Tuesday, October 31, 2006

How Many Deaths Will It Take Till He Knows....

...that too many people have died?

According to U.S. Military Deaths, the number of U.S. military deaths as of today stands at 2814. The number of civilians killed by military intervention in Iraq is at least 434,803. Go here for more information: Iraq Body Count. To make matters worse, the Washington Post linked to an epidemiological study suggesting that excess deaths since the invasion began is about 655,000. (Some people would have died irrespective of an invasion. That number stays fairly constant within a population and is knowable. Deaths over that number are excess deaths.) This number is fully 20 times larger than the Bush administration has suggested. If they're right, that's about 500 deaths from violence every day, with the remaining fatalities stemming from increased disease in the population. The findings are on line at The Lancet, but you have to have a subscription to read it. (Thanks, Mom. Now change your password!)

So, how do we build peace in a time of perpetual war? My first answer is always "disarm your own heart". I'm going to try (TRY, mind you) to hold the people who have caused this debacle gently in my heart. This tasks feels huge to me, but I'll make an effort. But let's assume that I will both continue to work on that and never fully accomplish it. What else can be done?

As discontent with the war and its human and financial costs mounts, it seems important to keep information easily available. I've asked the local newspaper to print a daily casualty toll. As far as I know, they have not done so; it's a very conservative and cautious newspaper. I'll ask again. If other people asked as well, maybe we'd make some progress. I've added a death count tracker to my sidebar and, as sad as it is, I encourage other people to do so as well. You can get one here: Casualty Toll.

And I keep coming back to the idea that it's important to, even in merely symbolic ways, reduce our dependence on oil. I'm going to try to use my bike to commute this winter, at least more than I have in the past. A few months ago, I committed to a single car-free day per week. That hasn't been any trouble, although the weather hasn't gotten nasty yet. I am going to try to increase that.

There has to be more we can do. Ideas, anyone?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Intentional Cooking

What with living alone and having a slightly busy (okay, deranged) life, I've hardly cooked lately. It's ridiculous on so many levels that I've let this slide. And the universe clearly wants me to get over this. Mary at The Sour Dough has invited me to participate in the Weekend Cookbook Challenge.

The goal this month is to use a neglected kitchen gadget and a little-used cookbook to come up with something fabulous. At this point, I could call my oven a neglected kitchen gadget. However, I intend to think slightly more creatively than that. I'm going to dust off my bread machine and my cinnamon rolls recipe (which is adapted for the bread machine from my grandmother's recipe) and get to work. My cinnamon rolls used to be quite good -back when there were people here to eat them. But I'll just put the extra in the freezer and eat them one at a time, all by my little old self.

Or... the boy-child will smell them cooking from across town and mysteriously show up at just the right moment! A mom can dream.

By the way, I DO think that posting this is consistent with my vague vision for this blog. Cooking for myself, cooking WELL for myself, is part of my process of learning to live gracefully, justly, and simply in the world. So.. sometimes before Saturday, there will be a picture of cinnamon rolls right here on this blog. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday Random 10

You know how it works. Set your iPod to shuffle and tell us the first ten songs that appear -and no fair leaving out the ones that make you look stupid or adding in ones that make you look cool.

Here are mine for this week:
  • Here I Am; John Michael Talbot
  • New Years Day; Carolyn Arends
  • The Farmer is the Woman; John McCutcheon
  • Better Be Good to Me; Tina Turner
  • Love Me; I'm a Liberal; Phil Ochs
  • Aquarium from Carnival of the Animals; Saint Saens
  • Finlandia; Indigo Girls
  • The Memory of Trees; Enya
  • Me Myself I; Joan Armatrading
  • Mama is Strange; Melissa Etheridge

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

League of Conservation Voters Scorecard

It's here: League of Conservation Voters Scorecard and it's a .pdf. The League has been evaluating every congressional session and every Senator and Representative since the first Earth Day (1970, grasshopper). While some elected officials (my Senators included) scored quite well, the overall tone of the scorecard is gloomy and a little disheartened.
When it comes to the environment and energy, 2006 will be remembered for sky-rocketing gas prices, record-high oil company profits, an acknowledgement by even President Bush that America is addicted to oil, the Alaska BP pipeline spill, and a widespread recognition that human activity is causing global warming to happen far more quickly than previously thought. Unfortunately... Congress did virtually nothing to help solve these problems, with little hope for anything positive to emerge from an anticipated lame duck session.

