Jones of the Nile

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Katrina and the Waves

I've been wanting to write that headline up there ever since Katrina was just a tropical depression. Pity no newspaper that I've seen has used it! Then again, you pretty much have to be a child of the 1980s (or an addict to Vh-1) to get the pun.

Speaking of Hurricane Katrina, here's a great article that looks at Katrina from a different angle. It's from The Boston Globe, but it was posted on Common Dreams, the Web site that conservative columnist Michelle Malkin trashed the other day as nothing but propaganda for Cindy Sheehan and her ilk.

This article has nothing to do with Cindy Sheehan, and everything to do with the global warming that is causing our planet to throw up. Hence killer tsunamis. Hence killer hurricanes. Hence tornadoes in Scandanavia. Hence Ashlee Simpson.

Well, OK, even something as evil as global warming can't be blamed for bringing us Ashlee Simpson. But here's a snippet from this Boston Globe article that hits home, especially as gas prices continue to climb:

    "Although Katrina began as a relatively small hurricane that glanced off south Florida, it was supercharged with extraordinary intensity by the relatively blistering sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico.

    The consequences are as heartbreaking as they are terrifying.

    Unfortunately, very few people in America know the real name of Hurricane Katrina because the coal and oil industries have spent millions of dollars to keep the public in doubt about the issue.

    The reason is simple: To allow the climate to stabilize requires humanity to cut its use of coal and oil by 70 percent. That, of course, threatens the survival of one of the largest commercial enterprises in history."

On another note, I've heard from at least a half-dozen people via phone, email and in person that the only thing worse than Hurricane Katrina is a Pumpkin Spice Frapuccino. Personally, I think y'all just need to get in touch with your inner Autumn. To help you do that, here's some recipes for making your own pumpkin spice at home... :-)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Summer Lovin', Had me a Blast...

I am fried from a week-long series of intense staff meetings (they could have been televised on ESPN2 they were so extreme!), but feel guilty for not posting anything the last five days or so. I have nothing witty in my brain tonight, so I'm going to share a paragraph from Annie Dillard that sums up my day.

Today it became pretty clear that Summer 2005 is singing its swan song. Kids started school today up here in this section of Pennsylvania, and when I went to Starbucks this evening, I was able to get a "Pumpkin Spice" frappuccino. Nothing says the death of summer like "Pumpkin Spice."

So before we lose the flip-flops for the timberlands, here's a gracious thought from Annie Dillard about the changing of the seasons. Well, OK, it really has nothing to do with the changing of the seasons. It has to do with Winter, which is creeping up on us more and more each day (kind of like the age of 30 for me!). But I liked its sentiment...that we really do live in an age of innocence. Despite what that kook Don Henley might say. Enjoy!

    "I'm getting used to this planet and to this curious human culture which is as cheerfully enthusiastic as it is cheerfully cruel. I never cease to marvel at the newspapers. In my life I've seen one million pictures of a duck that has adopted a kitten, or a cat that has adopted a duckling, or a sow and a puppy, a mare and a muskrat. And for the one millionth time, I'm fascinated...I wish I had the wonderful pair before me, mooning about the yard. It's all beginning to smack of home. The winter pictures that come in over the wire from every spot on the continent are getting to be as familiar as my own hearth. I wait for the annual aerial photograph of an enterprising fellow who has stamped in the snow a giant Valentine for his girl. Here's the chickadee-trying-to-drink-from-a-frozen-birdbath picture, captioned, "Sorry, wait till Spring," and the shot of a utterly bundled child crying piteously on a sled at the top of the hill, labeled, "Needs a Push." How can an old world be so innocent?"

    - Annie Dillard, "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek"

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Breed to be wild

I'm in the middle of a week-long series of staff meetings (quick, everyone give a collective sigh!), so I haven't been posting much at all. Darn this crazy month of August, with it's conferences, retreats, meetings, and celebration of the birth of Elvis Presley (or is it his death? I can never remember...).

So two quick things...first, since I'm in 'work-mode', here's a link where you can find out your "Business Sign." Screw the Zodiac and it's Scorpio-hating ways! (I think the other signs hate us because we can kill you with one swat of our tail...) (Do you hear that, Capricorns!) (Yeah, you, with the goat ears!)

On a more depressing, sad, paranoid, typical Jones of the Nile note, here's a link to an article that says our world is quickly heading down the path of SEVEN BILLION PEOPLE. I can see the CEO of Ford right now thinking, "Bwahaha...7 billion people to drive our SUVs..."

No, seriously, it looks like we'll hit SEVEN BILLION PEOPLE (I feel the need to capitalize that it's so huge!) in 2012 - with the majority of the people being born in developing countries, according to the Population Reference Bureau (or as I refer to it, the PRB. But that's just because we're friendly).

Developing countries? Ohh, scratch that Ford CEO I see the CEO of Old Navy thinking, "Bwahaha...7 billion people to make 1% of the world's clothes..."

