Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008


"Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency."

--proposal by Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson

I had qualms before, but this is outrageous. Terrifying.


Have you read the amazing, prescient, dense book by Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine? In it she argues that policies that would never be passed during times of calm are often implemented right after natural disasters, wars, or massive economic upheaval.

The author gives abundant details of how unwanted changes can be pushed through fin the immediate aftermath of crises--from the privatization of New Orleans' public schools after Hurricane Katrina to the seizure of wrecked fishing villages by resort developers after the Asian tsunami. She surveys privatization in Chile under Pinochet, post-apartheid South Africa, post-Solidarity Poland, Russia under Yeltsin, China after the Tiananmen Square protests, reconstruction of Iraq after the U.S. invasion, and Israel after 9/11.

Whether the crises are real or invented, plotting leaders use these moments of chaos to their advantage. They adopt programs that would never be democratically accepted by the people. Military coups, violence and force, wars, induced hyperinflation, terrorism, preemptive war, climate disasters all have been cards played by rulers in order for drastic economic policies to be imposed. Nearly always, they are developed in secrecy and implemented too rapidly for citizens to respond.

The result of these non-democratic interventions is vastly increased inequality. Those with wealth and power benefit from the transformations as their corporations reap the assets. It is those at the bottom and in the middle who are asked to forfeit their freedoms and their livelihoods.

As one reviewer said, "This is the new New Economy: the looting of the public sector through the now tried-and-true methods of disaster capitalism." It is through the policies established in the wake of crises that federal money and authority gets handed to private corporations such as Halliburton and Blackwater, and individual rights and freedoms get muffled and shunted aside.

* * *

Where are we now, with investment banks lying dead around all the empty foreclosed homes and shuttered small businesses?

On the one hand, the motivations of disaster capitalists to move toward a world of uber-capitalism seem to have failed--and failed dramatically. We've seen how dangerous privitization can be in the face of extreme deregulation and lack of oversight.

On the other hand, we are at a moment that much of America is in shock by the loss of their homes, their retirements, their children's college funds, their jobs, and their health care plans--their inability to pay their credit card debt and their student loans--as well as the shock they experience every time they buy groceries or gas. Congress is told that we may be a couple of days away from a complete meltdown of our financial system. Democratic senators Schumer and Dodd suggested that what Secretary Paulson told them was too frightening to repeat, what sounds far worse than the Great Depression. Executives suggest that the crisis will lead to "riots in the streets" or a bloodbath, that it is "a beast of biblical proportions." Newspaper reports suggest that we were 500 trades away from Armageddon. Bloggers suggest this is a fiscal Katrina. The international press is suggesting that the United States itself might default.

Is this not a shock itself?

Could this shock allow the "quick and clean" bill the Paulson wants to pass immediately without discussion?

(Just a thought for some budding politician: oppose this bill now because it may be the next Iraq, and a statement against it could set you up as the next Obama. UPDATE: Someone agrees with me!)

Perhaps the bail-out plan is the only way to answer this crisis. I am no economist.

But every little bit of me resists when those in power tell us to turn off our critical thinking and stop questioning things. They know what is right, they say. They'll take care of us. Don't worry. Be happy. (The fundamentals are strong, right?)

Well, I am worried.

I'm concerned that even relatively conservative commentators are suggesting that capitalism is changed forever. I don't feel comfortable that the industry could control the markets to allow people to bet only that things are going up and not manage their risk with shorts. I feel uneasy that individual Americans, people already struggling to pay their bills and help other suffering people in their communities, are being asked to bail out millionaire corporations. I am disturbed that we are being asked to add hundreds of billions of dollars to the already-enormous national debt.

Maybe this plan is the right answer. I have no idea.

But I know it is wrong to be shocked into doing something without thinking, to be told by our leaders that the truth is too scary for us to hear, to have it suggested that we should contemplate what supports monster corporations rather than what is good for all Americans--including the poor.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Today, Son is off to the Maryland Renaissance Festival with some friends. Although Scottish Day was last weekend, he decided to wear his kilt:

Although there is lots of fantastic food available there, he packed himself a snack in my new bento box.

On the bottom is some homemade pizza with fresh tomatoes, shallots, and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese. On the top is fresh spinach leaves, almonds, and dried cherries, along with a few ABC cookies from Trader Joe's.

Isn't the box perfect for a knitter/spinner?

(Ha! Two hole posts where I have not mentioned He- and She-Who-Cannot-Be-Named!)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Potato, Patahto...

Which wild-and-crazy republican vice presidential candidate was it who corrected a student's spelling of "potato" with "potatoe"?

* * *

We harvested our pathetic little crop of new potatoes:

Although we only got a few potatoes and almost all were tiny, it seemed like utter magic to turn the crate over and discover these gleaming gems!

Next year: sweet potatoes.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


"The reason I'm calm is I have confidence in the American people."
--Barack Obama

Wish I did.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Fundamentally" Republican?

