Thursday, December 31, 2009

Samuel Johnson on Terrain and Tribes

Reading "A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland" which combines Johnson's travelogue with James Boswell's "The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides," chronicling their trip around the Hebrides in 1773, I was struck by Dr. Johnson's description of The Highlands. He discusses the opportunity to "investigate the reason of those peculiarities by which such rugged regions as these are generally distinguished."

Mountainous regions contain the original inhabitants, for geography qualifies them as not easily conquered. It happens that isolated peoples develop and keep their own version of the language. Tribes become small nations, with irregular justice, courage esteemed of highest value, and, removed from any seat of sovereignty by difficult access, clans pay little heed to central government. "Law is nothing without power," both to promulgate and enforce.

"The inhabitants of mountains are...careful to preserve their genealogies with a common interest in the honour and disgrace of every individual." Generations have lived together in the same place with alliances and feuds lasting centuries.

The chapter bears reading today, for although the observations in the Hebrides of the 18th century are a world and centuries distant, what Samuel Johnson observed about people who live in mountains applies to Afghanistan today. "Such are the effects of habitation among mountains, and such were the qualities of the Highlanders, while their rocks secluded them from the rest of mankind, and kept them an unaltered and discriminating race. Then begins the union of affection and co-operation of endeavours, that constitute a clan."

Who will the writers be who chronicle the logistics of supply depots and fuel disposition as we negotiate the mountains of Afghanistan, and who will read about this journey among the people of the mountains in the next centuries?

Friday, December 25, 2009

General Odierno Trumps Gen. Cucolo

General Odierno, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq has issued a new general order for military operations in Iraq. Effective January 1, 2010, General Cucolo's classification of pregnancy as a punishable offense for U.S. military personnel and civilians in northern Iraq will be overthrown. The new general order consolidates all the mission procedurals issued by second tier generals in the theater.

Good on ya' command HQ, and Merry Christmas to all our soldiers and sailors serving far from home. We're thinking of you today, and wishing the new year finds you safely returned to family and friends.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Story

I ordered a hat embroidered for my Dad for Christmas. It was to read "Atomic Veteran - APA 38 USS Chilton - Bikini Atoll." I could have done this earlier in the season, but I waited to have the money to do it. When the hat was ready, the ship was spelled USS Chiton. It was equally my fault for not checking the instructions properly. I had to be at peace that the hat would not be ready for Christmas. One of my major challenges is to accept the things I cannot change, to accept where I am at fault, and I am learning slowly.

Parkside called today and said the hat was ready and I could pick it up if I could get there before 3 p.m. I got there, asked to use my debit card to pay the balance, and the young woman, said, "You know what? It's okay. We spelled it wrong. Enjoy the time with your father. Merry Christmas."

I cried. I'm still crying. The true gift of the holidays was given by one woman and one business, and it is a mighty gift to me, and to my Dad, with whom I will share the story tomorrow.

Parkside Cleaners is located at 22645 Pontiac Trail, South Lyon, MI 48178.

Thank you for the lesson, Parkside Cleaners! It will be easier for me to count my blessings, to be grateful for kindnesses, and I will find fast and continuous opportunity to pass the good spirit forward. Merry Christmas and bless us all every one!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

See Avatar

The best movie I've seen this year. James Cameron has a gift for storytelling, a rich moral palette, and a much-needed unHollywood-like skill for portraying kickass female characters.

Neytiri has no cringing moments; no residual feeling that she could have been written better. She's a gem. We'll see if Zoe Saldana will be nominated for a part done completely in blueface.

Michelle Rodriguez as Trudy is quietly sparkling, absent the usual snarling histronics written for women warriors in film. And Sigourney Weaver never disappoints.

Don't miss this movie on the big screen; I saw it in 3D and after freaking out at the previews, settled in quickly to enjoy the feature. I'll see it again. And again.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

General Cucolo's Army

While ABC News is covering General Cucolo's policy with kid gloves in re: women getting pregnant in his Army in Iraq, four women Senators sent a letter to General Cucolo demanding he rescind his order making pregnancy a punishable offense.

"I regret that the term court martial is bandied about or mentioned," Cucolo said. "I do not ever see myself putting a soldier in jail for this."