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Smuggling Birds

Like many, I celebrate Church every Sunday at St. Starbucks, St. Barnes and Noble, or St. Borders. Sometimes I read the NY Times, or a book, or the weekend issue of USA Today. Sometimes I just stare at the cute medical students who invariably study from the second Starbucks opens to the second Starbucks closes.

Today I was reading from Eduardo Galeano, a jouranlist/historian from all over South America (though he was originally from Uruguay, I believe). It's a beautiful little reflection - and from where I stand, more moving than what's being said right now at 95% of the Churches around this country. It was written about a time in Uruguay when a dictatorship ruled the country very harshly. So I share...

    The Uruguayan political prisoners may not talk without permission or whistle, smile, sing, walk fast, or greet other prisoners; nor may they make or receive drawings of pregnant women, couples, butterflies, stars or birds.

    One Sunday, Didako Perez, school teacher, tortured and jailed "for having ideological ideas," is visited by his daughter Milay, age five. She brings him a drawing of birds. The guards destroy it at the entrance of the jail.

    On the following Sunday, Milay brings him a drawing of trees. Trees are not forbidden, and the drawings get through. Didako praises her work and asks about the colored circles scattered in the treetops, many small circles half-hidden among the branches: "Are they oranges? What fruit is it?"

    The child puts her finger to her mouth: "Shh."

    And she whispers in his ear: "Silly, don't you see they're eyes? They're the eyes of the birds that I've smuggled in for you."

Friday, August 19, 2005

'The Lowest Point in My Life'

If I had to give just one low point, I'd say the time I made my mother cry for calling her nothing more than a lunch lady. Ugh. I still feel so ashamed! And it wouldn't have been so bad if I would have been like 12 years old when I said it...but I was 22, and I saw her whole frame crush in front of me.

Of course, that's not as bad as Col. Lawrence Wilkerson's 'lowest point,' as reported by CNN. He helped lie us into the war in Iraq, and now he feels least according to his testimony in a future CNN special report, "Dead Wrong - Inside an Intelligence Meltdown."

It's an interesting read, because it gives context for just how much of a tool former Secretary of State Colin Powell was. But sorry, just because you realize you made a mistake, Col. Wilkerson, doesn't absolve you of your accountability for helping create the disaster in the desert. Thanks for coming forward, but I hope you're prepared to help get us out of this bloody mess.

Speaking of getting us out, hope you got a chance to see Sen. Russ Feingold's comments about withdrawing the troops from Iraq. If you haven't, you can check them out here. Finally, someone in the Senate willing to speak up. There's rumors that Sen. Feingold may run for Prez in could only hope so. He may have the progressive goods and the juice that Dr. Dean ran out of in '04.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely?

I don't know where these came from, but a friend (a Catholic nun, so hopefully they're authentic! If not, we're in trouble...) sent these to me. Interesting...I guess "the grass is always greener on the opposite side." Or "where you stand determines what you see." Or "the pot is calling the kettle black." Or "insert your own favorite cliche here."

Enjoy, and best wishes for a grand weekend.

These are comments made by Republicans when they were not in power
These are quotes offered up by Republican leaders back when President Clinton was committing U.S. troops to Bosnia. Reading them, you can almost feel like you've fallen through the looking glass...

"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is." - Governor George W. Bush (R-TX)

"You can support the troops but not the president." - Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"Well, I just think it's a bad idea. What's going to happen is they're going to be over there for 10, 15, maybe 20 years." - Joe Scarborough (R-FL)

"Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?" - Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/6/99

"[The] once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation's armed forces about how long they will be away from home." - Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)

"I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning...I didn't think we had done enough in the diplomatic area." - Senator Trent Lott (R-MS)

"I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our over-extended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today" - Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Hidden Treasure in Green River, Wyoming

Did you know that almost all baking soda made in the United States comes from Wyoming? But don't get your baking soda confused with your baking powder. I once did that in eighth grade home economics, and had some truly awful cookies to show for it.

You can find more informative tid-bits about baking soda, including why it makes a good, all-natural cleaning product (that won't scratch your porcelain!), here, courtesy of Grist one of my favorite online news sites (they make the environment fun! Well, as fun as learning about photosynthesis, nuclear power and the destruction of the ozone layer can be).

So there you go...Wyoming isn't just famous for, there ya' go! Wyoming now has something to be famous for.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The New Face of Idiot

Everyone's favorite bow-tie wearing neocon is back at it again. You might remember Tucker Carlson from his "Crossfire" days on CNN, at least up until "Crossfire" had Jon Stewart on the show, and he ripped everyone a new asshole. I think that was the beginning of the end for Carlson and CNN.

So a hop, skip and a jump later, Tucker Carlson winds up hosting this show on MSNBC called "The Situation." As if MSNBC needed another neocon to join their ranks of news celebrities. John Scarborough is enough, thank you!

