Sunday, November 30, 2008

Protecting Future Generations By Protecting Air, Water & Wildlife

CHERRY VALLEY AND KITTATINNY RIDGE
It is easy to forget in these troubled times that government can help good people do good things. This post is predicated on that notion, and includes the tales of two personal odysseys with government-assisted happy endings some 35 years apart that I would like to share in this Thanksgiving season.

The first odyssey began back in the early 1970s. I was riding my bicycle into the White Clay Creek Valley, a pristine area in southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware containing a diverse and unique range of plant and animal species.

The lower end of the 1,400-acre valley, most of which was owned by the chemical giant Du Pont Company, included a smattering of houses, some of them humble and some historic.

Where there had been a bungalow and detached garage only a few days earlier was a freshly seeded grassy area. There was no trace of the structures. I explored further and found to my horror that other houses, including a magnificent late-18th century farmhouse surrounded by immense sycamore trees, also had disappeared. The arc of sycamores was still there, but only freshly-seeded grass where the house had been.

When asked about these disappearances, a Du Pont spokesmouth explained that the company's insurance company had declared the houses as potentially dangerous, so they had been razed. Bullshit. The real reason was that Du Pont intended to dam the White Clay and flood the valley so it could draw water for a proposed textile manufacturing plant, and that effort would be advanced by surreptitiously making the houses disappear.

Long story short, the alarm was sounded, and through a coalition of environmentalists and sportsmen, Du Pont's plans not only were thwarted, but the pro-dam Republican-led county government in northern Delaware was ousted and a slate of anti-dam Democrats elected. (A young county councilman by the name of Joe Biden rode the anti-incumbent wave to a U.S. Senate seat.)

Du Pont backed down and in 1984 ceded to the states its holdings in the valley, including the 275-year-old house (photo above) in which I lived at the time. With a big assist from Congress, the White Clay Creek Preserve was created to protect this extraordinary ecosystem in perpetuity.

* * * * *
Fast forward to the here and now and Cherry Valley, a 31,000-acre set of interlocking ecosystems on the eastern edge of the Poconos region of northeastern Pennsylvania. While most of the Poconos have been gang raped by developers, some of whom were players in the early wave of predatory lending and sub-prime mortgage scams that have helped lead to the ongoing national economic collapse, the valley is substantially undeveloped.

It is a mosaic of dairy farms, trout hatcheries, a tree farm, vinyard, quarries and a smattering of homes (including the Dear Friend & Conscience's pad, which doubles as the Kiko's House mountain hideaway). Its
topographically and geographically unique ecosystems contain no fewer than five threatened or endangered species and over 30 species whose status also is of special concern. The quality of the groundwater is excellent.

Cherry Valley falls within the physiographic Appalachian Ridge and Valley province, which is characterized by long, parallel, sharp-crested ridges separated by narrow valleys. (See sidebar below for the geological and early political history of the Poconos.)

Elevations range from 300 feet in valley bottoms to 1,600 feet along the top of the Kittatinny Ridge.

The Kittatinny is the most active raptor and songbird migration corridor in the northeastern U.S. and one of the
leading such sites in the world with more than 140 bird species regularly recorded during the fall migration, including a few who find their way down to the DF&C's bird feeders. Its other claim to fame is that atop the ridgeline runs the 2,173-mile-long Appalachian Trail, which begins in northern Georgia and ends at Maine's Mt. Katahdin at the border with Canada. (Or the other way around depending upon one's starting point.)

Cherry Valley has escaped wholesale development through a combination of circumstances and the determination of residents still bitter over the Tocks Island debacle and alarmed at runaway development elsewhere in the Poconos that has decimated other habitats and led to unchecked growth.

The circumstances are the combination of multi-generational dairy farms along the
valley floor that are more or less the glue that holds the valley together and their environmentally aware neighbors. Their determination is seen in the coalition of area residents and organizations, including the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Lehigh Valley Audubon Society, Lenape tribe, Nature Conservancy and Pocono Heritage Land Trust, who have protected the valley for generations and eventually prevailed upon county and local governments, as well as tourism and builders associations, to support creation of the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

After several rounds of public hearings, the refuge is almost a reality.
Support is so overwhelming that it is possible that the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can make that so with a flick of a pen and will not even need an act of Congress.

State, county and local open space monies are exhausted, and
staffing the refugee cannot be a priority in the midst of a recession, but no matter.

