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"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

...............................................................Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Let Them Eat Mud Cookies

This morning in Prairie Country, the usual parade of honkin’ big Hummers and SUVs bearing one parent-one child were on their way to the school we pass by daily. This being Country, there’s plenty of talk around here about energy costs, and are those out in the western oil patch a getting a fair price for their crude, and should we build a refinery…hey, we have our own state-owned bank and state-owned mill. That’s us, a little bit Red State, a little bit shhhhh “socialist.”

Will there be a surge in gas prices again this spring? Will it hit $4 a gallon? How’s that going to affect the farmers growin’ for biodiesel? Yeah, there’s a whole lotta talk about energy around here.

This day in Haiti, mothers will be making mud cookies to feed themselves to keep from starving. Yes, “cookies” made from dirt, a bit of shortening, and water. Think about that the next time you’re bellyin’ up to the drive-thru lane at McDonalds…or belly-achin’ about the high costs you pay for grapes this time of year, or the cost of gas at the pumps.

The local daily, part of a network of family owned newspapers, published the same story as you’ll find at the link to National Geographic News. Funny thing, though. Apparently they figured we readers couldn’t understand the story without a third of a page photo of the “cookies.” Unfortunately, something had to be cut…and for them it was the section about the impact of Big Oil prices on food in the Caribbean.

So for any readers out there who live in Prairie Country, here’s what you missed:

Food Prices Up

Food prices around the world have spiked because of higher oil prices, needed for fertilizer, irrigation, and transportation. Prices for basic ingredients such as corn and wheat are also up sharply, and the increasing global demand for biofuels is pressuring food markets as well.

The problem is particularly dire in the Caribbean, where island nations depend on imports and food prices are up 40 percent in places. [Credit: Associated Press]

For too long we’ve been led around by a business philosophy that neatly—for themselves—looks at the quick fix, short term profit numbers and ignores the real costs of doing business. And that’s not just about people starving because their food costs are too high because Big Oil is profiteering from their puppet in the White House. Remember, it was George himself who described the “haves and the have-more’s” as his base. He should’ve called ’em the Vampire Capitalists that they are. Sucking the lifeblood from people literally and economically.

These guys are feeding off themselves, though, too. And that’s the bitter pill that will ultimately catch up on all of us unless something changes. While poverty festers around the globe, the fat hogs of Big Oil and the Tweetymedia, which divert attention from reality with American Idol-style tracking of political campaigns, take away from what could be savvy business for the long term.

Bring people up out of poverty, here and abroad, and you create a global population of consumers who can afford to buy your products. Sustain the planet with wise use of resources and innovative technologies, and you can begin to reach out to the stars…literally, not just in nostalgic replays of “one small step for mankind….” Or the latest sequel to Star Trek.

We lost the hemp industry to timber lobbying crying crocodile tears about marijuana menace—a big lie, and now renewable crops/agricultural income are lost. Vast swaths of timber are razed to make paper that crumbles into dust within short years while the air breathes a little harder without the trees’ recirculating power.

The cycle repeats itself now with Big Oil with its grotesque profits and still we subsidize and the President holds hands with the subsidizers of those who have already tumbled our Twin Towers and want to do worse.

At the end of the day, all these issues are interwoven. There is no energy policy without impact on food. There is no trade policy without impact on the pockets of Main Street and no street.

The president’s favorite philosopher said: whatsoever ye do to the least of my brethren. And Do Unto Others. So, how’s that Stewardship of the Planet thing workin’ out?

Yesterday was a disappointing day because John Edwards suspended his presidential bid. But my disappointment is tempered with the fervent hope that the Vampire Capitalists out there—and the politicians and media who harbor them—will have a lot more to fear from John Edwards, the proven champion already, as Paladin fighting poverty than as President sitting in the Oval.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Postcard from Prairie: An Open Letter to John and Elizabeth

We've just learned of the announcement to come later today about suspending your Presidential campaign. Life brings these abrupt changes in course from time to time, and we don't yet know fully what prompted your decision.

We do know that we have been proud to support your campaign and we will vigorously continue to champion the progressive values you yourselves have led on. We honor every moment of time you have given to this campaign. And wish you well in whatever lies ahead for you.

You have given us a sense of purpose to speak out and advocate for the issues and causes that have too often had no voice. And we like to think your voices will resonate all the stronger off the campaign trail than on.

Thank you for setting a standard of integrity and passion that will be a measuring stick to which we will hold all the candidates for President this year.

~ Prairie

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

An Other George

Monday night, I didn’t watch the State of the Union, either. And the media gave it pretty short shrift after. Segue right into the Florida primary, gang. Let’s see, what did I learn? Chris Shays loves him some Bush-cheek. The hyper-partisan Republican minority stayed true to their school. While everybody else just wanted George W. Bush’s last S.O.T.U. to be O.V.E.R. ... I'm betting Dubya did, too.