Oh my. One suggestion that they make is to "Dump the Dirty Dozen" -the 12 elected officials with the worst environmental records.
  • Senator Conrad Burns (MT)
  • Senator Rick Santorum (PA)
  • Senator Jim Talent (MO)
  • Senator George Allen (VA)
  • Representative Dan Boren (OK)
  • Representative Deborah Pryce (OH)
  • Representative J.D. Hayworth (AZ)
  • Representative Henry Cuellar (TX)
  • Representative Katherine Harris (FL)
  • Representative Richard Pombo (CA)
  • Representative Charles Taylor (NC)
  • Representative Heather Wilson (NM)
Representatives Tom Delay (TX) and Bob Ney (OH) are in a special category after their decisions not to seek re-election.

Isn't it interesting how many of these people show up on other lists of stellar personalities? Rick Santorum was such a hero during the Terri Schiavo case and his comments on intelligent design were truly insightful. (Sarcasm there, in case you missed it.) George Allen slings racial epithets around at campaign stops. Katherine Harris helped George Bush win election by stopping the hand counting of ballots in contested counties in Florida. And Henry Cuellar reminds us that we need to not only get the Republicans out of Congress, we need to get them out of the Democratic party. He's a false Democrat if ever there was one.

I ran the same names through the Children's Defense Fund, the League of Women Voters, the National Coalition Against the Death Penalty, and the National Coalition for the Homeless legislative scorecards and found similarly tragic results. These guys are scary.

But hopefully, they'll only have jobs for 13 more days.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Spatial Justice

I just got back from a long weekend with my husband, who's spending the year away from home on sabbatical. This semester he's in Minneapolis. I'll leave you to your imagination regarding the details of the reunion; you can probably figure most of it out.

But also... being us, we rode our bikes. Everywhere. There was no car involved at all for four days. It was a lovely thing. And this large urban space is designed (or has been retro-fitted, I suppose) to make that easy and safe. There are dedicated bike lanes on the streets. It gets a little dicey when there's also a right turn lane for the cars, but they seem to have worked something out. There are (doubtless expensive) bridges for foot and bike traffic over busy streets. There are bike paths around interesting city features. These paths are complete with traffic signs and speed limits for the bikers. I really wanted a speeding ticket on my bike. At one point I had actually even earned one, but alas there was no police officer in sight.

And then, there you are, noodling along on your bike. And you see union organizing store-fronts, community organizers, teeny-tiny little service organizations for a stunning array of ethnic minorities... The Onion comes out in a print edition.

Okay, it was four days. For all I know, Minneapolis is a hot-bed of corruption and strife. Not being there very long, I was spared a nuanced view. But I do have a fairly clear view of the place I do actually live. We have a few bike paths here and there, but no bike lanes that I can think of. We have about 15 people who identify as politically left of center -and that might be optimistic. Any ethnic diversity to speak of is from the university, and there's not much town and gown mingling around here.

Urban design and policy are so completely not areas of expertise for me that my musings are probably mundane. But heck, they're new to me. I've always thought my town was designed by accident. I figured they paved roads where the cows that used to wander around had beaten a path. Buildings sprang up along these haphazard roads. But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe urban design is a visible sign of human/cultural intention. It's just that our city leaders didn't mind authoring a tragedy, I guess.

The thing I do know about is building community. Maybe making community and making space for community are not as far apart as I had imagined. There are things we do right. There are lovely parks for varying uses. There are a few solar-powered street lights. We've had curbside recycling for a lot longer than many larger municipalities. But would a few bike lanes kill us? How about meaningful public transportation? If any place could figure out bio-mass fuels, this one is a good choice. Bio-mass, we've got.