This is not a political blog (although it may have looked like one lately)--but as a professional historian, I could not let this comparison pass:

"The economy is fundamentally sound."
-- President Herbert Hoover, 1931

"The fundamentals of the economy are strong."
-- Presidential Candidate John McCain, 2008

Are we going from Hooverville to McCainville?

Both brought to you by the party that is wrecking America.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Crossing Party Lines

Has everybody seen this one? It definitely put my political anxiety in a better place!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Turning Off:

My parents--two born-and-bread white southerners--morphed into liberals during the Civil Rights Movement. They raised me to value equality and justice. They raised me to believe that to whom much is given, much is required. They raised me to be a left-wing Democrat.

* * *

For all the elections of my voting life, I've said that I might move to Canada if the party I was not supporting (ie, the Republicans) won the election.

Ok, Ok: I know Canada doesn't want to make new citizens of disaffected American voters just on a whim.

Well, I pretty much knew I wasn't even going to try, too. The United States is my home and I honestly cannot imagine just throwing in the towel out of anger that democracy isn't going my way at the moment. That is not what DEMOCRACY is even about. But the idea of turning my back on the whole country sometimes got me through some difficult moments.

* * *

Dukakis, the Democratic candidate when I was in college, lost the presidential election--to my absolute surprise. I was living in a lefty neighborhood in Massachusetts and could not imagine anyone voting for George H.W. Bush.

I did not actually move after the election, of course, and I survived those four years in the United States. I got involved in pacifist organizations and the feminist movement and the queer movement--and my anger turned into motivation for change even if it had to take place outside national politics.

I lived in a lovely lefty-hippie neighborhood in North Carolina when Harvey Gantt ran against *Jesse Helms in 1990. I did not know a single person who supported Helms--and absolutely could not imagine anyone actually voting for Helms. Gantt was smart and progressive and clearly a leader on a path the state should take.

Again, I was wrong. And hey, I did leave North Carolina (albeit for different reasons).

* * *

I didn't move after George W. Bush was appointed president, or even after the second fiasco four years later.

Nevertheless, I have never fully accepted that Bush is actually my president.

(I know that statement will rule out my chances to ever run for office...as if they were not already ruined by my dangerously evil pacifist commitments or my belief in non-chromosome-defined love.)

* * *

I said after McCain was chosen in the Republican primary that even if Obama did not win this election, I could honestly say I would not leave the country and would acknowledge that the guy was actually my president. I mean, I disagree with him an awful lot of the time, but hey...he's not Bush.


Well, I guess things have changed.

As I said to my partner David last night, the neo-Con flat-world globalism is troubling. But the paleo-Con flat earth beliefs of right-wing evangelicals are far more disturbing to me.

Palin is a radical conservative of the evangelical stripe.

I have enough trouble dealing with Obama when he starts talking about his beliefs. I honestly don't like the idea that people who feel their religious beliefs are relevant to presidency could become our leaders. I don't like the idea that any core political decisions, from who we define as "enemies" to issues of abortion rights or creationism in the schools, might be made within the framework of an individual's individual beliefs. The lens I want my leaders to look through when making decisions that affect all of us is the lens of humanism: what is best for the people of this country and world, not what the politician says God wants him or her to do.

God gets used an awful lot to justify evil--too often for me to trust God language in politics. Maybe too much for me to trust God language in other places, too.

* * *

I think I've changed my mind. Maybe I will move to Canada.

* * *

I haven't slept enough in nights. I felt like this during the end of both of the previous elections. Is it normal to feel so ill about something as...intangible(?) ...as who wins the presidential election?

I think I need to turn off the radio, turn off the internet, just to preserve my own sanity. I won't be posting for a few days as I take this Luddite holiday.

*When creating the link for Gantt, I discovered that one of Helm's advisors in that awful race-baiting Senate campaign is now, frighteningly, McCain's chief campaign adviser. (Check out the horrifying ideas presented in that last link.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Ones I Breathe

Emma's Revolution won't let me forget the raw intensity I felt after 9/11. This song is about memory, about sadness, about justice.

If I Give Your Name

Mi esposa, my wife, worked on the 80th floor
The company had hired illegals before
She got the job by word of mouth
That's the way in the north when you're from the south

They say 3,000 but the counting's not done
Mi esposa está muerta
Three thousand and one

I have no papers, I have no rights
All my days end in sleepless nights
Missing you, silently
If I give your name
Will they come after me?

Mi hermano, my brother, the elevator man
A doctor in our country but you take what you can
I saw the photos in Union Square
But I could not leave his picture there

They say 3,000 but that's not true
Mi hermano no volverá
Three thousand and two


Mi hija, my daughter, went in early that day
She had always been that way
Her daughter asks, "Where did she go?"
How to tell her, I don't know

They say 3,000 but that can't be
Perdí a mi hija
Three thousand and three


Mi padre, my father, I have no words
I tried to find you when I heard
They gave some ashes to families
But I'll only have the ones I breathe

They say 3,000 there's so many more
Three thousand and four


Mi esposa, my wife. Will they come after me?
Mi hermano, my brother. Will they come after me?
Mi hija, my daughter. Will they come after me?
Mi padre, my father. If I give your name,
Will they come after me?