Then rescind the damn order, General Cucolo. It's none of your business who got a soldier pregnant either, unless the soldier needs to report to her commanding officer about circumstances.

If you are addicted to writing reprimands, put one in your jacket too, sir. 7.7% of your troops are women: and you had to write an order regarding their reproductive rights? Get real.

Handle your mission. Let women soldiers handle theirs. Women know how to act professionally, even when their supervisors don't.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Get Pregnant = Get Court Martialed

Major General Anthony Cucolo has added pregnancy to the list of offenses punishable by court martial and possible imprisonment. The male responsible for the pregnancy will face court martial too. This ban includes married Army personnel. Gen. Cucolo commands the Multi-National Division-North in Iraq.

This edict applies to "all United States military personnel, and to all civilians, serving with, employed by, or accompanying" the military in northern Iraq. Wonder how Gen. Cucol thinks he's going to court martial civilians?

As one servicewoman veteran notes - emergency contraception was removed from Basic Care Formulary under pressure from the Bush administration, even though Dept. of Defense approved its use in 2002.

Senators Al Franken and Olympia Snowe this week (re)introduced the Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act. This bill, originally introduced by Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine) as H.R.2064, was shot down in 2006. The current version is H.R.4386. The Senate bill doesn't have a number yet.

Review: DoD approved emergency contraception in 2002. Bush administration removed it from BCF. Bill introduced in 2006 got nowhere. Next bill - still nowhere so far. General Cucolo makes pregnancy a court-martial offense, November, 2009. Franken-Snowe introduce Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act, Dec. 2009.

Why not just put the meds. back in the BCF? Is that too easy, General Cucolo?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Copenhagen Climate Summit = 41,000 Tons CO2

The private jets arriving for the last days caused the airport to be so overcrowded that planes landed in Sweden and their passengers had to be picked up by limo and driven back to Copenhagen. The limousines, rented from Sweden and other countries, totaled approximately 1,200. 5 electric cars were called into duty.

The attendees in Copenhagen created as much carbon dioxide as a medium-sized US city generates in the equivalent time period.

Sen. Inhofe flew in a private plane to let the world know that global warming is a hoax, got called "ridiculous" at his ersatz press conference on a staircase in the Bella Center and flew straight back to Washington.

The small countries' leadership has been there all week, quietly and with dignity fighting to have their voices heard.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Senator Levin Votes "No" on Cheaper Drugs

Here's the email I got today:

Linda --
If we don't pass health reform, millions of Americans will be trapped in a broken status quo, unable to pay their bills or see a doctor when they need one. More and more employers will drop coverage for employees. And Medicare and Medicaid will blow a hole through our budget. There's too much at stake to not get this done. That's why OFA supporters have made 849,856 calls to Congress in support of health reform since August. And that's why today, with the Senate locked in last-minute negotiations, our goal is to hit one million calls.

Can you help? Please call your senators now and help us "ring in reform." Then click here to let us know you called.
According to our records, you live in Michigan. Please call:
Sen. Carl Levin's Detroit office at (313) 226-6020
Sen. Debbie Stabenow's Flint office at (810) 720-4172

This holiday season, millions of Americans will go without desperately needed care simply because they can't afford insurance. But insurance lobbyists are desperate to pull apart the bill and derail reform, so your voice is needed now.
Your senators are fighting hard for health reform. Please call today, thank them for their work, and let them know we need them to keep fighting. Just dial the numbers above, then tell the staffers who answer where you live -- so that they know you are a constituent -- and that you support reform. Then click here to make sure you call is counted in the race to a million:
Thanks for standing up,
Mitch Stewart
Organizing for America

Why would I call Senator Levin in Detroit? He's busy in Washington voting "no" on what he's supported for years. I just wrote Senator Levin instead. To thank him for voting against an amendment to allow cheaper drugs imported from Canada - the very bill he introduced to the Senate in 2003. Because he doesn't want to jeopardize the back office deal with Big Pharma. Check firedoglake here.

John Kerry voted "no" too. Christopher Dodd. Find out who else did here.

