Thursday, August 27, 2009

Teddy Kennedy

So many have had such elegant words about Teddy Kennedy these past 24 hours. Joe Biden's comments are stirring. Real. It was Teddy Kennedy that swung the primary process last year, in late January, when he endorsed Barack Obama. It came right after some poorly chosen words by the Clintons - like he thought, enough is enough. I knew something big was getting ready to happen. The next day, Teddy Kennedy endorsed. He helped so many, broadly and individually. I've been teary-eyed off and on this past day, remembering him and listening to others remember him. Listening to Joe Biden now, as I write this, makes me teary-eyed again.

Monday, August 24, 2009

El Paso Calls

I'll be gone for a week, to visit my mom and family in El Paso, Texas. The cats will enjoy the cat sitter! Hard to say whether I'll post while I'm gone... it's always a challenge to blog while away from home base...

Patience, Interrupted...

... but in a good way.

I spend much of my life practicing patience. It's like I rush to the corner and then turn around and urge whoever's with me to get to the corner - now, and fast! And they just mosey along instead. We all gather there, at some point - but it takes longer than I would like.

Sometimes in the midst of one of these rushing-around marathons, I take on the task of Being Patient. "I will learn patience," I vow from time to time (like the time my house was invaded by ants). This will last a little while, and then I will think, enough with this patience thing. I've figured it out already. Its gifts, its joys... blah blah blah. I'm ready to move again! (which, of course, is direct evidence that I haven't quite gotten this patience thing down yet...)

Now, however, patience is to take a back seat. I'm finally moving forward. After Labor Day, I've committed to moving my writing into solid reality. I have a few ideas of paths to take and will pursue them. Some people have offered to help, and I'm going to rely on them. Other people - I had thought they would have stepped into form by now, so I do move forward with a little bit of sadness at the thought that what I had expected and imagined may not be the ultimate path here... but that's okay too, if that's the way it all turns out. I've decided to take action, and will accept that outcome as a potential consequence of my choices.

Part of the motivation is simple mathematics. Meaning, either this happens or I go back to the law. You know, to pay the rent, put food on the table... Those two cats have such a demanding diet! I've had some financial cushion, and that's been great, but time marches on and I need to go back to making a living again. The thing about going back to the law - and taking on a regular caseload again - means that the law will be where I will spend my time (both my working and my mulling time). The law is not so compatible with writing, because it uses a completely different side of my brain and it likes to take up all my thinking time (which is what the writing likes to do). But clients take precedence, if I have them. Which, I will need to take them on again, soon, if the writing doesn't come to fruition. And then I will be torn from the writing for awhile. A long while. (Do not - I repeat, do not - believe any of the law shows that have the attorneys in trial within days of taking on a new case.)

But then part of the motivation is because it's time. It feels like time, I know it's time... It's like I'm standing at the corner, and people are arriving there too... I can't quite see them, not quite yet, but it all looks very, very good.... Movement, at last. Let's see how it goes.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Paul Krugman's Right

The past week or two - especially the past week - I've been only slightly interested in politics. The turning point, I think, was a one-two punch. First, they took out the end-of-life counseling in the Senate bill (giving in to the "death panel" baloney). Then, they waved the "no public option" flag, which means that people still will be without health care - or at least effective health care. I would know more if I were paying closer attention. But those two bits of information, coming one day after the other, just has me skimming headlines and hoping someone out there knows what they're doing. I sure don't.

So this a.m., I read a column by economist Paul Krugman entitled "Obama's Trust Problem." In it, Krugman explains how people who voted for Obama are disillusioned with many of his choices. The choice to back big bankers and bonuses, for instance. Or the choice to back away on these extremely important health care reform points. Or the choice to embrace Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) even after he joined the "death panel" scare by saying that people should be scared and that he wouldn't agree to something that would kill grandma.

And Krugman's right. I'm not one to be blinded by ideology. When I campaigned for Obama, I said he would work to find middle ground, even if he didn't need to, because he believes in buy-in by everyone (or as many people as possible).