There is no turning back and the hopes and dreams of those of us who see this crazy quilt of ridges, pine barrens, fens, kettle hole bogs, caves and pastures as a precious gift to future generations are finally about to be realized.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHS
Among the hundreds of plant and animal species in the proposed Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refugee are several that are endangered or otherwise threatened. They include, from top to bottom, the bog turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii), Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), black-throated blue warbler (Dendroica caerulescens), Northeastern bulrush (Scirpus ancistrochaetus), American eel (Anguilla rostrata), dwarf wedgemussel (Alasmidonta heterodon), and bald eagle (Aliaeetus leucocephalus).

The Poconos: Of Lenapes & Luminaries

The biggest lie told about the Pocono Mountains is that they are mountains. While that technically is true, they aren’t mountains in the sense that the Colorado Rockies are mountains. The Poconos are more like worn down nubs, the result of a geologic bump and grind that began 900 million years ago and continues to this day.

It was during the Precambrian Era that this dance began. Earth's continents collided, creating an immense supercontinent and the first Appalachian mountain range. Almost as quickly – in geologic time, at least – the supercontinent split apart and the Appalachians washed into a primordial sea, the ancestor of the Atlantic Ocean. The continents reversed course and began moving back together about 500 million years ago during the Ordovician Period. As they crept closer, sediment from the first mountains was pushed back out of the sea, forming a second Appalachian range. The continents again collided, resulting in a second supercontinent that geologists call Pangaea. The new Appalachians were pushed westward as the dance continued, forming the parallel ridges that are so evident when you look at a map of the region.

About 200 million years ago, the beginning of the Jurassic Period, Pangaea began breaking up and the resulting continents drifted toward the present-day positions of North America, Europe and Africa. Then the Appalachians began to shrink yet again because of the erosive effects of wind and water, and most notably because of ice as the Earth went through a period of profound cooling. This ice, over a mile thick in some places, carved out valleys, lakes and rivers, as well as rounded off the modern-day Appalachians, which are known in Pennsylvania as the Alleghenys, to the north as the Adirondacks, Berkshires, Taconics, Greens, Whites, Longfellows and Notre Dames, and to the south as the Blue Ridges, Great Smokys and Cumberlands. The three-foot-wide, 2,173 mile long Appalachian Trail runs atop the ridgeline from northern Georgia to Maine’s Mt. Katahdin at the border with Canada. The trail passes within an hour's drive of the East Coast's most populous cities, making it accessible to millions of hikers each year; tens of thousands of those pass through Delaware Water Gap.

The mountains that border the eastern edge of the Poconos are as worn down as any in the Appalachians, with a uniformly flat (some would say boring) ridgeline broken in only one place by a spectacular mile-wide gap where layers of limestone, quartz and shale are laid bare and plunge 1,300 feet from the ridgeline at an almost precise 45-degree angle to a river before reappearing in mirror image on the other side.

The first humans didn't arrive in the Poconos until the last glacier had receded and the transition from tundra to forest was well underway. It was the onset of the Holocene Period, the name given to the last 11,000 years of the Earth's history. The Minsi, Shawnee and Paupack tribes, the first permanent settlers of any consequence, arrived 800 years ago, about the time the barons of the Runnymeade were demanding that King John sign the Magna Charta.

The Minsi were the northernmost Lenni Lenape tribe and part of the great Algonquin nation. They named the river that ran through the gap in the mountains the Lenape, the wide valley above the gap the Minisink and the mountains themselves the Kittatinny. The Minsi were expert farmers, fishermen, hunters, toolmakers and carvers. Their corn grew tall in the fertile valley soil. They fished for eel, sturgeon and shad in the river, trout in its many tributaries and sunfish that they speared in a pond on a meadow atop the Kittatinny ridgeline. They hunted deer, bear and beaver in the woodlands. They made arrowheads, spear points and adzes from flint and chert and cooking vessels from soapstone cut from faraway quarries connected through an extensive network of footpaths. They bore and raised their young in the river valley and buried their elders on the highest rock outcroppings so that they would be just a little bit closer to their heavenly forebears. Life was good.

The beginning of the end of the good life came on August 28, 1609 when Henry Hudson, captain of the Dutch ship Half Moon, arrived on the shores of the New World. Change had played out in the region in increments of millions of years, but was now occurring at a speed and in ways that the Minsi could neither comprehend nor slow down. Within 25 years of Hudson’s arrival, Dutch colonist Hendrick Van Allen had trekked to the gap in the mountains and opened a copper mine nearby. Copper ore was soon being carried by wagon to smelteries nearly 100 miles away on
Copper Mine Road, which was built on improved Indian footpaths. It was the first road of any length in the New World.

The Minsi traded pelts, tobacco and foodstuffs to the Dutch for iron pots, needles and woven cloth. This commerce flourished, but in 1664 the British took over New Amsterdam, which the Dutch had famously purchased from a local tribe for $24 worth of beads, and sent them packing to the Old World.

