reserves I had available. The only thing I can figure is that my week of non-stop activities was catching up with me. Sometimes you just gotta say to yourself, "Stop!" That's what I did today.

I just spoke with Ed on the phone and he said he'd gotten us a video from the library about a serial killer in the time of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. Even that sounds better than my hanging on every number that comes out of the polls. I'll wait until 11 p.m. to turn on NPR and see what's happening.

In the meantime, I'm holding tight to my friend Walid's words: "Hope is a duty, isn't it?"

to vote or not to vote 

I just read an entry on a blog--Thailand Gal--in which the blogger was sharing her discernment over whether or not to vote. Her reasoning, if I understand correctly, was that she is, in the culture's estimation, "over 50, disabled and poor" and therefore not of interest to any of the candidates. She feels disenfranchished, but more importantly, feels that she will be betraying her own ethics if she votes for the "lesser of two evils."

I wonder how many Americans feel this way today?

Thailand Gal asked for feedback from her readers. Most of them wrote advising her to vote. Much as I personally hope she and ALL those who feel disenfranchished will vote today, I did not say that to her. How could I tell someone else how to decide an ethical dilemma? But I did post a comment that reflects how I make such decisions. My comment read:

When discerning between action or non-action, I now ask myself one simple question: Which choice will I not look back on and regret?

For me at this stage of life (I'm 64), I generally regret my non-actions more than my actions.

But for each of us, the answer is our own.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Riverbend's take on things 

Riverbend always says it like she sees it in her blog, "Baghdad Burning." This is how she views yesterday's announcement of Saddam Hussein's "death by hanging" verdict. She, like I, is particularly struck by its timing vis-a-vis the U.S. congressional elections. Click here to read what she has to say.

See all evil. Hear all evil. Speak all evil 

Someone who saw the prints of my photos today said, when this photo came up, "Oh, it's Cheny, Rumsfeld and Bush!" I leave it to you to figure out which is which.

Just how dumb do they think we are? 

Is no one else disgusted by the obvious political timing of the verdict against Saddam Hussein? I mean, is this a political ploy, or what!

It reminds me of such staged extravaganzas as our Commander-In-Chief dolled up in his crotch-hugging flight suit to tell us the mission was accomplished in Iraq. When was that? May 1, 2003? Yeh, right. Tell that to the families of the 2320 U.S. men and women who have been killed in Iraq by "hostile fire" since then. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands who have died and been wounded in Iraq-related circumstances. Tell it to the families of the 650,000 Iraqi civilians who have been killed in Mr. Bush's war that he said was over in May, 2003!

It also reminds me of the choreographed toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad on April 9, 2003. Remember the people in the Baghdad square who cheered that one? Of course we later learned they were planted Iraqi ex-patriates flown in for the show by the Pentagon.

It goes on and on. Disgusting plays on public sentiment by this administration who never owns up to anything and lies about everything.

Just how dumb do they think we are??!!

Thomas Friedman, normally not one of my favorite New York Times columnists, wrote a column last Friday that asked this question. His column bears reading on this day before we go to the polls.

November 3, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist
New York Times

Insulting Our Troops, and Our Intelligence


George Bush, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld think you're stupid. Yes, they do.

They think they can take a mangled quip about President Bush and Iraq by John Kerry -- a man who is not even running for office but who, unlike Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, never ran away from combat service -- and get you to vote against all Democrats in this election.

Every time you hear Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney lash out against Mr. Kerry, I hope you will say to yourself, "They must think I'm stupid." Because they surely do.

They think that they can get you to overlook all of the Bush team's real and deadly insults to the U.S. military over the past six years by hyping and exaggerating Mr. Kerry's mangled gibe at the president.

What could possibly be more injurious and insulting to the U.S. military than to send it into combat in Iraq without enough men -- to launch an invasion of a foreign country not by the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force, but by the Rumsfeld Doctrine of just enough troops to lose? What could be a bigger insult than that?

What could possibly be more injurious and insulting to our men and women in uniform than sending them off to war without the proper equipment, so that some soldiers in the field were left to buy their own body armor and to retrofit their own jeeps with scrap metal so that roadside bombs in Iraq would only maim them for life and not kill them? And what could be more injurious and insulting than Don Rumsfeld's response to criticism that he sent our troops off in haste and unprepared: Hey, you go to war with the army you've got -- get over it.