And then there’s another George. If you didn’t see the 60 Minutes feature interview with FBI field agent George Piro, check it out now. Piro’s months-long interrogation and gaining the trust of Saddam Hussein is, according to an FBI spokesman, the agency at its finest. And not a waterboard in sight.

I’d say it’s “George” at its finest, too. For seven long years, “George” has been in disrepute. A fork-tongued spokesman for the evils of gummit, callously orchestrating his ideologue minions to infiltrate and tear down the very agencies tasked to keep us safe. From agencies like the FBI and the CIA where Valerie Plame worked until exposed, to FEMA-botching post-Katrina thanks to Bush’s heckuva job, George Bush’s War on the Government-Which-is-US has steamrolled along for seven years now, virtually unchecked.

And at what cost?

The exposure and loss of the skills of workers like Valerie Plame. Even appointed DOJ lawyers who were headed out until the full measure of that scandal could no longer be hidden. The outflight of flight controllers. The lower and lower standards for military recruitment. The calculus of devastation to every segment of this government in furtherance of incompetent ideologues is daunting.

In a word, the State of the Union sucks.

But it will get better. Because there are candidates on the horizon who will lead us on a better course.

And because there are people like George Piro and the Wilsons and Sibel Edmonds, whose story is not yet told. And they work for us, each and every day, without expectation of reward or stock options or aggrandizement or insider cocktail parties.

But because they love this country.

And because we, the people love this country, we will pick up the pieces next January and put America back together again.

But first, come November, we will vote.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Into The Breach

Watching the self-delusional—or was it?—portrayal of a high-ranking government official, deeply religious, cynical, not trusting anyone except one young assistant, an official who committed acts of treason over and over for years and got away with it....one wonders if it’s left to the film makers to tell us our history.

The Breach is riveting film-making, and it debuted on HBO Saturday night, which means it’s long been out in theatres and even DVDs, so we none of us have an excuse for missing what is one of the most powerful movies in recent times about the inner workings of our government.

Chris Cooper as the FBI-turned-spy Robert Hanssen adds to the chilling tone of the movie. No Sheriff July Johnson, steadfast, honorable, here. Instead, the path of an older law man gone totally corrupt. Hanssen’s deeds are destructive of everything he professes to hold dear...his family, his career, his personal values. His devotion to Opus Dei religiosity, his hyper-intelligence about what the FBI needs to do to protect its security are totally at odds with his betrayal of U.S. secrets, his betrayal of his relationship with his wife and family.

In The Breach we see but never come to understand how a man could totally trash everything he professes to value. But perhaps this dialog from Cooper as Hanssen, delivered in a matter-of-fact tone all the more haunting for its mundaneness, sums things best: “He spied...the why doesn’t mean a thing, does it?”

The real Eric O'Neill, the FBI staffer who gained Hanssen’s trust and ultimately led to his downfall, served as a special consultant for this film. There are countless others like him who work anonymously for the best interests of our country, and their value is incalculable when corruption or criminality sinks deep roots within the government.

Yet for those who follow events of current times, who chafe at the “sand in the umpire’s eyes,” who beat the drums for oversight, there is this postscript in stark white letters on the blackened screen which may well also be the signature for the first Twenty-First Century administration:

The full extent of the damage done remains classified.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Don't Blink....

Mirror therapy for phantom pain has caught our attention lately. The media reports of Dr. Jack Tsao's groundbreaking study hold promise for relieving or mitigating phantom pain in a way that centuries of research and medicine have failed to do. All with a simple mirror. Anything that offers a fresh approach is worth looking into.

Mirrors are a fascinating thing. We see the entire path of our life in mirrors if we take the time to look. Not just that view of the last bit of roadway we’ve traveled, but the whole course of years and miles.

A snippet of a country-western song on the radio still ear-worms an undernote today: Don’t blink….a hundred years goes faster than you think….

We live in such a fast-paced world…not just the highways, the faster and faster airplanes…the faster world on these magical little computer screens we totally take for granted.

Where would we be if abruptly all the computer screens faded to black, shut down, stopped doing their little magic and all we had left were…mirrors?

Would we give ourselves time to like what we see?

Here’s a little life-practice…no excuses, it’s the weekend, you have time.

Look into your mirror for 15 minutes. Set a timer if you need to, time has a way of expanding and compressing totally at odds with how fast we think it’s moving.

What do you see? Scars? Pimples? Sags and wrinkles? Too many frosted cinnamon rolls? Or plastic, botox fillin’ in the living places, stretching taut and pulling away who you used to be? We do tend to zero in on what we think are the flaws, don’t we?

Take 15 minutes. What dreams are still bottled up inside behind those eyes? Have you taken time to see them lately? Or have you been putting yourself on display to yourself so long you’ve forgotten what those dreams are?

Have you been so busy getting through the days you’ve forgotten to take time to reflect on how you’re getting thru?

You may think of a few people who need this a lot more than you do…world leaders, your boss, the guy in the next lane, teevee people…oh, you’re right. I can think of a ton of them, too.