Local legend has it that Van Allen had fallen in love with the comely Winona, an expert canoeist and archer and daughter of Chief Wissinoming. He was ordered by the Dutch crown to close the mine and skedaddle home. When he tearfully told Winona that he was leaving her behind, the Minsi princess jumped to her death from an outcropping high above the gap in the mountains. Van Allen followed.

As the British were wont to do when they went a conquering, they renamed everything. The river and tribe became the Delaware for Lord De La Warr, otherwise known as Sir Thomas West, and the gap in the mountains became Delaware Water Gap. New Amsterdam, of course, became New York. The closest person to a British chief for the Lenape was William Penn, a devout Quaker and crusader for religious freedom who was into King Charles II for a lot of money. Years of war with France had left the treasury empty, so Charles paid off Penn with a proverbial king’s ransom in the form of an enormous tract of land between Maryland and New York, much of it woodland, that was larger than all of England.

Penn admired the Lenape for their intelligence, intimate relationship with their surroundings and willingness to mediate rather than fight when problems arose. He believed that they were descended from the Lost Tribe of Israel and refused to call them the Delaware, although he did agree to name his vast holdings Pennsylvania, or Penn’s Woods. The deeply-religious Lenape liked Penn, too, and entered into a treaty under which they would coexist with the colonists "as long as the sun will shine and the rivers flow with water." The Lenape would keep the area in northeastern Pennsylvania, including the Poconos, while the British would stay to the south and east.

Penn would be the last white leader of any note who kept his word. His son, Thomas, was an unctuous weasel who drew up the infamous Walking Treaty of 1737, which expropriated most of the Lenape’s ancestral lands. The normally peaceful Minsi were enraged and went on scalping sprees that continued through the French and Indian War in the 1760s and into the 1780s when, decimated and exhausted, they finally conceded they never would never regain their precious Minisink again.

Image: "William Penn's Treaty With the Indians"
By Benjamin West (1771)
© 2004-2008 by SHAUN D. MULLEN

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Beautiful Photograph du Jour

FLYING HIGH
By Bearski

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

Once you get beyond the fact that Nicole Kidman, the world's most famous Aussie actress, plays a prim and proper English lady in the new movie titled Australia, Baz Luhrmann's widescreen epic goes down pretty bloody well.

Kidman's character, Lady Sarah Ashley, predictably morphs into an Outback habituated, Hugh Jackman loving frontierswoman about half way through this 2 hour, 35 minute epic, which on one level is a kitchy, tear-stained, cattle stampeding, Japanese warplane strafing costume drama that includes virtually every Aussie stereotype short of the Sydney Opera House. (Oh, and there are no koalas).

But we don't mind because Kidman puts in a tremendous performance, itinerate drover Jackman is quite nice to oogle even if he can't act, Nullah, a mixed-race boy played by newcomer Brandon Walters nearly steals the show, and in the end Australia delivers a powerful moral punch.

This is a searing reminder of the appalling treatment of Aborigines and government-sanctioned theft of children like Nullah from their mothers that has never been adequately redressed unless you believe that Prime Minister Rudd's official apology to these indigenous people earlier this year atones for two centuries of cruel mistreatment.

The movie opens in 1939 and tears through the major events of the era, concluding with the Japanese attack on Darwin shortly after Pearl Harbor.

Nullah's grandfather, an Abo elder named King George, influences the course of the movie in ways that could be hokey but are not. Luhrmann riffs off of The Wizard of Oz (get it, Oz?), which had just made it to 1939 Darwin, to powerful effect, tying together Abo dream weaving and fantasy with Dorothy's own version of same, but Australia always circles back to the main event: Kidman and Jackman.

Luhrmann
cannot suppress his inner showman, and there are times when Australia threatens to become a confection. But it is a tour de force that has multiple Oscars written all over it -- maybe not Best Movie, but certainly Best Actress for the incredible Kidman, who holds the screen beautifully and absolutely.

If there is anything worse than the terrible twos, it's the terrible twos plus paparazzi. As evidenced by Forbes's Hollywood Hottest Tots list, a new generation of stars has been born into the business. Whether they like it or not, these kids are front page material, and in some cases, they're saving their parents' careers.
. . . Idolising celebrity children may be a nice little escape, but it doesn't do the children any favours. Like I said, take all the complications and troubles of growing up in a regular non-famous family, and add the pressures of fame that are too stressful for even most adults to handle. Suddenly, it's not that cute.

Gray, for fashion and for home, is the color of the moment. And while some might not immediately associate that color with traditional beauty, it can be truly gorgeous.