But there's compromise and there's selling out. As Krugman put it, "There’s a point at which realism shades over into weakness, and progressives increasingly feel that the administration is on the wrong side of that line." Or, as I read recently from blogger Matt Taibbi:

I’ll say this for George Bush: you’d never have caught him frantically negotiating against himself to take the meat out of a signature legislative initiative just because his approval ratings had a bad summer. Can you imagine Bush and Karl Rove allowing themselves to be paraded through Washington on a leash by some dimwit Republican Senator of a state with six people in it the way the Obama White House this summer is allowing Max Baucus (favorite son of the mighty state of Montana) to frog-march them to a one-term presidency?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Manito Park Insanity

There is a little-known fact that, every summer, from 6 to 7 a.m. on weekday mornings, Manito Park - one of the nicest parks in Spokane, and oldest - plays host to a group of women crazy enough to sign up for a month-long "boot camp." Some of these crazy women sign up for this "boot camp" three times in a row - i.e., all summer long.

Now here's the sad part: for the next four weeks, I'm joining them. And this morning was my first day. It's only 7:30 in the morning, and I feel like the day has been going for half a day now.

I keep telling myself that this will be a good thing. And it will be, four weeks from now, when it's over. For as much as my walking program is going well (and look at all the books-on-tape I get to hear!), I thought one more big jump-start to getting healthy again was the way to go.

I'm only signed up for three mornings a week, since next week I'll be missing most of it (will be in El Paso, visiting my mom). This means that I'll be doing make-up days - for instance, this week's three-day week will be four days...

Boot camp sounds difficult, looks not-so-bad as you get started, and then really feels like hell at about 6:35. I did this program back in January 2008 - with a similar goal of getting in shape - five days a week that time - nothing like overdoing it, right up front...

Here's the saddest part. I will have disrupted mornings for the next four weeks. Usually I have such nice mornings... I wake up early (around 6 a.m.), get my coffee going, feed the cats, read the newspaper, get on the computer, make blog entries.. Annie and Alex (my cats) hang out with me as I hang out, and it's just calm and lovely, especially in the summer when the weather is so nice, first thing in the a.m. When it's going to be 95 degrees for the day, the mornings are particularly nice (usually around 70 - given our altitude and northern exposure) and so I spend those first few moments out on the front porch in the light breeze, drinking my coffee, reading the paper...

Now though, that will not be how my summer goes. For the rest of this summer's mornings, I'll be lifting weights and running around tennis courts and simply making myself grumpy - on purpose!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Explanation of Proposed Health Care Reform

This is just an excellent and entertaining explanation of what is being proposed by health care reform:

(Okay, can I just say how impressed I am with myself that I finally figured out how to put a video on my blog???) (oh, and it's actually phenomenally easy - will be using this as a metaphor for my life in upcoming weeks...)

And here's an interesting column by Bob Herbert, talking about the success of Vermont health centers that serve rural communities.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sleeping on the Couch

A friend - who's an active Republican - returned a phone call from me last night just as I was in the middle of my upset over the Dems caving to "death panel" lunacy. I tried not to bend his ear about it, but then I did. He listened well, and sympathized (figuring, I'm sure, that this was a time to be a good friend and not a political opponent).

After I was pretty much done, he made the observation that, since my time isn't taken up right now with a boyfriend, I'm using politics to fill the time gap.

I stopped. Oh, no. He was right. Partly right, anyway. I got excited about politics last year for the first time because of Obama. But I've stayed hooked. Is it just a way to kill time? Though I really do care about the issues. Before, I'd ignore the issues enough to not get emotionally involved. Now, I'm emotionally involved. That's always a bad sign, when you get emotionally involved with a unpredictable, ne'er-do-well partner, hoping for consistency even in the face of unreliability...

"Well, he's sleeping on the couch tonight," I said. My friend chuckled. "He'll be back," he said. "You'll let him back in." You're just going through a spat with good ole Politics tonight... You'll let him back in later.

And there it was. Not even a 24-hour fight. By this morning, I had turned my computer back one, ready for another round...

Alex, High Strung?

My cat Alex is loving in the mornings, these days... very loving... extremely, extremely loving (as he winds his way back and forth between my legs, nearly tripping me, any time I walk near his food dish...)

Hmm. I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that I now give him wet cat food in the a.m.

Enough, babe. You've gotten all the wet food for the day that you're going to get.

Yesterday, I looked up just in time to see him drinking room temperature coffee from my coffee cup. And I wonder why he's occasionally high strung...