But for these 15 minutes, let’s just take a look at ourselves. Remember when you fell off the playground equipment and got that little nick right above your eye? It’s still there, if you look carefully enough. That’s part of what made you.

Look carefully. Take 15 minutes. Take stock. Be honest. Be nurturing. Because that’s a pretty incredible thing, that face looking back at you from the mirror.

Just don’t blink….

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Obstructed Views

Driving the morning errand circuit today, I stopped in the left turn lane at a busy intersection. Had the green light, but facing me in the opposite left turn lane was a honkin’ big SUV that totally obstructed my ability to see the oncoming traffic in the lane next to him.

Even craning my neck to the left ’til I bumped the window, couldn’t see what was coming.

The political-media world is a lot like that these days.

We try and try to stay our course and prudently see what lies ahead, but the view is too often obstructed by honkin’ big SUVs. [Yeah, I tried to come up with some clever, snarky phrase for that, but the caffeine’s not kicked in yet this morning.]

The radio news talks about the latest headlines and kinda slips in “bailout for two bond companies…” What’s this? You mean it’s not all about putting money back in people’s pockets? Saving people’s homes? Protecting the little guy?

Why are we not surprised.

Politicians are busily lining up arguments for their points of view on the FISA retroactive immunity issue. Orrin Hatch was spinnin’ away first thing this morning on Imus. Short take: civil liberties are for wussies, we gotta protect our patriotic American phone companies….

Wouldn’t have anything to do with CYA for the White House spin machine and its 935 and counting lies that led us into the criminal enterprise of corrupt cronyism known as the occupation of Iraq, now would it?

That’ll be bailout for the big boys, too, while the foot soldier is down to one foot and struggling for decent healthcare in a grossly underfunded VA system.

Senator Chris Dodd’s filibuster intention is being pecked away at by the lockstep rubberstamp Republicans…but also too many Democrats who still haven’t found their spines. Maybe they think those ski poles in Davos would be a working substitute?

Or is this just more “bailout for the big boys”?

Lots of media sturm und drang about Hillary’s campaign style these days. She brought her guns blazin’ to a knife fight was one take on the SC debate. Maybe the Chicago political organizer and his team and the hand-wringing media guys need to remember just where Hillary grew up—she’s got The Chicago Way in her DNA.

Picking our way through this tangled course to the election, to every vote that comes along, whether it’s votes in Congress or our own in a voting booth, demands much. If we have expectations of our politicians, we gotta remember that face lookin’ back in the rearview mirror is our own.

Will we be able to say on Election Day, I chose the right way to travel, I stayed the course, I cut through the obstructions and fog and followed the right road, and there’ll be no mea culpa’s from me once the journey’s done?

Well, will we?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

40 Years in the Wilderness

Watching the "I Have a Dream" speech aired in its entirely yesterday on the Imus Show, the resonance of hope and possibilities in the crucible of this year’s political campaign, brought back painful reminders.

Forty years ago, the year Dr. King was assassinated, the year an outsider took on a sitting president of his own party only to be supplanted by an entitlement candidate who was himself assassinated—it’s tempting to say, Nah, we’ve gotten beyond those times.

Sadly, I don’t think so. Last night’s South Carolina debate did nothing to change my mind. Two entitlement candidates—the first woman, the first African-American—while the candidate with the ideas, the candidate with the agenda of economic justice gets short shrift from the media, prodding to quit by the shills with their pundit masks on.

I’ve been thinking that we’re seeing 1968 play out all over again. Hillary = Humphrey. And a bit of a role twist, since Edwards was in there first, but I see him more in the Robert F. Kennedy role, the focused, scrappy fighter. Obama, the elegant academician Gene McCarthy. And we know how that turned out. Nixon, anyone?

[Disclaimer, I worked on the McCarthy campaign as a college kid, I was in LA primary night, I was in Chicago for the convention, and a bunch of primary state pit stops along the way.]

We’re seeing way too much reflection of the past this year. The dividing-up of the Democratic Party by tactics that may give quick wins along the way and cost the national election. There’s still time to correct the course. The disenfranchised want inclusiveness, not niching…not who’s in, who’s out. That can happen in groups as small as a handful or as big as a political party or nation. And this time, we need to get it right.

The cynical Republican race-baiting and stirring of old divisions and distrusts is already in play. Likely-looking nominee John McCain spends MLK Day in Alabama in a dandy moment of “who me? nah, I’m a good ol’ boy” wink-wink-nod-nod. The Clinton campaign is pushing The Restoration, the Golden Years of Bubba, fudging the line of just who would be the president. Seems more like The Atonement to me.

The president who promised to be a uniter not a divider has managed to unite all the Republicans…they don’t want to mention his name at all. Meanwhile, the Fed cuts interest rates ¾ point this morning…how’s that workin’ out for your retirement, Grandma? And Life after People on the History Channel seems the more likely scenario for the aftermath of BushCo’s saber-rattling than his fairytale of a blissfully Peter Pan-ish centerpiece of democracy.