I don't speak French, but I think I get the message . . . Man, it keeps hitting you doesn't it? This whole "black president" thing is like fragmentation bomb. And I keep getting smacked by the shrapnel. This is fucking embarrassing. Look, this blog is Ta-Nehisi thinking out loud. I say it's embarrassing because I'm constantly worried about getting sucked in and churning out hagiography--to the point that sometimes I find myself just looking for things to disagree with Obama on.

W]hile I think there is some cultural impetus for black women working outside the home, I think more times than not, it is class privilege that gives people the ability or idea to "stay at home."

Outside of the class assumptions behind the idea of the "stay-at-home" mom, I don't necessarily think that Michelle Obama's choice to stay home is a win for us women of color that are just looking for a role model to let us know we can stay at home nor does it disrupt the racist idea that only white women stay at home. I think it feeds into antiquated notions of motherhood that make her more palatable to a wide audience suggesting that yes, she disrupts the idea of the "normal" American by being black, but is as American as apple pie, by staying in the home.

A Japanese zoo puzzled by its lack of success in getting two polar bears to mate has discovered the reason -- both are female.

Regnery Publishing . . . just emailed me to promote one of their newest releases. This time, it's The Politically Incorrect Guide to The Civil War, which, you guessed it, reveals how "conventional 'wisdom' about the Civil War, slavery, and states' rights has been hijacked by Northeast liberals." Among the book's claims: "How the Confederate States of America might have helped the Allies win World War I sooner," and, of course, "How, if there had been no Civil War, the South would have abolished slavery peaceably.

No matter how much I enjoy thinking about the science of resurrection — and I do — I have to admit that the absence of mammoths isn't exactly a pressing problem. What is pressing is the number of species we are currently in danger of losing. It would be a shame if, in 200 years, our descendants were wondering whether to try and resurrect the elephant or the polar bear, the albatross or the mourning dove.

Let's get our act together. Let's prevent that first.

-- OLIVIA JUDSON

It remains to be seen how successful the Rudd Government's $20 million anti-binge drinking television advertising campaign will be and while I wish it every success, I dunno how it's gonna compete against the hundreds of millions spent to push piss as the essence of the Aussie way of life.

You can't turn on the TV over summer (or winter) without seeing boofy blokes from every sporting code blowing the froth off the sponsor's finest and giving the camera a wink, just in case you hadn't worked it out: getting drunk rules.

I daresay that's the terrible hypocrisy that leaps out at most teenagers, who more than anything want to be adults: the entire friggin' world glorifies sucking piss -- sportsmen, politicians, celebrities and mum and dad are constantly falling foul of over-indulgence -- yet nascent teen drinkers are expected to exercise control on the drink.

-- SAM de BRITO

Top photograph by James Devaney/WireImage

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sorry America, It's Not About You

The bodies were still being counted in Mumbai when U.S. television networks, with CNN in the van, erupted with speculation that the U.S. was the real target of the coordinated terrorist attacks.

Yes, there was some taking of American hostages and among the 140 dead were Westerners, including at least two Americans. But who would you expect these cowards to go after in India's most cosmopolitan city? Street vendors selling japatis and beetle nuts?

In a predictable mantra, the nets cited unnamed intelligence sources who asserted that Al Qaeda had been planning "a big one," so the real target must be the U.S. Alas, that self-fulfilling assertion faded quickly as a hitherto unknown radical Muslim group that may not even exist took credit.

Indian officials, of course, were quick to label the attackers as foreign led because of their belief that homegrown terrorists could not have pulled off such a sophisticated operation. That is bullshit given that Indian Muslims have been implicated in a string of bombing attacks that have killed 200 people this year alone.

No matter who the perps are, intelligence experts say they probably have ties to Pakistan.

Relations between the two nuclear powers have long been strained, primarily over the disputed territory of Kashmir, but there are a host of other issues and grievances, as well. Pakistan's own intelligence service has close ties to a number of anti-Indian terrorist organizations, and thanks to the Bush administration's schizophrenically bankrupt policy toward the South Asian nation it continues to flourish as the world's hotbed of radical Islam.

President-Elect Obama has suggested that working toward a rapprochement between Indian and Pakistan will be a key element of his foreign policy, and that if Pakistan focuses less on India and more on Al Qaeda, the Taliban and tribal militants in the lawless mountain region it shares with Afghanistan outlaws then Pakistan, and the larger world, will be a better place.

The U.S. has had but a single attack of the magnitude of 9/11 and Al Qaeda was indeed the culprit. But the assault on India's commercial and tourist center was merely its latest 9/11 in a decades-long series of mass revenge killings and other atrocities committed in the service of one side or another in profound religious and ethnic divisions that Americans can hardly comprehend.