Sigh. I think I'm talking myself into getting involved with local politics. Damn.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday Random 10

You know the drill. Set your iPod to shuffle and tell us the first ten songs that appear. And no fair leaving out ones that make you look like a dork (my personal specialty) or adding in ones that you think make you look cool. Here are mine for the week:

  • Slumber My Darling: Alison Krauss and Yo-Yo Ma -seriously, the best lullaby ever. It reduces me to puddles of longing for when my babies were, well, babies.
  • Oh Mary, Don't You Weep; Arlo Guthrie et al -with the immortal lyrics, "It was Moses first proved the notion that the world is safer with the army in the ocean." ;)
  • Viens, Malika; Delibes -There seems to be a rule that this song has to be used in movies. So, it's over-done, but I still love it.
  • Seize the Day; Carolyn Arends
  • Fantasia in the Sixth Tone; Gabrieli via the Cleveland Brass Ensemble
  • Louisiana Lowdown; Cowboy Mouth
  • Don't Wanna Behave: Dance Hall Crashers (Indeed, I do not!)
  • Calling my Children Home; Emmylou Harris -I tried. Emmylou's children (does she have any????) are apparently better behaved than mine!
  • Breathless; The Corrs
  • Peace in this House; Wynonna Judd

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

World Day to End Poverty

Ten years ago today the United Nations affirmed that extreme poverty is a violation of human rights and initiated a decade focused on eradication of extreme poverty. Hmmm.... THAT went well.

Actually, there have been several important things that happened. Not the least of which is that the original voice encouraging UNESCO towards these efforts, F. Joseph Wresinski, was himself a survivor of extreme poverty. It is rare that we find ways to hear and respond to the voiced needs of the people we serve. Heck, it's rare that we ask them what their needs are. But even when we do, the answers aren't always forthcoming. The reflection necessary to answer the question isn't always available to people who are just trying to survive another day, which, in turn, suggests that people in poverty have the least power to shape the strategies that address poverty.

And of course, the whole problem is circular. Other human rights violations drive and deepen poverty while poverty creates human rights violations of its own. With Pope Paul VI, we note that if a person wants peace, then that person might consider working for justice. What can it mean, for example, to say that something is a right when there is no mechanism for addressing violation of that right?

What might egg-head social workers do to actually eradicate poverty? Be the rare person. Be the brave person. You don't have to abandon everything and live in solidarity with the poor -although that's not as hard as it sounds. You do have to reflect and act. Most people act without reflection. Academics sometimes reflect without acting. For heaven's sakes, do both. Decide what you're called to do, and DO it.

We might consider using our money ethically. I absolutely concede that a family involving academics and social workers doesn't have boatloads of money. But that's compared to.... what????? There are people living on less than $1 a day. Stop whining. Use your money rightly. Donate to just causes. If you can't find any (which would be weird, but hypothetically) start one. The biblical 10% tithe might be something to shoot for -even if you're not a particularly Biblical person. I mean, seriously. If the religious right can do it.....

My final idea is that we need to find (or create) a community of people wholly engaged in bringing about a just community. (One might call it the reign of god... or then again, one might not.) The web of relationships makes this work possible when energy and commitment fail. And they will fail. And that community needs to include people who aren't just like you -maybe even a few actual poor people. Be brave!

Yikes.... I can launch into sermon mode with very little provocation. Sorry. Maybe just remember this:

" Wherever men and women are condemned to live in extreme poverty, human rights are violated. To come together to ensure that these rights be respected is our solemn duty. " (F. Joseph Wresinski).

Monday, October 16, 2006

OK, we're voting

And yes, I know this post has nothing to do with the reason for this blog. I'm obsessing. I can't help it. Humor me. It might also help to speak softly and to make no sudden moves....

I just finished this sweater:

It's for my little nephew Carter. Carter's the one on the right, who looks like he's thinking "What fresh hell is this?". I thought the green would go well with his hair, which is actually quite red. But did I come up with a girl's sweater by accident? I'm terrible at this gender norming stuff. I never get it right. So, speak now or forever hold your peace!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Endlessly Fascinating

Saturday is my day to knit and I see no reason to change that, just because my life is topsy turvy. So, yet again, I picked up two sticks and some string. I've been doing this for 40-some years. Why does it still captivate me? (And not my sisters, who learned at roughly the same time I did?)