As the tectonic plates of the Democratic Party shift and quake, those of strong constitution need to keep their resolve intact. Change is never easy, and this year is one that promises change…or being sucked back down into the familiarity of the status quo. Fear of the unknown—will it trump the hope, the desire, the demand for change? That’s up to every individual. The choices are out there…even if you have to wade through the fog of the media’s best efforts to make this a boxing match, a horserace, a triviality of personalities instead of a reasoned examination of critical issues.

An epic battle, Edwards calls it. Not a one of us should cut and run.

Because once the primaries and convention are over, we will learn if this is No Country for Old Men.

There’s an epic battle getting to Election Day, never mind the challenges that await the new president.

One thing I expect: There Will Be Blood.

Monday, January 21, 2008

I Have a Dream Today...

I have a dream...that Martin Luther King's powerful "I Have a Dream" speech becomes a treasured artifact of history instead of an annual reminder of just how far we have not yet come.

I have a dream...for my children and his and yours...

When will you be satisfied? I'm not yet satisfied, are you?

We can do far better than we have done. This year matters. Pay attention. And on Election Day, vote.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

"Mrs." Newhart

I remember reading a TV Guide article penned by a youngish actress talking about getting an early role. They asked me if I could ride a horse, said she. Of course, was the reply. When she got the part, the first thing she did was go out and learn to ride a horse.

Woman, who roared before it was kewl.

Rest in peace, Suzanne Pleshette. Or shake up the good ol' boys Upstairs....

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Invisible Ones

This month we’ve learned, those of us who live in Prairie Country, that we are the Invisible Ones. Oh, we suspected as much, the year the map company left off North Dakota completely. Much laughter about that in Minnesota and Montana and South Dakota.

Now it’s “official”—the imprimateur of the media declared it so. First, National Geographic, with their January article on the vast, dying emptiness of the plains. And ABC Nightly News reinforced the vast emptiness with its Persons of the Week presentation Friday evening. Yep, we’re a kind-hearted bunch out here in Prairie Country, blonde, red-cheeked, hmmmm, but let’s keep that camera on the vast open spaces and an abandoned chicken coop or two or maybe a rancher on horseback herding cattle. What other stereotypes can we come up with?

Noticably, neither National Geographic nor Nightly News covered the significant Microsoft campus in Fargo, nor the other strong forces of our economy…oil, agribusiness, high-tech. They did do what the media does too often.

Comes up with a storyline and then fits reality around it.

Been a lot of that happening this political season. The storyline on the Democrats side is the two-person horserace-in-the-ring mano-a-mana Clinton Obama…. Oh wait, you say there are more than two persons in the race? And that’s not even counting the ones who’ve already dropped out? Who got more attention for quitting than they got during their campaigns?

Meanwhile on the Republican side, media’s covering the whole big circus, down to 5% Rudy. And so far, the talk is of the big mix-it-up anybody could get the nomination. No Invisible Ones there. But there’s harbingers on the horizon. Rush Limbaugh’s talking up his man Mitt, who just happens to own the Clear Channel radio network that, surprise, surprise, carries his show. Limbaugh’s “base” are Invisible Ones, people who feel disenfranchised, and he’s preyed on them for years. Maybe they’ll finally start to wake up to the reality that he’s just a hired gunslinger and his bullets are words. A lot of fancy-dancy spinning the guns before slippin’ ’em back in the holsters, but still, just a hired gunslinger. Who doesn’t shoot straight.

There are other hired gunslingers out there, too. Pundits, pollsters, opinionizers. And they don’t shoot straight, either. Bill O’Reilly spins a good yarn like he has lately about homeless veterans, and doesn’t let the facts get in his way. Have you ever noticed how much Billo resembles the town Sheriff in The Unforgiven? Oh, he’s got a man’s dreams…that nice house with the porch to watch the sunset. Makes you long for Jack Webb or Clint Eastwood to come along and straighten things out.

Politicians aren’t immune…watching the tag team of new lobbying partners and former Senators John Breaux and Trent Lott these days, one can imagine they’re busily thinking about their porches and how big they can make ’em…wonder if they do any thinking about The Invisible Ones back in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans?

Even the “journalists” who take themselves very seriously don’t give a whole lot of thought…or ink…or minutes…or bytes…to The Invisible Ones.

David Broder chides there’s not a CEO running on the Democratic side while touting all the CEO experience on the Republican side…totally blocking out that there’s a passle of CEOs running things right now…and look how they’ve run America into the ground.

Chris Matthews finally grudgingly had to apologize to Hillary Clinton for remarks on his show—hey, Chris, you need a list? You missed a few others. Invisible Ones. Maybe Tom Brokaw’s hectoring that reporters should get the facts before jumping to conclusions as was done in reporting the New Hampshire primary will take hold. We like to think Brokaw’s prairie roots are still nurturing his spirit.