Hindus make up about 80 percent of India's population of 1.13 billion, with Muslims making up about 13 percent, and many of them are extremely pissed off. Not at America, because Mumbai attacks were not us.
Photograph by Reuters

Cartoon du Jour


Glenn McCoy/Universal Press Syndicate

Dems: It's Time To Deal With Rangel

HERE'S WHY. SO DO IT.
Photograph by Brendan Smialowski for The New York Times

A Sign Of The Times

Then there's the fine print.
Hat tip to Nick Baumann at MoJoBlog

Can Brittney Save Jann? (Do I Care?)

It has been a really long time since I read Rolling Stone magazine regularly. I subscribed for many years. But I did thumb through a copy of its shrunken self the other day. Kinda sad.

And I'm not the only one who noticed that Jann Wenner seems to be alternating Brittney Spears and Barack Obama covers.

More here.

Beautiful Photograph du Jour

EYE of HUNTER
By Irawan Yuwono

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

I don't blame Obama for his refusal to overtly champion the big cities. There was no way that a Democratic candidate - especially a black candidate - could win a presidential election if he or she was too closely identified with an urban agenda. For whatever reason, Americans are still enthralled by their small-town heritage, even though the small towns have long been losing population, and even though (as the Brookings Institution has reported) roughly two-thirds of Americans now live within the 100 largest metropolitan areas that also happen to generate three-fourths of the nation's economic output. Which is another way of saying that a landslide majority of people today - directly or indirectly - are economically dependent on the health of America's cities.

But Obama couldn't go around stressing cities, because a lot of voters, in suburbia and small towns, equate that word with black, and one of the lingering racial issues, which kept surfacing in the polls, was that a sizeable share of the electorate feared that Obama might prioritize the needs of black people at the expense of everyone else.

Donald Rumsfeld is writing his memoirs, and if his op-ed in the Nov. 23 New York Times is any preview, it should be a classic of self-serving revisionism. . . . During his six years as defense secretary, Rumsfeld famously wrote hundreds, maybe thousands, of memos to subordinates—they fell so rapidly from on high that his aides called them "snowflakes." According to several officials, many of these snowflakes contradicted one another; he seemed to be staking out several positions on key issues so that he could later claim that he'd taken the right side. In his forthcoming memoirs, he will no doubt quote chapter and verse from just the right snowflakes. Readers, be forewarned—he's blotting out the full storm.
Republicans are about ready to fall into a couple of traps that losing parties apparently can't avoid when the dust settles following a debacle such as they have experienced the last two election cycles. The first is the belief that the reason for being rejected by the voters is that their candidates weren’t "pure" enough ideologically and that only by pushing forward "true conservatives" can the GOP find its way back.

Americans on food stamps is poised to exceed 30 million for the first time this month, surpassing the historic high set in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina.
Well, the Obama administration has started off with one hard lesson learned from Bush and Clinton - leak early, leak often, make your unofficial officials indispensabe to the mainstream news process and throughout your term you'll be able to control the narrative. The big-ticket newsies will be too scared of losing their precious access to be able to consider independent thought or investigative journalsim that might actually turn up unwelcome surprises.

For a bunch of people who were written off as a permanent minority four years ago, the Democrats look remarkably like the natural governing party these days, with a deep bench of talent.

-- PAUL KRUGMAN
As someone who was skeptical of Obama's moderate posturing during the campaign, I have to admit that I am gobsmacked by these appointments, most of which could just as easily have come from a President McCain.

Obama thinks he is a good talker, but he is often undisciplined when he speaks. He needs to understand that as President, his words will be scrutinized and will have impact whether he intends it or not. In this regard, President Bush is an excellent model; Obama should take a lesson from his example. Bush never gets sloppy when he is speaking publicly. He chooses his words with care and precision, which is why his style sometimes seems halting. In the eight years he has been President, it is remarkable how few gaffes or verbal blunders he has committed. If Obama doesn't raise his standards, he will exceed Bush's total before he is inaugurated.
-- JOHN HINDERAKER

A study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that the media cast McCain in a much more negative light than it did Obama. But that hardly means the press was unfair to the Arizonan. Covering the candidates equally would be a false equivalence if one campaign were performing far better than the other one.

"Citizen Kane" no doubt got much more positive coverage than "Beverly Hills Chihuahua." My beloved Phillies got plenty of good ink when they won the World Series this year. All the years they failed to qualify for the playoffs, not so much.