The broken status quo: so far I still don't have healthcare, an affordable way to get it, but with this "reform" I can be fined for not having it. Ring in Reform indeed.

Copenhagen Climate Summit

The Kyoto Protocol in 1997 asked that the United States reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 7%. The United States declined to sign the Kyoto Protocol. We are runner-up to China as the top two nation-polluters on this warming planet.

Now the United States is muddying the UN efforts further by suggesting the world edit the Kyoto Protocol. We didn't sign it, but our leadership will try to reword what was accomplished in Kyoto (expires 2012) by other countries without being a signatory country to the Protocol.

There are 184 countries that are, and who signed the Marrakesh Accords in 2001 and have been working in good faith since then. Sidebar talks in Copenhagen concerning the United States alone, when bundled into the summit mainstream, caused a walkout by the 50-nation Africa group. Mohammed Nashid, the president of the Maldives, brought the nations back to the talks. His archipelago nation is one threatened by rising oceans.

Sakihito Ozawa, environment minister/Japan, said the African demand to spend more time on the industrial nations' targets "wasn't feasible." Japan is in the top 5 nation-polluters on the planet, too.

US Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the US will contribute $85 million to an international fund to provide clean energy technology to poor countries over five years. In five years many poor archipelago nations will be well on their way to being underwater. Solar power then won't help.

As a protest sign in Copenhagen read "THERE IS NO PLANET B."

The world is watching. Millions in the world care deeply about reversing the global warming that will change our planet drastically in the near future.

There are 36,316 news items on the internet regarding the climate summit in Copenhagen, most recent are from non-US sources. There are 72,926 news items regarding Tiger Woods - first results all US news sources.

Refocus America! Our leadership is arriving in Copenhagen to encourage scrapping Kyoto and to propose a craven emission reduction rate of 8 to 12 percent, and to offer money rather than global stewardship to the developing nations that are already suffering with drought, unusual weather, and rising seas. We've continued our earth-blighting path for the 12 years since Kyoto, and now we want amnesty from our lack of participation and responsibility.

We need 40 percent reduction in global emissions. Chancellor Merkel stated that Germany is willing to increase their commitment over Kyoto, and beyond what has been agreed in Copenhagen so far. The US needs to retake a global leadership position if we, and the planet, are to recover.

Follow the Summit at The Climate Pool, a page updated by international news sources. Educate yourself. Know the issues, the players, the history, the threat to the planet, the efforts to reverse the threat.

Browse the Hopenhagen site. Write to our leadership. Buy a tshirt. Do something to save your planet. Time is not a renewable resource either.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

BCBS Michigan Fans the Fear

With a redesigned invoice, BCBS Michigan has taken the opportunity to add a couple of announcements.

BCBS will only send one bill a month. (They do that already unless you're late and sent a reminder.) But to be more "environmentally friendly and reduce administrative costs" - no more reminders.

"Please pay your bill by the due date. If your coverage cancels, you may have to wait 12 months to reapply."

BCBSM bills a month in advance, so my Dad's bill, which is due this month, is for January's insurance premium. While BCBSM has the luxury of being paid a month ahead of due date, their customers have no grace whatsoever.

Dad's BSBSM premium went up 30% since last year. Dad is 82. BCBS does offer a way to make sure they don't cancel you and make you wait 12 months to reapply - sign up for the automatic payment plan. Apparently there are fewer "administrative" costs involved in snagging their premium right out of your bank account.

This is health care insurance in Michigan. In the middle of an attempt to be more reasonable about health care coverage and medical costs in America, BCBSM shows us why health care reform is necessary.

Dad and I are enjoying the new sales message at the top of the invoice, too. "My Blue. My life. My health plan."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Beckie's Joik

She is Foundation. The grounding person of every three-legged stool story in the global tribe's oral tradition. Woman of the earth. Like the mountains, ancient observer - roots deep and dense in the ground - challenging us to be majestic.

Universal understanding. Higher mind meets evolved heart.

Elemental. A white dwarf star of wisdom gently shared.

Human being, daughter, wife, mother, friend.