There’s an invisible candidate right now, John Edwards. The deliberate blacking out of coverage of his campaign, his leadership on issues, would be laughable for its cartoon-like blatancy…if we weren’t all in such unfunny circumstances these days. Chris, you and the rest of the media owe us an apology for robbing us of the information to make intelligent voting decisions. Your one saving grace is you were man enough to tell us you get it. We hope it tempers your commentary in ways that make you stronger. We’ll be the better for it.

And we know we’ll never see that kind of stand-up manhood from the likes of the Faux News crowd, the ultimate example of making their own storyline…and making up their own facts.

Because there’s another Invisible One out there. The voter. And more and more the voter will show up, and be heard. We saw it in Iowa. We saw it in New Hampshire. Will we see it again today in Nevada and South Carolina? And further down the campaign trail? I think so.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Prairie Postcard: Quarterbacks or cheerleaders?

Well, the economy's finally caught the attention even of the petulant fur-robe wearer-in-chief. Listening to him tell us about his due consideration of the sit-che-ation this morning surrounded by his handlers, all I can think is: can it be 2009 soon enough! [You want boxing metaphors, Tweety? I give you the punchdrunk prez.]

For the last seven years we've had a bunch of sidelines standing cheerleaders pushing the laissez-unfair style of capitalism that has put this country into recession. That would be parasite and pirates.

It matters who we elect next fall. It matters who survives the primary season and emerges the Democratic nominee. I for one have had enough of the cheerleader in chief...frankly, you'd have to consume a keg o'beer singlehandedly to believe a word that spills from this guy's sullen lips.

I'm ready for the progressive change. I'm ready for a quarterback...capable of winning...and leading. I'm ready for Edwards. How 'bout you?

Today's the day...put your progressive change in the right place. Small change, large change...we must be part of the change.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Prairie Postcard: The "R" Word

This morning Don Imus asked: are we in recession?
Jim Cramer replied: Yes, of course we are.

There you go. We all know it. Pretending won't make it go away. Now, we can deal with it. And, as Cramer added, it will be hard.

Weird thing about life. It gets hard sometimes. The first step to solving a problem, to dealing with an addiction, is admitting you have it.

They went on to discuss the subprime market, Imus asking for a simple explanation, and Cramer supplied it. Pretty much all comes down to "skin in the game"--and haven't we heard that before. Those naughty homeowners who had no skin in the game--got those 100% loans with no money down and no ability to repay in many cases.

Except, wait, somebody else had no skin in the game either. And that's the first lender, because First Lender turns right around and sells the loan bundled with a whole bunch of others and finally they end up on the desks of places like Citicorp and... well, how long do you think it will be before these guys go whining to the government for a bailout because they're so vital to the economy....

Seems to me a little kitchen table economics--call it the "Get Real Principle"-- needs to be exercised every step of the way. Starting with common sense regulations for the lending industry so the parasites and pirates don't screw things up for everybody from the homeowner to the global economy.

PS's PS: Speaking of Get Real Principles--principles, how's that for a concept!--it doesn't get more real than 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammed Yunus and his microcredit program. You can learn more about that on Saturday afternoon when Firedoglake hosts a Book Salon conversation with Mr. Yunus about Creating a World without Poverty. Whether you lurk or participate, I promise you will be enriched. Don't miss it!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bridge over Troubled Waters

We’re looking for a bridge these days—oh, not a bridge to the 21st Century. That’s been pretty abysmal for most folks so far. And not a tongue kiss or handhold to the family Saud…[you’ll have no trouble finding those pictures on the web, not dragging them into the garden this day.]

Every time we go to the gas pump, we’re at the mercy of that “bridge” between 9/11 terrorists and the black gold that funds them.

We’re looking for another bridge…a bridge buffeted by the fogs of fate, yet still able to stand strong, sure. And we surely need him. Because we have been buffeted, too, these past seven years, caught between Iraq and a hard place that is the American economy.

Our bridges are in sorry shape…real bridges collapsing in rivers, others so ruinous they are shut down.

Campaigns that will need to bridge their differences once the primary season is past are now being sorely tested as well.

This week we have an opportunity for some bridge building… Will we build it strong? It’s up to each one of us. We are the bridge-builders … and we will be the bridge users. So, it’s up to us…Will we use the strong steel of our forefathers to build? Or lay back and say let someone else do it?

The buzz is already building out there on the web, launched by the folks at DailyKos, but a swarm of others of us join in the call cutting through the fog. Won’t you join in? Support the Edwards campaign on Friday, January 18. And today as well can’t hurt….

Someone else is dying for us in Iraq. Or coming back shattered in mind or body. For the foolishness of a President whose Napoleonic ego drives him to fearmonger and false promises.

Someone else is watching their neighborhoods boarded up and ruined…by the waters driven by the winds of selfishness and greed. In New Orleans. In Michigan.. In cities where “subprime” destroys lives so rich men may dance. Dance, Karl. Dance, David. Dance, dance, dance.