The truth is, the Obama campaign was well-organized, disciplined, virtually error-free. Obama was an inspiring candidate to many, a dazzling public speaker with an inspiring storyline.

The McCain campaign, in contrast, was a train wreck, lurching from message to message. And McCain, who can be an immensely appealing figure, seemed angry and unfocused.

. . . McCain got his negative publicity the old-fashioned way. He earned it.

-- REM REIDER
Top photograph by Shira Golding

Thursday, November 27, 2008

'They Both Had A Big Gentle Chuckle'

THE WONDER OWLS
(Los Tecolotes Milagrosos)
By Dr.Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Across the road, a man stood on his flat roof
at 9 pm every night,
hooting a good sounding hoot at the owl
in the dark cottonwoods,
and he was so thrilled
that the owl hooted back at him.
Hoo hoo, said one,
Hoo hoo, called the other . . .

And night after night this went on . . .

Hoo hoo said one.
Hoo hoo, said the other,
and the man was so happy . . .

Until another neighbor man mentioned how
at exactly 9pm after dusk
he would hear a hoot owl cry,
and he would cry back,
Hoo hoo
to each Hoo hoo he heard.
And how wondrous it was, he said,
that he and the owl spoke to each other
every night.

It soon became clear
the men had been Hoo hooing
not with an owl,
but at each other,
each convinced it was the real McCoy.
And they laughed and changed the subject
To, How 'bout 'dem White Sox,
and that was that.

But, meanwhile, before, during and after,
the real owls of the woods,
talked amongst themselves
about the humans Hoo hooing to each other . . .
The owls nodded, Not bad, not bad,
their accents are thick
but their phonetics are pretty good.

And the Queen of the Owls heard the story
of the two humans Hoo hooing each other
thinking they were speaking to a real owl,
and she saved up the tale
to tell to the God of the Humans,
and they both had a big gentle chuckle over
both the humans and the owls . . .

Speaking long into the night with
great tenderness, remembering
the thundering days in which humans
and creatures were first created,
about how glad they were
that humans longed to speak
to animals,
and how glad they were for animals
who heard the humans trying,
and approved.

The sad part; the two men
were terribly embarrassed over not knowing
the owl they were calling to
was another human being . . .
and they never stood on their porches or roofs again
crying out Hoo hoo, for they did not know
or had forgotten that inside every man
is a great raptor,
one who can see in the dark,
one who can lift its tip-feathers
and fly through forests
without making a sound.

But the embarrassed men had little sons and daughters
and the owls at night still practice their Hoo hooings
as close to the children's windows as possible . . .
for in the Church of the Owls
in their scripture scratched on bark,
it says that giants walk the earth
and that the entire kingdom of birds
has been given dominion over the poor giants,
to care for them, to lead them, guide them,
to watch over them while on Earth ...

To teach them, again and again, that inside
each soul is a great raptor
who can not only acutely see and hear
during dark times
. . . but also by merely landing,
with what seems so mere a weight
of twenty pounds of feathers,
thereby can cause the limbs of thousand-year-old pines
to bend all the way to the ground.

The prayer for this time, and with love:
Go do likewise.
La Pasionaria ©1999, 2008 C.P. Estés
Painting by Shebrew

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pass (Or Throw) The Cranberry Sauce

Without going off the deep end, I gotta tell you that this famous Norman Rockwell painting -- like Thanksgiving itself -- leaves me feeling conflicted.

On the one hand, it brings back fond memories of when my family -- grandmothers, aunts, uncles and sudry nieces and nephews -- lived closed by and we would have big feasts like this one. In fact, the woman putting the turkey on the table looks a lot like Nana, my father's mother. (That's Rockwell himself in the lower left-hand corner.)

On the other hand, there is a bitter irony in the painting. Its title is "Freedom From Want" and is from Rockwell's famous Four Freedoms series, which also includes "Freedom of Speech," "Freedom of Every Person to Worship in His Own Way" and "Freedom From Fear."

Hallowed concepts all, but a little tattered, no?

When I was looking for an image to post, I found several with Pilgrim-Indian themes, but realized how hypocritical it would be to use any of them. The Pilgrims came to the New World to escape religious prosecution, made nice for about five minutes and then began the slaughter of Native Americans that continues today in more subtle ways. (Then there's that Sarah Palin video.)

Far be it from me to tell American visitors to Kiko's House how they should celebrate the holiday. Feel no guilt when you join millions of other people to shop at the mall this weekend or watch football. As it is, the DF&C and I try to keep it simple and view the holiday as a version of the harvest rituals practiced for millennia.