I am thinking of you today, dear friend.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Barb Barton Turtle Dove CD Release Concert Announced

Barb Barton's long-awaited Turtle Dove CD will be debuted at a dinner and concert on Sunday, January 10 at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 855 Church St., East Lansing, Michigan beginning at 5:30 p.m. YaHOO! as we say here in the Great Lakes State.

If you're not a Michiganderian, you will be able to order the Turtle Dove CD at Barb's website. Check the CD cover art, read the press release, and the dinner menu - oh, the menu!

Barb Barton first touched guitar strings when she was 5 years old. Her songwriting found life in elementary school, using a No. 2 pencil. Her music was born and raised in the woods and water of the magnificent Midwest, accompanied by her Dad's voice that reminded her of Vaughan Monroe.

She has followed the musical cues of artists she admired in her 20s: Buffy St. Marie, Dan Fogelberg, Heart, Roy Clark, Michael Hedges, Led Zeppelin.

Her audiences love her because her music is personal. As a musician songwriter, a woman and a biologist, Barb Barton hopes that "people can reconnect with themselves and the Great Mother Earth and all our relations." She finds renewable energy from other musicians, her audience and the planet.

If trees sang back-up, they'd be touring with Barb Barton. Think ear reiki. Close your eyes, imagine a soul massage. Picture a Lake Superior mirage, a spring-dappled, high-water creek in headlong flight to its sister river. An eaglet on its first canyon dive. Dream about Dancing the Rice.

Drench your brain. Music your heart.

Count your senses. You sure you've only got five?

That's Barb Barton music. Get some now.

Barb Barton Turtle Dove CD Release Concert Announced

Barb Barton's long-awaited 6th CD release - Turtle Dove - will be debuted at a dinner/concert in Lansing, Michigan on Sunday, January 10th at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 855 Church St., East Lansing at 5:30 p.m. Visit Barb's site for ticket information, to ogle the menu, and to take a peek at the CD cover.

Barb Barton has a signature on her email newsletter. "Truth is the greatest gift one can give." Her audiences know what that means: connectedness. Music is truth. Barb's music reveals the invisible thread that binds the songwriter to her music and the music to the audience.

Our heart knows the truth. This is why we choose our car mechanic, the bank teller we wait for, the books we read, the pharmacist who holds our prescriptions, our daycare provider. That's how we chose Barb's music.

You start by tapping your foot to the guitar. You like the melody line. You like the chords. Barb's voice is engaging, accessible, lifting. Wait. What was that line? There it is again! She's storytelling with music. Stories about quiet grace, about love, about loss, about leaving home, about coming home again. About what nature's like when she's resting healed; what she's like when she's wounded and furious. You look around you. Other people are tapping their feet, leaning forward, hearing the truth. Now you've got Barb Barton's music.

Accessible truth. Barb's audiences leave a concert thinking "I'm luckier than I thought." And they feel good. Darn good. That's the truth.

The picture here is from a home concert Barb gave in May. One friend's mother, who will be 90 when the Turtle Dove CD comes out in January, asked Barb if she knew "Crazy." Barb moved the stool closer to Marian, picked up her guitar, sat back down, strummed a little, and began to sing. No one moved, no eye stayed dry. Marian is holding her favorite Barb Barton CD in the picture. Our friend Nancy bought her a little CD player to keep by her chair, so her Mom can hear some musical truth whenever she likes.

We should all be so blessed. Get yourself some Barb Barton music, and you will be. Truly.

Atlin-Taku Watershed Preservation

The Taku watershed is home to all five Pacific salmon species, and other globally significant wildlife. It is a valuable carbon sink, food, water and medicine source and has survived for millennia under the stewardship of First Nations. A Tlingit Shaman wearing Frog Clan hat is pictured. I've blogged about this gorgeous country and the threat to its survivability in May, 2009.

Redfern Resources is still lobbying to reopen the Tulseqah Chief Mine, a copper-lead-zinc mine near Atlin in the watershed. There has never been a mine that has not fouled its ecosystem. Never.

You can help protect this beautiful and ecologically critical watershed by attending this website, organized by Rivers Without Borders, and encouraging the British Columbia and Canadian governments to help this wilderness remain so.

More information is available at the Taku Legacy site. Please use a few minutes of your time to do more good work.