The project of the day is a top-down raglan in green cotton, for my 2-year-old nephew, Carter, for Christmas. I'm thinking of doing a Charlie Brown zig-zag across the tummy, maybe in blue and white. We'll see if I get bored -or am running short of the green yarn.

And the projects are queueing up behind it. I need to make some toys for baby Thomas, about 10 miles of I-cord for a felted backpack for my niece Colleen, mittens for her sister Katie, something unknown for baby Carlos and his mother Cristen, a lace table runner for Terri.... you don't even want to know how long the list is. I have two theories about this. One is that it must be a very dull woman who can't think up projects faster than she can do them. I, therefore, am endlessly fascinating ;)

And secondly -and this theory is not new with me- craft can be a spiritual practice. The Japanese do it with flower arranging and claim that the earth laughs with flowers. My world laughs with yarn. My grandmother taught me to knit, in the vain hope that it would help me to hold still for two minutes together. Actually it wasn't a vain hope; I was just a slow learner.

Now, when things are wrong and bad and sad and lonely and crabby making, one of the things that works best for me is to sit, breathe, and pick up my knitting needles. Everything soothes me... the warm wood of the needles, the color of the yarn, the evolving three-dimensional fabric, the thoughts of the intended recipient....If that's not seated meditation, then I don't know what it is. It's fierce attention on the thing right in front of me -and no more. When my mind wanders back to my troubles, attention to the pattern returns me to meditation.

Thank God for my grandmother's wisdom. Not only has she saved me a bundle in therapist's fees, she taught me to comfort myself, to meditate, and to give sweet gifts to loved ones. That woman was quite a teacher!

But if I ever decide to knit this, you are fully authorized to euthanize me. Painless would be nice, but the real issue would be speed. Just do it!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday Random 10

OK... I'm cheating. I got behind on posting, what with one thing and another. Here's Friday's list.

You know the game. Set your iPod to shuffle and tell us the first ten songs that appear. And no fair leaving out the ones that make you look like a dork or adding in ones you think will make you look cool.

Here's my list for the week:
  • Fanfare for the Common Man; Aaron Copland
  • What an Idiot He is; Ashley MacIsaac
  • Tumare Darshan; Deva Premal
  • Gentle Warrior; Lucie Forbes
  • Lonely Girls; Lucinda Williams
  • Deeper Well; The Wailin' Jennys
  • Basin Street Blues; Louis Armstrong
  • Concerto in G Major; Telemann
  • Winter of a Broken Heart; Alison Krauss
  • Fantasia for Lute; Weiss via Segovia

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The solution to guns in schools....

... is more guns in schools????

Wil blogged about this issue yesterday, but I've been sputtering about it ever since I read his post. (How I missed the news in the first place is beyond me.)

Wisconsin Assemblyman Frank Lasee plans to introduce a bill to allow teachers to have guns in the classroom. After the shooting in Joplin yesterday, the governor of Missouri is apparently considering something similar. Have they lost their minds entirely?

Mind you, I see how a school shooting could cause a person to lose his or her mind. And I see that what we're doing now isn't working. I'm not persuaded by the arguments that our kids are still, statistically speaking, safe at school. They need to be safe from gunfire (at the very least) while at school -PERIOD.

But let's back this up a bit. Where are the kids getting the guns? Presumably they aren't buying them at K-Mart. They're probably getting them at home. And what are high powered weapons doing at home, one must wonder. The shooting in Missouri this week was with the parents' automatic rifle. Were we going to go deer hunting with that? I doubt it. What is the bloody point of having such absurd weaponry? Why ought there be a right to own that?

And where are the kids getting the rage that leads them to pick up a weapon in the first place? And let's not ignore the tidbit that several of the recent shootings have targeted girls. Where is that sexually-motivated (or gender-motivated) rage coming from? We need to figure that out -address that- and then there's some hope. We're failing our kids until we resolve this.

Of course, if Miss Wormwood had been armed, perhaps Calvin would have done his homework with somewhat more regularity. Satire is about the only possibility. Check out the Colbert Report on YouTube:

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

World Day Against the Death Penalty

Today, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty marks the fourth annual day of action against the death penalty. With the theme that the death penalty is a failure of justice, the group is focusing on child offenders, discrimination against foreign nationals, unfair trials, mental illness, and innocence.