Just do me a favor: If someone tells you how proud they are to be an American this Thanksgiving, ask if they voted for Barack Obama, or voted at all. If they didn't, have the cranberry sauce passed to you and throw it at them.

* * * * *
Am I the only one of thinks that Helen Philpot is getting a little help with her wonderful posts over at Martha and Helen? I cannot imagine being able to write so seamlessly if I make it to age 83. No matter. Here's her 2008 Thanksgiving Letter to the Family. It's a hoot.

Then there is the funniest Thanksgiving teevee sitcom episode ever.

We Be Big Mighty Librul Bloggers!

The notion that liberal bloggers had a role in sinking the nomination of John Brennan to be CIA director is hysterical, and all the more so because respectable folks like Digby are buying into this conceit.

The ability of bloggers to ascribe mythic powers to their deathless prose is stunning, and for bloggers who really believe they played a role in Brennan backing out I have just one word:
Joe Lieberman.
Okay, that's two, but you get my point.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Barack Obama On The Cusp: It Is Indeed The Best Of Times & The Worst Of Times

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.
-- CHARLES DICKENS

I riffed last week on the Exxon Valdez-sized spill of angry ink in the left-of-center blogosphere because President-Elect Obama's cabinet appointments and policy decisions appear to br less indicative of hopeandchange than politics as usual.

Obama, among other things, has reached out to a one-time foe to be secretary of state, anointed a guy with some baggage to be his attorney general who happens to be black, tapped a longtime war horse to lead Health and Human Services, probably will keep a Bush appointee at Defense, named a bully to be his chief of staff, greased the skids for the return of Senator Uriah Heep to a powerful committee chairmanship, and named an economic policy team long on establishment experience and, in some cases, disconcertingly part of the problem while being tasked with finding the solution.

With the economic free fall accelerating -- and you'd better believe that at best the Citicorp bailout is merely the end of the beginning and not the beginning of the end of the financial markets madness -- I am damned well relieved and not a little humbled that Obama has tacked so resolutely back to the political center from whence he cameth.

This is no time to make it up as we go along.

The Bush administration has been impotent when it comes to putting the brakes on the free fall. Say what you will, but that has less to do with its aversion to leadership, its embrace of deregulation and financial market profligacy in general than the difficulty of checking profoundly powerful economic forces once they are unleashed. Just ask Herbert Hoover.

If ever the U.S. needed a political system grafted from Europe's parliamentary model it is now.

Yes, there can be "only one president at a time," as Obama's advisers keep reminding us. But a shadow cabinet already would have been in place on the day after Election Day; no agonizing 12-week transition as things unravel faster and further. At least Obama pledges to send his Main Street stimulus package to Congress when it convenes on January 6 and have it ready to sign when he takes over on January 20.

* * * * *

Obama's electoral mandate has Americans feeling good about themselves in a way they haven't for generations at a the time when things haven't been so bad in generations. In that respect it is indeed the best of times and the worst of times. And make no mistake about it, an era is about to commence that will be characterized by a binge of deficit spending that may well cement the young president's place in history early on as either a hero or a knave.

George Bush, of course, gave deficit spending a deservedly bad name.

But the big headline from Obama's rollout (photo) of his economic team yesterday is that these red-ink dollars -- perhaps as much as a trillion big ones -- will be used to create jobs and rebuild infrastructure, not to kill Arabs, as one pundit put it. The stakes could not be higher for obvious reasons and for one perhaps not so: America's hegemony as the planet's economic powerhouse is in all likelihood coming to an end. Bring on China and India.

That is not necessarily a bad thing, but America will cease to be a major global player if it cannot employ and keep healthy its own people. It is having a hard time doing the former (unemployment may reach 9 percent early next year) and absolutely sucks at the latter (as in upwards of 50 million people will soon be without health insurance).

The ebullience many of us felt when Obama spoke from Grant Park on the night of his historic victory seems like a lifetime and not three weeks ago.

I wrote then that it was my fervent belief that the president-elect, while being mindful that his mandate is to heal as well as to lead, must first reaffirm the core values that Bush, Cheney and their goon squad subborned in the service of an imperial agenda. He first must make sure that the fundamental rights of all Americans are protected before he can lead us out of the wilderness.

Well, as events have proven, there are other things that have to come first: Like investing in all Americans and not merely the rich, and in the process restoring our faith in a battered economic system.

Cartoon du Jour

Signe Wilkinson/Philadelphia Daily News

Home By Christmas. Or Something.

Former Osama bin Laden driver Salim Hamdan is being transferred from the outlaw prison at Guantánamo Bay back to his home country of Yemen.