No Good, Very Bad Day

So after hearing about the caving by the Senate on the "death panel" lie, I see this headline: Michael Vick signs two-year deal with Philadelphia Eagles.

O. M. G.

I knew some schmuck team was going to hire Vick. But did it have to be my team?

And that isn't even the bad news.

After I read that headline, I started digging around - having not followed the Eagles in the off season - and found out that safety Brian Dawkins is now playing for Denver, and that defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has died.

The Brian Dawkins thing - so frustrating. But that's football. That's how it goes.

But Jim Johnson - that breaks my heart. For those who may not know, he's considered one of the best defensive coordinators ever. He had this way... when the chips were down, and the offense left the field with heads hanging, an Eagle fan had hope. The defense was taking the field! And you had to know that came from Johnson. Players too, but Johnson made it work.

I went through and read some of the tributes. What a good man. So young - only 68. He had cancer, was trying to beat it... I hated to hear the news. I'll have to remember not to scan the sidelines this season, looking for his grumbly face.

No Can Kickin'

I got pretty upset yesterday, late in the afternoon, when I read that the Senate Finance Committee has caved to hysteria and lies and has taken out of their proposed health care reform bill the part where Medicare will pay for people who want a counseling session on things like living wills.

Insanity. And then I heard how the former chief of staff for Sen. Baucus (D-Montana) is on the Obama staff now, and how that means it's likely the president has acquiesced to this caving.

It's such a good proposal. But it's been hijacked by "death panel" talk - by the very people who have, in the past, endorsed going to the hospital to get this kind of advice. And this was an amendment proposed by a Republican congressman!

Others have covered the issue, have explained the hypocrisy of the Republicans to call this "death panels" - people like Rachel Maddow, Paul Krugman, and then this blog entry which explains how the Republicans tried to pass that very same thing just a few years ago. (Sen. Grassley - R-Iowa - for all his blustering and fear-mongering two days ago, voted for it back in 2003.) Still, hysteria appears to have won the day.

The worst of it was - how upset I have been with Obama. Why cave to the crazies? (Crazy like a fox.)

So then I saw this. And I got some perspective, I think. It's a radio interview of a Rep. Boswell (D-Iowa), who explains that President Obama told him he'd be a one-term president if he has to, but the country needs to pass health care. "I'm not kicking this can down the road," he told Boswell...

I do really want the answer to my "crazies" question. And I don't know that I would be making the same decision. BUT - while this counseling provision is a great idea, it does not make or break health care reform. And for a president who is committed to doing this now and not later... Well, I respect it. And I appreciate it. Not for myself - my health care insurance is fine - but for all the people out there who need a way to buy health care insurance.

My only fear? That it won't work. If you cave to the crazies, it's like saying, "Oh my gosh, you're right! We did have death panels in the bill! Oops." And then what do you say when they go after the next provision, and lie about that? We could compromise our way out of a bill altogether. Sigh.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Joan Baez, Idaho Falls, and Protestors

I haven't written about the raucous town halls. I read about them, as is my civic duty (I think - I guess), but they are too depressing for my written word. How can people feel justified in shouting down the debate? I don't have a problem with people who shout their questions when it's their turn to ask a question. Neither do I have a problem with people protesting outside. They should do it in droves, if they want. But shouting down answers? Shouting down other questioners? My biggest worry is all the people who simply aren't coming to any town halls because of predictions of mob behavior. Which means they aren't getting their questions answered. Which, I guess they wouldn't get them answered anyway, given the way the town halls have gone. Sigh.

And of course the other part that's upsetting is all the misinformation out there. Here's a link to a new website started by the White House to confront and resolve the lies. Oh, and here's a link to a three-minute video debunking the now-floating-out-there claim that Obama really intends to eliminate private health care insurance. (Apparently someone has cobbled together various statements he has made to leave that impression when the statements themselves have been all taken out of context.)

And then to have Republican congresspeople validate these lies - not just talking heads and radio jocks, but actual congresspeople... Chuck Grassley, of all people...

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski deserves credit for toning down the rhetoric yesterday, and confirming that there are no death panels. In her words: "It does us no good to incite fear in people by saying that there's these end-of-life provisions, these death panels." Not that she likes the bill, mind you. Just that she doesn't want lies to be spread. I've called her office to let her know it was appreciated. (My own congresswoman, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, also deserves a thumbs-up, as she apparently stated yesterday that there are no death panels in the bill.)