Someone else is dying on the sidewalk in front of the Bishop’s house in Fargo Sunday night while the city races to finish up a new shelter…homeless, needy, in despair? Chronic addiction, transient lifestyle, they say. It’s someone else.

Until it’s not.

Time, past time, to take a stand. Build a bridge on solid ground to span the troubled waters and unite again this nation divided. It’s an epic battle…and we are the nuts and bolts that will build the bridge…if we have the will.

UPDATE: You'll find commentary updated on the 1/18 campaign for Edwards at DailyKos ... or just stop by the Edwards site direct and help build this bridge. Now would be good.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Defragging your Life

When is the last time you defragged? Not your computer, yourself. We move along at warp speed, taking care of tasks, taking care of family and friends…when’s the last time we remembered to take care of ourselves?

I’m defragging this weekend. Out here in the tall timber, where the internet hookup is dinosaur dial-up, so slow that I’m not even sure these words much less a picture will upload unless I drive 20 miles into town in search of wifi.

And there you have it—the excuse looming—even in defragging the sneaky weasel of “I’m so busy….”

The little bits and bytes and documents and corrupted files and glitches and everything else that goes into making each day every once in a while need to be dragged back into order and clarity and function.

Doing that takes an effort. It takes shutting down all the programs and plans and schedules and saying, wait. Time-out. With a purpose.

Defragging can be as easy and uncomplicated sometimes as simply closing your eyes, tuning out the background noise and just breathing deep. Or it can be as complicated as packing up and heading out to the Amazon for a few weeks. Or climbing Mt. Everest…once upon a time. Now even that’s gotten complicated and fragged with the flotsam of the climbers and the bodies of the ones who didn’t make it.

Saluting Sir Edmund Hillary this snowy tall timber morning. May his heavens be filled with mountains and the vigor to climb them.

The architect author Sarah Susanka in her Not So Big House books gives voice to defragging as a model for architecture and home concepting. Reading her, I learned of making an “away place” within your home.

Whether you call it defragging or going to your away place or journaling or climbing Mount Everest…or just closing your eyes and being in your sanctuary of the mind…you’ll be the better for it. Your life will be the better for making those times of easing back and letting all the flotsam and clutter clear away, restoring a stronger foundation for whatever may lie ahead.

Go ahead, start your defragging now…first, close your eyes….

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tiny Bubbles

Now that the primary campaign season appears to be settling in for the long haul, some say [okay, it was Bob Schieffer this morning on Imus so it's reaching beyond the blogosphere] that perhaps it'll go all the way to both conventions.

At last, a cure for all the economic woes that are quietly getting a foothold... worried about the subprime mess? Fear not. We're in recession...we're going into recession...Goldman Sachs says. Merrill Lynch notes... Worry no more. The burst of the bubble in housing, in the financial markets, in the tech sector, in the auto industry?

Not to worry, a new bubble's building.

Disputed battles for nominees guarantee lotsa teevee advertising, and jobs, jobs, jobs, for pundits and pollsters and consultants and all the other hangers-on to the body politic. And think of all the employment for the blue collar makeup artists now that HDTV's in play. Yep, the longer the campaign season extends, the better for everyone, right?

Schieffer does note how much more exciting it would be to have both parties forced to decide their nominees at their conventions instead of running the conventions as infomercials. True that.

The perpetual campaign, America is back!

Photo credit: freefoto.com

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Prairie Dispatch: We Don’ Need No Steenkin’ Polls

Last night’s primary produced one sure winner…and one big loser. The winner—we, the people. Like Iowa, the voters of New Hampshire turned out in force and said, “enough’s enough.” We’re sick of top down tell us how to think and vote. We’re takin’ back our democracy, one state, one primary, one vote at a time.

The landscape looks a lot more colorful this morning, not just A vs. B, but the nuances and interactions of candidates bringing to the table their street cred and their issues. And by street cred, we’re not talkin’ Wall Street and inside the Beltway, we’re talkin’ Main Street, and the highways and byways of Real America.

Which brings us to the big loser last night. The cocktail wienies lost big time. The pundits and prognosticators and poll-takers and poll-interpreters and poll-spinners lost.

And hurray for that!

They’re still trying to dictate top down. Telling Edwards it’s time to drop out [Matthews]. Callin’ the Democratic side in disarray [Buchanan]. Well, guess what guys. We ain’t buyin’ what you’re sellin’ anymore.

John Edwards said we are going to be in an epic battle to wrest back this country from the corporatists. We haven’t settled on the one leader for that epic battle, but obviously the battle is joined.

We don’t need to rattle pitchforks. We vote.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Culling the Heard

Decisions are being made today, undecideds are finally deciding on someone. The first vote tallies are in from Dixville Notch, and Obama scores as many votes single-handedly as all the Republicans combined.

As the day unfolds, exit polls, pundits — the “experts” — will tell us what it all means. Or not.