What could possibly be more injurious and insulting to our men and women in uniform than to send them off to war in Iraq without any coherent postwar plan for political reconstruction there, so that the U.S. military has had to assume not only security responsibilities for all of Iraq but the political rebuilding as well? The Bush team has created a veritable library of military histories -- from "Cobra II" to "Fiasco" to "State of Denial" -- all of which contain the same damning conclusion offered by the very soldiers and officers who fought this war: This administration never had a plan for the morning after, and we've been making it up -- and paying the price -- ever since.

And what could possibly be more injurious and insulting to our men and women in Iraq than to send them off to war and then go out and finance the very people they're fighting against with our gluttonous consumption of oil? Sure, George Bush told us we’re addicted to oil, but he has not done one single significant thing -- demanded higher mileage standards from Detroit, imposed a gasoline tax or even used the bully pulpit of the White House to drive conservation -- to end that addiction. So we continue to finance the U.S. military with our tax dollars, while we finance Iran, Syria, Wahhabi mosques and Al Qaeda madrassas with our energy purchases.

Everyone says that Karl Rove is a genius. Yeah, right. So are cigarette companies. They get you to buy cigarettes even though we know they cause cancer. That is the kind of genius Karl Rove is. He is not a man who has designed a strategy to reunite our country around an agenda of renewal for the 21st century -- to bring out the best in us. His "genius" is taking some irrelevant aside by John Kerry and twisting it to bring out the worst in us, so you will ignore the mess that the Bush team has visited on this country.

And Karl Rove has succeeded at that in the past because he was sure that he could sell just enough Bush cigarettes, even though people knew they caused cancer. Please, please, for our country's health, prove him wrong this time.

Let Karl know that you're not stupid. Let him know that you know that the most patriotic thing to do in this election is to vote against an administration that has -- through sheer incompetence -- brought us to a point in Iraq that was not inevitable but is now unwinnable.

Let Karl know that you think this is a critical election, because you know as a citizen that if the Bush team can behave with the level of deadly incompetence it has exhibited in Iraq -- and then get away with it by holding on to the House and the Senate -- it means our country has become a banana republic. It means our democracy is in tatters because it is so gerrymandered, so polluted by money, and so divided by professional political hacks that we can no longer hold the ruling party to account.

It means we're as stupid as Karl thinks we are.

I, for one, don't think we're that stupid. Next Tuesday we'll see.

Come on, folks, let's prove Rove wrong!!!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

celebrating Ally and DeShaun 

This afternoon I drove to Leaven Center for a farewell party in honor of Allyson Bolt and DeShaun Snead. Both have been Americorps volunteers at the retreat center for the past two years. They will be sorely missed but I'm happy that they will still be living in this part of the state so we can continue to see one another.

Two unexpected guests arrived to send Ally and DeShaun off on an auspicious note. In the trees between the lodge and the Grand River appeared not one but TWO bald eagles! In the Native American tradition, eagles represent "spirit" and are considered to be signs of good fortune.

May it be so. These women deserve the best, for that is what they have given us for two years.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

another free day of music in Detroit 

If you love music and need to pinch your pennies, Detroit is the place to be! Even if you don't need to pinch your pennies, it's STIILL the place to be.

Today was the annual Macy's Day Of Music, a free music event from noon to midnight at the Max in Detroit's Orchestra Hall. The variety was stunning--from jazz harp to hip hop, from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra performing with the Detroit Jazz Collective to The Syreens, an all-female bluegrass band, from the Maples (K-5) School Arabic Drum Ensemble and Chorus to Omar Taylor and Friends singing gospel music.

Pat and I stayed from noon to 7 p.m. when we both ran out of steam. My choices of music included the Maples School Arabic Drum Ensemble and Chorus, jazz harpist Christa Grix with jazz bassist Kurt Krahnke, The Civic Jazz Orchestra (youth orchestra) conducted by Rodney Whittaker, Rise Again guitar folk group, and the Laith Al-Saadi Trio playing soulful rock & blues.