Okay - with all that said - here is a very touching description, with photos, of what went down yesterday at a Joan Baez concert in Idaho Falls. Four Vietnam vets came to protest her concert. Before the concert started, she came out and talked to them, told them their misunderstandings. And she listened. Her merchandise salesman, a Vietnam vet himself, came out and talked to the protesters too, vouching for Joan Baez. They left with signed protest posters - mostly on the back, though, as she didn't want to sign on the front when such awful things were being said about her.

When she got back in the building, she cried - not for the things that were said, but because her merchandise salesman had stuck up for her like that. "Did you hear his voice shaking?" she said. "That was bravery..."

Let freedom ring.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Torture's Synopsis

The New York Times has published on today's front page a concise, clear article on Spokane's most recent claim to infamy: the two psychologists - Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen - who got the CIA to hire them to head up the torture program back in 2002. I think these guys are headed for an indictment. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch.

The article is interesting in that, as a latecomer to the topic, it looks backwards in time at events that have unfolded from 2002 to a couple of months ago, and gives perspective to them. It adds nice color too. There's an interview with Mark Mays, who was the first psychologist to manage the SERE program (a survival training program for our military personnel that Mitchell and Jessen twisted into an aggressive torture program). Mark - a local psychologist and lawyer here in Spokane - explains how the SERE facility was set up like interrogation camps based on American POW recollections, then says, "It was clear that this is what we’d expect from our enemies. It was not something I could ever imagine Americans would do."

Until now.

One interesting quote comes from psychologist Martin Seligman, who wrote on a theory called "learned helplessness." Seligman discovered in the 1960s that dogs that learned they could do nothing to avoid small electric shocks would become listless and simply whine and endure the shocks even after being given a chance to escape. He termed this "learned helplessness." Lenore Walker used this theory to help describe what happens to battered women who are so beaten down that they cannot leave the abusive relationship. Apparently SERE instructors used it to describe what can happen to military personnel - according to the NYT article, SERE instructors would stop short of creating a "learned helplessness" state. In his torture outings in 2002, Mitchell cited the "learned helplessness" state as one to attain, to force the tortured to give in to the torturer's commands. Problem with theory - all it will do is get the tortured to say whatever the torturer wants him to say - even if it's false.

In the article, Seligman is quoted as having met Mitchell, and that Mitchell praised his work on learned helplessness to such an extent that he mentioned to his wife that night. "Later, [Seligman] said, he was 'grieved and horrified' to learn that his work had been cited to justify brutal interrogations."

Keep in mind, these two psychologists had never interrogated a prisoner before becoming the head of this torture program. The article highlights the opportunistic nature of these guys, and the slobbering desire of the CIA (the people in charge) to have someone - anyone - who would justify torture under the guise of a psychologist's title.

The article also discusses how Mitchell and Jessen closed down their offices abruptly just a couple months ago. This I know - I wrote an entry about it. That entry prompted a phone call from someone purporting to be a BBC reporter, even though BBC had no idea who he was. (I returned the guy's voice mail by calling back the BBC directly rather than his cell phone.) This shall remain suspicious in my mind. Why would someone pose as a reporter to get information from me about the Torture Building and lack of offices? Especially someone who is listed in the New York business pages as a lawyer and architect? This is a mystery that remains unsolved. But it sounds right up the alley of Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen.

One of the article's comments: "'We have met the enemy, and he is us.' Pogo."

And here is a comment by someone named John, in D.C.:

As a former interrogator, I know from experience that you MUST put aside what you feel a suspect deserves in terms of punishment and focus on what most effectively produces reliable intelligence. That is the #1 goal of interrogation. It is not punishment, it is intelligence collection. Readers like Matt from NY and TN from Texas would do well to remember that distinction. There are NO PROVEN INTELLIGENCE results from interrogation. The only proven results are an increase in hostility from local populations, increased recruiting of extremist groups and increased attacks on US military service members. The fact that torture does not produce reliable intelligence is not news to well-trained, experienced interrogators and intelligence professionals. Over and over again, we see how the former administration employed AMATEURS with NO TRAINING or EXPERIENCE to do what trained professionals were unwilling to sanction. And THOSE who ordered and conducted that activity DO deserve to be punished.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