We’re seeing a paradigm shift these days. There are all kinds of metaphors for what’s happening.

My personal favorite just because of the divine justice of it, post-Katrina, is that the Republican party is quaking and shuddering and slumping away like a levee hit by the rising Democratic tide. Their feats of clay aren’t made for walkin’ any more…

So maybe Tsunami Tuesday coming up on February 5 takes on a whole ’nother meaning.

There are some other decisions being made in the culture as well.

Last night we tuned in the Daily Show and Colbert Report. Not before trying to find out whether they were right with the WGA. And you know, there’s been about as much of a clampdown on that conversation as the mainstream media’s clampdown on coverage of presidential candidate John Edwards. Whazzup with that?

We ran across one little dustup over at Crooks and Liars down in a Huckabee thread…check it out for yourself, starting at comment 56. Some hot feelings. Where’s there’s fire, there’s smoke?

So today, New Hampshire gets its moment in the spotlight and then the swarm moves on to Nevada and South Carolina. Around here, we’ve already decided. For Edwards Before Iowa.

And Comedy Central’s stars and soon Bill Maher and already Letterman and Leno and Ferguson and Kimmel and…well, the vote’s not totally in. But in our household, by bedtime last night, regarding the Stewart/Colbert return, we’d decided we’re “ambivalent.”

Monday, January 7, 2008

Strong at the Broken Places

Because we live with disability in the Sunshine household, Richard M. Cohen's appearance this morning on the Imus show caught our attention. He's touting his new book, Strong at the Broken Places, which recounts the life experiences of five people who live with chronic illnesses.

Cohen himself [Mr. Meredith Vieira of Today Show fame--and The View infamy?] lives with multiple sclerosis and now blindness.

He hit some hot buttons we understand...the disabled are not looking for a hand...or a handout. We, disabled and caregiver alike, just want to be treated like everybody else. With this book, Cohen offers, in fact, a hand out to the "normal" community but more importantly, a reaching-out to others who daily endure the challenges of life lived as fully as possible despite the crap that is disability and chronic illness.

In their conversation, Imus and Cohen amplify a telling point: these are the stories the general public--and doctors!--don't hear enough.

Don't know about you guys, but I'm planning to get this book as soon as the local bookstore opens this morning--and if they don't have it yet, I'll be ordering it online. One for us, one for the local library, one for Mr. Sunshine's doctors, one for.... well, you get the idea. This is a long overdue subject for discussion.

Kind of like the whole business of turning the page on the status quo in politics. Enough of healthcare--and living--being dictated from the top down. Patients and caregivers' voices must be heard, and Cohen offers a much needed catapult to the conversation.

And yes, there's a website. I've already stopped by, and I hope you will, too. Tell 'em Prairie sent you... Strong at the Broken Places

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Dog Tired

There’s a hurry-up sense of urgency to living these days. And yet, we are dog tired. Imagine how tired the political candidates and their teams must be. Not the ones that moved to New Hampshire, but the ones who left Iowa…and headed home.

We tip our hat this morning for the candidates who withdrew from the campaign after the Iowa caucuses. Senator Dodd, Senator Biden, especially, we salute and honor your effort.

We’ve started this campaign season way early, like trying to plant seed corn and tomato plants while there’s still snow on the ground. What will come of this year’s crop? That’s still to play out. A good crop’s going to take tending, by all of us.

But for now, we have this pair of WOGs—wise ol’ guys—who’ve ended their campaigns.

When Mr. Sunshine and his partner started up an independent business some years ago, they brought four decades between ’em of experience…and yet, because they were in new territory, they recognized they had much to learn and they found their own WOGs to help grow their business, to provide an institutional memory to draw on—like a sweet spring of endless water.

The current White House promised it would have its team of WOGs, too.

But just because you’re old, or just because you’re experienced, doesn’t mean you have the right kind of experience or agenda to offer.

COGs, not WOGs, have been rulin’ the land for the past seven years, and we must demand better. And we can’t just be better ourselves so we are not hypocrites demanding of others what we protest, oh, we’re too tired, or too busy, or it’s just one o’me, or…. We must do better.

Yesterday I dropped by a League of Women Voters event here in Prairie Country, invited, testing the waters. The professor emeritus spoke about a dry subject. Initiatives, referendums, recall. Out here we take ’em for granted, most every state has ’em. Pluses and minuses have they. And unintended consequences, sometimes. But they are the last line of defense for the common good. Born of an earlier time when wretched excess and corruption reigned and needed reining-in.

This WOG professor also spoke of democracy. More than voting, says he. And that’s the sum of it. Democracy is not for the faint of heart or shirker. It’s for the worker, if we’ll do it.

He shared a reminiscence of teaching in Texas and getting in a wee bit o’trouble for using a textbook that included an explanation of the American Economic System as capitalism for the poor and socialism for the rich.