Hamdan, who made legal history with a Supreme Court appeal that invalidated military commissions established by the Bush administration in the wake of 9/11, was convicted of aiding Al Qaeda in August and sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison after a jury of six officers found him guilty of only the least serious charges. With credit for time served, Hamdan would be eligible for release in January.

The unexpectedly light sentence put the Pentagon in quandry: While the White House got less than a half a loaf with the sentence, it claimed that the system worked but at the same time vowed that Hamdan would not be released from custody until the Global War on Terror is over.

Officials would not address the change of heart, but it should be noted that Yemen has frosty relations with the U.S. and in the past has released terrorists on their own or allowed them "to escape."

With Role Models Like These . . .

Who sez Republican wimmins ain't revelant?

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The sweet smell of success did not spoil Anthony Knott.

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First Scotland and now Cape Cod.

Beautiful Photograph du Jour

VANISHING POINT
By Barbara

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

[I]t is a bit mystifying that there have been as many complaints from the left about Obama's appointments as there have been. Surely they understood, as I have come to understand, that he is an establishment-accommodating, consensus-oriented politician, so how can anyone be all that surprised or upset? That is how he won, and that is how he has ascended so quickly in politics. . . . There are two distinct questions here. It seems to me that there should be fewer bewildered cries of betrayal, because there should have been no illusions about Obama, but there should be far more criticism of Obama's selections and decisions when progressives find them dissatisfying for well-founded reasons. In other words, there ought to be even more criticism of the probable Brennan selection, but much less gasping in surprise and asking, “How could Obama do that?”

There will be difficulties -- maybe a lot of difficulties -- along the way, and it's very easy to imagine a scenario in which the withdrawal from Iraq ends up dominating the foreign-affairs side of the ledger in Obama's first term, and not necessarily in a good way. And by putting the job in the hands of Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton -- a Republican appointee and a primary-season rival who attacked him from the right on foreign policy -- Obama has effectively given realists and liberal hawks partial ownership of whatever happens in Iraq between now and 2011.

It was apt in a small way that the first endorser of Hillary Rodham Clinton for secretary of state should have been Henry Kissinger.

We watch in wonder as a beleaguered government frantically throws billions into rescuing institutions that broke all the rules of our lifetime and wonder, when this is mercifully over, how will we get back to a sane balance of risk and reward to help our children and grandchildren pay for all this madness?

My working model of the distinction between the Clinton and Obama campaigns during the primary was that the Clinton campaign was somewhat more boldly progressive on domestic issues, notably health care, and quite a bit more conservative on foreign policy. At the end of the day, this seemed to cut in Obama's favor, as the executive has fairly little autonomy on issues like health reform (Congress decides it), but quite a bit on foreign affairs.

Since winning the election, however, Obama's choices have demonstrated rather the opposite.

It's out of flavor with the post-racial times, but I'm going to say it: I'm struck by the number of black people who are going to be working in the White House. I know these aren't cabinet-level jobs (excepting Holder) and maybe Valerie Jarrett will do an awful job. But I was taken aback watching a black woman lay out the agenda for the next president on "Meet The Press" a few weeks back. Maybe Holder is a complete bum, but look, I come out of the era of Rodney King, and from time to time will still play "Fuck The Police." Forgive me for having an emotional reaction to the top-cop in this country being a black man. I have been very hard on people who expect the mere sight of Obama as president to alter some things in the black community. Have I been too hard? I need to think more about how this makes me feel. On an emotional level, I'm sorry, it's fucking stunning.

The key to Barack Obama's success may lie with his least enthusiastic supporters.

The political community is abuzz these days about the imminent launch of Barack Obama 2.0, a cutting-edge plan for effective governance in the Internet era. The heady expectation is that the new president will usher in a brave new world of communication, using the power of the web to conduct an unprecedented two-way conversation with citizens, all in the interests of providing the change they seek.

. . . Millions of cynical Americans have long felt deprived of a voice in their government – and here comes this guy who vows to open the doors. As a senator, Obama's sponsored a bill (it’s now a law) that he calls "Google for government," because it allows anyone to type a few key words and find out where their tax dollars are going. Obama has even talked about allowing C-Span to film his health-care deliberations (although I'll believe that one when I see it). Clearly, his instinct is to lower the barriers between president and populace.

But as for this idea of engaging in a two-way online conversation, with feedback from citizen participants . . . well, we shall see about that one. Speaking from first-hand experience, I can stipulate that the online world is particularly unruly, a virtual Wild West where the perpetually aggrieved shoot first and think later, if at all.

. . . The point is, Obama may well discover that the power of the web can’t be harnessed from Washington, not even by a majority president riding a wave of good will.

-- DICK POLMAN

Photograph by Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press