I'd have to say that the two musicians that absolutely blew me away were the jazz harpist Christa Grix and the vocalist/guitarist/composer Laith Al-Saadi. Both of these artists are real originals. Go to their web pages and hear them for yourself. Amazing!

But the favorites of my heart, as always, were the children from the school where I volunteer. They were superb! And their music teacher/director Cathy Prowse again showed why this drum ensemble and chorus receive invitations to perform all over the state. She is the kind of music teacher you dream your children could have--committed, inspiring, professional and loving. These are truly fortunate students.

I have a few pictures from today. Among them are

The Maples School Arabic Drum Ensemble and Chorus, directed by Cathy Prowse:

Christa Grix, jazz harpist, and Kurt Krahnke, jazz bassist:

Rise Again guitar folk group:

Laith Al-Saadi Trio:

Friday, November 03, 2006

Palestinian women nonviolently resist on the Gaza Strip 

The courage of the Palestinian women takes my breath away. Today two women were killed and at least six injured when 200 Palestinian women placed themselves between the Israeli soldiers and 60 men who had been held since Thursday under seige inside a mosque on the Gaza Strip. The media is saying these men were terrorists but I don't believe it. They were the husbands, sons, brothers, uncles, nephews, cousins and grandsons of the women of Beit Hanoun. At least 25 persons had been killed--among them children--since Wednesday when the Israeli forces started mounting a massive assault on this village on the Gaza Strip.

Elham Hamad, a Palestinian woman who attended the protests, told Aljazeera: "We were confronted by a tank, and we raised a white flag [but] without any warning they started shooting at us.

A number of women, including me, fell injured. We remained for a long time without any aid or ambulances."

And now the Israeli military spokesman is saying these women were being used as "human shields" by the "terrorists."

I am outraged that this courageous nonviolent action taken by 200 women who consciously chose to put themselves in danger is being portrayed as yet another example of innocents "being used" by terrorists. No one was using these women! They were making their own decisions and following their own consciences.

It is the Israeli soldiers who are being used! Used by Olmert to deflect attention from his disastrous handling of the war on Lebanon. The Israeli government needs to show it is tough because Hezbollah, the enemy they promised to eradicate, is stronger than ever. And Hamas too.

So what do they do? Assault a community of people who basically live in a concentration camp, who have no power, no international support to speak of, certainly no military weapons like those in the Israeli arsenal.

As the Aljazeerah article went on to state:

More than 280 Palestinians have been killed in the four-month-old offensive in the coastal territory, about half of them civilians. Three Israeli soldiers have also died.

Does this sound like a fair fight?

But, even if our government supports this Israeli killing machine with billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of weapons a year, we American people can at least try to see through the official lies our government and media tell us.

These Palestinian women of Beit Hanoun today followed the example of Mahatma Gandhi and conducted a courageous act of nonviolent resistance. Two were shot and killed, six were injured, but their action served its purpose. Their men escaped. At least for now. At least for today...

These women are my sheroes.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

photos to hold in my hands 

I have had SO MUCH fun today playing with my zoo photos! I was preparing them to be printed rather than posted here on my blog.

Oddly enough, this is the first time in the six years that I've been taking digital photos that I'm getting professional prints made. Until now I've been content to see them on my computer, but somehow this deeper commitment to photography as a creative art form has whetted my appetite to see what my photos look like in glossy-type print.

After preparing about 45 of my favorite zoo pix, I googled "online photo processing" to see where I could get the best quality hard-copy prints. I decided on

So now I have an online photo album where viewers can buy copies of my photos, at least my zoo photos. I'm not comfortable posting the URL here but if you're interested, just email me and I'll send you the info that way.

Hopefully by the beginning of next week I'll have in my hands 45 prints that will show me in tangible form how my most recent passion looks on paper.

This sure is a good foil for all the pre-election craziness that is swirling around our country. It's helping me not get too caught up in it all.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

more zoo pictures 

I know I said I'd post my butterfly pictures from Sunday--and I still will--but now I'm more excited about the photos I took today. Yes, I went back to the zoo on this lovely sunny day. OK, so it was a bit chilly, but that just made the animals more active.

So was I. More active, I mean. Especially when it came to manipulating the settings on my camera. It's so much more creative this way.

Enough talk. Let's get to the pictures...

This gif is freely copyable. Just right click, save
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