The more things change…the more they stay the same? Only if we let them. Only if we say we’re too dog-tired, let someone else do it. But we tried that. And we got COGs, not WOGs. Cheerleaders and wordspinners, not players, not quarterbacks. Not workers.

We’re starting to put things to rights again. Paulose out in Minnesota, Magill in…hurray for a son of Fargo. Rummy’s gone, Greenbucks, too…but the wreckage of their hand still weighs on the military, on the economy that leaves far too many have-not’s and once-had’s behind so the have-more’s can grab more and dance while wounded soldiers languish in their pain.

There’s much to be done for a new president, yes. But there’s much to be done right now. In the meantime. And so we call out to Senators Dodd and Biden…serve us well as only you are in a place to do. We need your wisdom, your institutional memory, your vigor that led you to seek the highest office. We are all dog-tired of the last seven years, but there’s still a year to go, and we can’t afford to stand by and let things get worse.

WOGs, lead on…and we will have your backs, because democracy is more than just voting. It is discussion, deliberation, interacting, reflecting, said Plato…every thing this administration has disdained is the best of what democracy must be.

This president said early on he didn’t have a problem with dictatorship as long as he got to be dictator. And he did.

Now, dog-tired as we are, we must re-establish the democracy we so sorely need, and we need every WOG we’ve got to do it.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Morning After

There'll be lots of punditry 'positing today and through the weekend. What happened in Iowa? What does it mean? Who won, who lost. Who's up who's down, who's in who's out....

Cut thru all the kudzu, and you'll get to the real message of Iowa: Voting works. And the message of populism sweeps across the entire political landscape like a field of sunflowers blooming across the prairies.

Thank you, Iowa.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Postcard from Prairie: No Time for Cruise Control

Big things are happening today at the south end of Prairie Country...where our Iowa neighbors are preparing for tonight's "first in the nation" caucuses for the 2008 election. Must be stirring up a lot of excitement, because the winds have been blustery and warming from the south.

Around here this morning, the radio warned those winds were burnishing frosty patches on the highways and said turn off your cruise control.

Seems like pretty good advice for our neighbors to the south, as well. This is no time to rely on coasting or letting the mechanical systems do your driving for you. Seize the wheel and take charge of your destiny. Head to your caucuses, Iowegians, and vote. Set a tone that every voting-age American must follow this year.

Because 2008 may have many dangerous icy patches ahead, and blustery winds, and trucks buffeted by the winds right in front of you as you motor up your version of the Interstate that is Prairie Country North, so you must pay attention to the road, keep your wheels in good working order, and take charge of steering the country back on track.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A Republic, If You Can Keep It

In our little corner of the tall timber, just at the east edge of Prairie Country, the sun rises across the lake, behind a ridge of red pines. The cabin faces that sunrise, bathes in its glow to launch the day.

We face a new sunrise dawning now with the start of 2008. And there is much work to be done. But first, we indulge in a bit of reflection, weighing the nature of the day, the strength and energy it will demand. There are bird feeders to be filled. And sidewalks to shovel or, in its season, lawns to be mowed.

The seeking fingers of daylight will be reaching further into the shadows this year. And it will be hard. Others are arising, shaking off somnolence, and we ask them, where have you been these past seven years? Or, having seen these past seven years, why now are you choosing another way of division?

But those others will have to hold account with themselves.

For each of us, the prime directive is VOTE. Shame us not with purple-fingered other countries. We must vote.

Sorrow us not again with lines ten hours long in rain drenched states trying to deny our brothers and sisters the basic right of every American. We must vote.

Through winter storms and frigid weather, through flooded Southern cities, through the largest of our cities under siege, lessons have been shown. We must vote.

The history is told of the founding of this nation and a woman’s question to Ben Franklin—republic, sir, or monarchy? “Republic, if you can keep it.”

Keeping our Republic calls us to a noble purpose of citizenry. Vote we must. But vote smart—not for trivialities or beer buddies, but for leaders who will nurture our better selves rather than pandering to the darkness inside. We must choose wisely those we charge with representing us in Congress and in the White House and statehouses. And we must do the hard work of holding them to account when times or actions demand.

Citizenship is not for the faint of heart nor the shirker. As citizenship—or the lack thereof—is waved like a matador’s cape to inflame, it would behoove those who have it to take better care of it.

It starts with your vote. Don’t say your vote doesn’t count, I’m a lonely-only blue in a red state…Leaders are built on the smallest foundations of democracy and grow from there. Vote smart in 2008—not divisiveness or wedge issues, but the issues that bind us together as a nation and deserve restoring and empowering.

Vote…for your dog catcher. For your schoolboard. For your township. For your city. For your state. For your country. Vote…in your primaries, and your caucuses, and the general election next fall. Because if you don’t, someone else will. And look at the mess that’s gotten us in.

The sun is rising on a new year. America Rising, promises John Edwards. The first test is just hours away. Vote, Iowa. Vote, New Hampshire. Vote, America.

It’s a long road ahead. There is work to be done. And miles to go before we sleep.