Two-thirds of the countries in the world have abolished the death penalty through law or practice. Mine, it need hardly be said, is not one of them. In fact, the United States is a rather egregious offender in all five categories highlighted this year. According to Amnesty International, 94% of the documented executions took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Nigeria -and that's company you really want to be in when it comes to human rights protection.

So, what can we do?

One might watch the movie The Exonerated. One might even arrange for it to be shown somewhere, such as in parishes or classrooms. There could be an interfaith discussion/panel on the death penalty. A person could make a donation to Sr. Helen Prejean's work or to the National Coalition Against the Death Penalty. You could start the discernment process towards deciding how you would want your loved ones to respond should you become a victim of murder. There's an interesting example here: Buddhist Peace Fellowship Prison Project. (.pdf)

The death penalty is not justice. It's the tool we use when we feel -possibly even justifiably- that everything else has failed. So, among other tragedies, it's a failure of imagination and intellect. We can do better.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Friday Random 10

First, can I just rant -just bloody, freakin' rant- about the new version of iTunes? I've got such a mess, and I'm not a complete computer moron, that the computer-tech-boy-child gave up trying to fix it after hours of trying. And then, in spite of his best efforts, and an attempt (unsatisfactory) to return me to iTunes version 6, all my playlists were destroyed. And I still can't access the iTunes store, nor will my computer and iPod sync with each other. I've tried all the potential solutions they've suggested -the firewall, the routers, the proxy server, flushing the DNS, everything. I'm waiting for the boy to have more time to fix this drama, and I'm fuming at the virus-masquerading-as-software that is iTunes 7.

That said, I can still listen to the music I already had, and there really is a lot of it. So, I can still do the Friday Random 10. Here it is for this week:

  • Water from Another Time; John McCutcheon
  • Southland in the Springtime; Indigo Girls
  • The Honor of Your Company; Tom Paxton
  • Misguided Angel; Cowboy Junkies
  • Who Will Sing for Me?; Emmylou Harris
  • Manic Monday; The Bangles
  • Psalm 62; John Michael Talbot
  • O Fortuna from Carmina Burana; Carl Orff
  • Emperor's Waltz; Johann Strauss, Jr.
  • Unafraid; Joy Williams

It's very folky this week. That works for me!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Are You Registered?

Seriously. We've got a "thing" going on in Illinois, what with the Speaker of the House "taking responsibility" for the current flap, except -not. There's a chance, for the first time in a long time, that we can get him out of office. And the Democrats could take back Congress. Maybe we could even rededicate this country to, oh I don't know, the principles upon which it was founded.

But we have to vote. And to vote, one must be registered. So, if by some coincidence (Victoria, I'm talking to YOU!), you aren't registered, please take care of that. Try this link: GoVote.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I Got 9th-Stepped

This post might be slightly more confessional than is typical for me, so brace yourself. Or sit yourself right down, depending on what kind of post you like.

I have long-standing concerns that 12-step programs, while they work, are not the best we can do. And they certainly (in Andrea-world) aren't the best kind of recovery strategy for women. It starts right out with "we admit we are powerless over..." fill in the blank. Women already have deep and abiding understandings of reduced power; what vulnerable and addicted women need to do is reclaim power. Now that would be recovery and revolution.

You should bear in mind that people who are actually in the program typically dismiss my concerns. I have them anyway. (I am powerless over my concerns?) The whole enterprise starts to feel like a kind of aggression towards women. And it's the most insidious "we know what's best for you, dear" kind of aggression.

My concerns only broadened yesterday. I got mail from someone I haven't seen -or even really thought of- in years. We went to the same church and wandered around in the same slightly lefty circles. I remember him as being very nice and polite and gentlemanly and I remember authentically enjoying his company. But yesterday, I got mail from him apologizing to me for calling me a bitch years ago. Where my young daughter could hear. I assume that he's 9th-stepping, here. I don't really know that. It was the formulaic sentences that gave me that thought.