--Sandy O & Pat Humphries

(The lyrics are powerful--and so is the music. Go have a listen!)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Congrats to my 9yo son for winning first place in the contest over at Vegan Lunch Box!

Head over to his blog and leave him an encouraging comment. After all, blogging is part of homeschool English this year...

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Power of Community

Last night as I watched the Republican National Convention, I was expecting the Republicans to blast Obama. The Democrats were certainly not easy on McCain. Attacking the opponent is what the campaigns of both the Democrats and the Republicans do, after all.

I assumed they would say that Obama's experience as a community organizer was not preparation to be president. Personally, I disagree. Obama directed an organization that helped community members set up a job training program, a college preparatory tutoring program, and a tenants' rights organization. Insuring that the citizens of the country receive education, work skills, and affordable decent housing are core responsibilities of our national leadership. However, I can understand how and why the Republicans could arrive at a different opinion.

I was stunned, however, to hear the speakers mock the entire concept of community organizing. Rudy Giuliani spluttered out to a wildly cheering crowd: "He [Obama] worked as a community organizer. What? He worked — I said — I said, OK, OK, maybe this is the first problem on the resume."

Do the Republicans not know what community organizing means?

Community activism is absolutely at the core of participatory democracy. Its goal is to have all members of the community become empowered leaders able to address whatever issues the community faces--massive layoffs and unemployment, lack of public transportation in the face of the high price of gas and cars, foreclosures on homes, the existence of hunger and malnutrition in the face the rising costs of food, high rates of teen pregnancy, rising school drop-out rates and students not being able to afford college, lack of health care, the presence of fear and violence, poverty.

The goal of an organizer is to help the community learn how to respond to its own needs rather than have the government have to shoulder the responsibility. (You'd think the Republicans would support community organizing in greater numbers than Democrats would, wouldn't you?)

Did you know that Obama's community activism took place within the context of a faith-based organization? Wasn't it the Republicans who pushed for faith-based initiatives to restore all the services the government was no longer providing?

I can think of nothing better for the start of one's resume--for a Democratic or a Republican--than spending three years as a community organizer, learning about the real issues real people face. It seems far, far more relevant than being a soldier, no matter how much bravery or responsibility being a soldier might show.

Community organizers learn every day the power of community members to become their own leaders. Rather than political executives doing that job for them, real people act for themselves and learn to change the world. Sometimes community organizers have to give up their own veto in order to do what the entire community thinks is right. Organizers know that their role is to inspire, facilitate, and guide the regular citizens of this country to take the reigns of power and lead America to a better place.

* * *


Um...McCain just canceled his own scheduled community service for today...

Also: check out this marvelous post about community organizers.

Monday, September 01, 2008


Son and I have been struggling with the start of school.

For the last few years, we've been "unschooling" in a heavy way--not following workbooks or parent-made plans. That does not mean he doesn't do and learn a great deal, or that I have nothing to do with what he studies and how he learns things. Unschooling means constantly putting books in his path and opportunities in his way.

For years, Son has been exploring math concepts in a fairly advanced way--but often he is stopped by his inability to do basic math facts with ease. He's never really learned his multiplication tables or even memorized those pesky addition facts. Because he has to think them out each time, it makes doing complex problems difficult. Even when he gets the complex idea down right away, he often can't get the answer right without it taking forever.

This year, we've decided that we want to use a math workbook and even rote drill in order to help him brush up on those underpinnings.

Needless to say, given a very intense child with perfectionist issues, he's often frustrated.

So am I.

This morning, Son had a meltdown over what I thought would be a very easy math exercise. After he erupted in tears (and before I lost my temper at his over-reaction), David and I asked him to do something that would help him regroup--hug his stuffed animal upstairs, do yoga, get a drink, or whatever.

He went to his bedroom.

I picked up my knitting, a Diamond Fantasy lace shawl (designed by Sivia Harding) knit with silk laceweight yarn. The pattern requires just enough concentration that it helps me really refocus and relax. If it were any easier, I would continue to stew in my own misery while making the stitches. (In fact, the first Diamond Fantasy I knit helped me through clinical depression.)

Somehow, rather than knitting new stitches, I took to heart my son's need to backtrack and set things anew. I found myself TINKing (KNITing spelled backwards to indicate one is undoing stitches one by one). I undid about 30 stitches before I realized it. When I saw what I was doing, I immediately smiled and was (mostly) back to a place of patience. The magic of knitting.

Son is currently sitting with David going over the same kinds of math problems. Neither of them is in tears yet...


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