CAT Stuff

The other day, I tagged along with a friend to the Grand Opening of the new CAT (with tractors) dealership in Hayden, Idaho - just next to Coeur d'Alene. The best thing about it - everything was free. Well, not everything. The tractors cost money. But there were free CAT caps, free pens, free key rings, free hamburgers and hotdogs. We'd just had brunch but still - I wanted a free hamburger. It was a hot, hot day, but cool in the two-story warehouse-type building that was more of a walk-through than anything else. What I loved was all the people in there - mostly men, but some women - who wanted to see the new CAT building and get the brochures on the newest style of tractor. It makes me happy to imagine that there are people in the world, and not so far away from where I live, who care about that sort of thing - that actually need to know about it. It's an area of expertise that I do not have, do not plan to have, but that someone should have. That day, I was surrounded by the experts.

I'd been loading up on all the free stuff and saw some golf balls. I went to take a set of three but the guy manning the table stopped me, explained I had to sign up for the raffle first. I signed up my friend (nobody really wanted my name and number from the CAT group - I knew that, even if they didn't) and went to grab my golf balls. He stopped me again. I needed to have my name pulled now. Oh. "They're not free?" I said, looking at the table and at the other items to be raffled off - just one table over, those pens and key rings are free, I wanted to tell him, but figured he had a system...

So, no golf balls. I went and got my free hamburger instead. And then, lo and behold, our name was called! (I say "our" because I couldn't say "my" since I didn't fill out the raffle in my name.) And we won.... drum roll...

A little matchbox car.

But not just any matchbox car. It matched the CAT race car that CAT had brought into the warehouse for this special Grand Opening occasion. They started up the race car too - very, very loud. One of the guys at our table had asked if they were raffling off that car. I showed him our little Matchbox version. "Yes, they are," I joked.

So then I had an idea. Couldn't we take our little race car and put it on the big race car and take a photo?

And so - voila. That's what I did. Can you see it on the window sill of the driver's side?

Here's a close-up view. So cute!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Heavenly Seventy

Ah, the weather. Finally a cooler trend.

The forecast today: 71. This is 30 degrees cooler than last weekend (when we reached 100), and more than 20 degrees cooler from two days ago. This makes my walking program that much more enjoyable. I've been doing pretty well with it. I took a hiatus last week for a few days (only coincidentally during the hottest days) because I realized I needed to give my home a spring cleaning (mid-summer). But I'm back in full swing step, prepared this time with special bandaids strategically placed where blisters likely will try to form.

Here's a photo from one of my walks of the volcanic rock that I mentioned is sprinkled throughout the South Hill. This home uses the rock as a decorative front lawn ornament.

And here's a photo of the Spokane River, as it runs through the middle of downtown. (Had the weather not been 70 degrees, the title to this entry would have been "a river runs through it"). I took this photo from one of the downtown walking bridges that cross over the river, next to Riverfront Park. It's a little surprising that the river has this much water, this late in the summer...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The One Thing

I'm 48. I have almost no desire to be a different age. The older I've gotten, the faster and easier it has been for me to grow. It's like I spent the first 40 years building a foundation, and am now reaping the benefits of having a foundation from which to build. I remember the moment, a few years ago, when I realized that I'd gotten ahead of the learning curve and was able to leap into information - "aha" moments - rather than struggle and reach for them. The things that flummoxed me before were just annoyances now - or nothing at all. It was the alchemy of time that had brought me to this point. I had been only missing the time it took to reach the jumping-off point. So I'm glad to be old. Wrinkles and all.

I've worked hard to get here. And I have a good life. The one thing, though. I sometimes forget about joy. I often forget it. Working hard is my habit. Loose-limbed joy? Not so much.

Maybe this is why I enjoy being around kids, when I'm around them. They just can't help their absolute joy. Even in tears, they are in joy. "Down they will forget as up they grow" (as e. e. cummings would say). But they do start out knowing.

As did I. I know I did. I was a pretty joyful kid, I think. Full of life - and awkward moments - oh my gosh, the awkward moments (I blush as a few memories coming flooding back). Age has helped me soften those edges. But I think I've overdone gravity. Maybe it's time to get a little edgy again. And get into a zone of joy.