I didn't know he'd called me a bitch -or I'd blocked out the memory of it. And I must tell you, I was laid flat. Was I bitch? Am I bitch? What did I do to make him call me that in the first place?

Just listen to me -taking the blame for his actions! (Even though, without a question, I CAN be bitchy.) But what's the point of the 9th step, again? They say it is to take responsibility and to make amends -and to do it where doing so won't cause further harm. He drops this bombshell in my life (OK, it's a little bombshell; I'll live through this.) and moves on, convinced he can now pass go and collect $200?! Great, I get to hold his unexamined crap now. I feel terrible and he feels better. How is that not hostile behavior?

So, even women who are as[can we say scrappy rather than bitchy?] as I am are alarmingly willing to take blame that isn't theirs. I support all healing from addiction, however it happens. Recovery is just so hard, that if people are finding peace and strength in typical 12-step programs, I'm authentically delighted by that. I would like it, though, if that recovery didn't throw innocent bystanders into tailspins.

Understanding internalized oppression -whether from the victim's or the perpetrator's point of view- can be a powerful encourager of competence and mastery. It can help free people from addiction. Perhaps my former acquaintance needs to come up with a broader definition of recovery -a definition that respects strength and power in other people. And, if I was wrong in whatever encounter precipitated the name-calling, to name it more gently and in a more productive manner for both of us.

Is that too much to ask?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

My Letter to Dennis Hastert

I'm disgusted by the recent revelations of sexually-explicit emails sent from Representative Mark Foley to young men serving as House pages. I'm also a little astonished at his ignorance -or hubris. Are there really people who still don't understand that e-mail is public? He's not just a predator; he's a dumb one.

I'm equally dismayed, however, that the leadership of the House (and let's review who THAT is... oh! You!) seems to have tried to cover this scandal up for months, if not years. It's simply disgraceful. In some states, if you are aware of potential sexual abuse of a minor and fail to report it, you can be found guilty of a crime.

When Bill Clinton had an affair, which arguably harmed only him and his wife, there was an impeachment. The least you can do in this situation of sexual impropriety that harmed more -and more vulnerable- people, is step down. But, before you go, have the integrity to call for Congress to come back into session and investigate this matter thoroughly. The American people deserve answers -- and we also deserve to know that you're taking the proper steps to protect the high school students in your care from child sex predators.

I look forward to your reply on this topic.

Monday, October 02, 2006

How Many Deaths Will It Take Till He Knows....

.... that too many people have died? I have no (good) excuse for not posting this at the end of the month as I should have. All day yesterday, I was fuming about a tragically bad homily at church and trying to compose a blog post about it that was slightly more than an enraged rant. Clearly I got nowhere with that AND I forget to do this post. Pathetic.

So, in a spirit of repentance and deep sorrow that I have to post these numbers at all, here's what we know. According to U.S. Military Deaths, the number of U.S. military deaths as of today stands at 2719, which is, by the way, 45 more than the number of U.S. personnel killed in World War II. The number of civilians killed by military intervention in Iraq is at least 43,000. Go here for more information: Iraq Body Count.

So, how do we build peace in a time of perpetual war? My first answer is always "disarm your own heart" -which you'd be right to point out might just possibly have been the message from the universe I was supposed to receive, what with the enraging homily and all. Sigh.... So, obviously, that's a work in progress. But let's assume that I will both continue to work on that and never fully accomplish it. What else can be done?

Making the human cost of the war vivid is the rationale for this monthly blog post. Even if I'm the only one to read it, it makes sense to articulate it. Is there something that you can do (however small) to accomplish the same thing? You might consider watching and/or screening for your friends, the movie The Ground Truth.

We might also consider supporting military families who speak out against the war. It is one thing for me to rant about it; it's entirely another for military personnel and their families to risk everything to the same end. Military Families Speak Out is an organization that might be helpful for you. If you're in the military or have a family member in the military (as I do), then you can join. Even if you aren't eligible for membership, there's an interesting collection of action ideas at their website.

I have more.... support efforts to decrease our dependence on oil, strengthen the global peace movement, strengthen local peace work, pressure Congress, get the churches involved.... What can YOU come up with?