But alas, Tucker's had this show for a bit of time now. This past month, however, he may have put his foot in his mouth one last time. This article from Yahoo! News details efforts by Greenpeace to get MSNBC to can Tucker. Seems that Tucker, in a heated moment of conservative rage, actually "thanked" the terrorists who blew up a Greenpeace ship in the 1980s, killing one person.

But don't believe me...believe this direct quote:

    "You know, France blew up the Rainbow Warrior, that Greenpeace ship in Auckland Harbor in the '80s. And I've always respected them...," Carlson said, per MSNBC transcripts of the show.

    Interjected guest and Air America talk host Rachel Maddow, "That made you like them?"

    Said Carlson: "Yes. Yes. It won me over."

Carlson continued to express his opinion on a July 15th airing of his show, when he called the blowing up of the Rainbow Warrior "a bold and good thing to do."

His justification? The explosion of the Rainbow Warrior was "vandalism, not terrorism."

But one person died, Tucker. If that's not terrorism, what is? 100 people? 500 people? 1,000 people? More?

DNC chair Howard Dean was castrated by the media when he said the U.S. is less safe since the capture of Saddam Hussein. A true statement by most accounts, yet Dean was massacred. Tucker Carlson, however, thanks the people who bombed an environmental ship, and he's continually rewarded with his own soapbox on cable news.

We'll see if any heads roll over this. Greenpeace complained to the Federal Communications Commission this past week, so maybe that will result in something. There's also hope that Tucker's show will just get canned, since it's already been shuffled around time slots, most likely for low ratings though no MSNBC rep would say that.

Meanwhile, I think us liberals should start a campaign to reclaim the bow-tie back.

Friday, August 12, 2005

What's so important about these eight states?

I came across this article from the Philadelphia Inquirer that does a great job of illuminating the dire situation Democrats find themselves in ahead of the 2006 midterm elections - especially regarding the U.S. Senate. But though this is a blunt reminder, it's also got a subtle hopefulness as well.

Kind of like if a doctor were to say, "I'm sorry, but you have a parasite. But at least you don't have cancer!"

Well, OK, maybe that's a bad analogy. But here's where the 2006 U.S. Senate is going to be determined: Pennsylvania (props for my home state!), Rhode Island, Tennessee, Ohio (bloody Ohio, again), Montana, Florida (bloody Florida, again), Minnesota and Washington.

So five of these eight seats (PA, RI, TN, OH, and MT) are seats currently held by Republicans that the Dems can win. Three of them (FL, MN and WA) are seats that the Dems need to hold onto (FL and WA have vulnerable incumbents, MN is an open seat, since Democratic Sen. Mark Dayton decided to retire).

You still with me? I wish I had a chalkboard...I could make this all look like a football game play.

So do you want the good news, or the bad news first? Well, the good news is that in all these states, the Dems are likely going to field eight very strong candidates, which is a rarity. Already strong candidates are running in PA (Bob Casey), TN (Rep. Harold Ford Jr.), RI (two strong Democrats with statewide office experience), FL (incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson), and WA (incumbent Sen. Maria Cantwell). If the national Democratic party can recruit who they want in Ohio (Rep. Sherrod Brown), we'll be able to add Ohio to that last. And the other states (MN and MT) have several announced candidates, leading up to next year's primaries. Good stuff!

But here's the kicker, and hence the bad news...even if the Dems win all eight of these seats, they'll still be one seat shy of a majority.


So that means over the next 15 months, we need one more state to become vulnerable. Perhaps a Republican will retire? Perhaps a Republican will do something stupid (you'd think it's safe money betting on this, eh!)? We'll see...this article from Philly suggests that perhaps Arizona will be in play, but I doubt that. Sen. Jon Kyl is an entrenched Republican incumbent, and even though a really rich Democrat (Jim Pederson) has announced he'll challenge Kyl, I think Kyl is too strong.

At this point, I'd like to think Maine's Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe could become vulnerable, or perhaps Nevada's Republican Sen. John Ensign. But those are long-shots, and it's too early to tell anything. Politics changes by the hour, and we've still got 15 months to go. And there's the possibility that other Democrats could become vulnerable too (Nebraska's Ben Nelson, Michigan's Debbie Stabenow, West Virginia's Robert Byrd, and possibly even New York's Hillary Clinton, though I'd never bet against a Clinton).

Geesh! All this politics gobbledygook! Pretty soon you'll all want me talking about religion again...!

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

How do you say YHWH?

I mentioned in a previous post that I heard Rabbi Arthur Waskow from The Shalom Center over this past weekend during a conference that commemorated the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He delivered this spiritually delicious sermon on rendering unto God what is God's, and rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's. Which is funny, because I think that's a New Testament passage.

So Rabbi goes, "You know what happens when you place the face of Caesar on a coin? They all turn out the same. Caesar's image is the same a thousand times over."

Then he asked, "But do you know what happens when God places her image on a coin?"

He paused for a moment, looked around the room, and extended his hands out as he peered at each individual face in the crowd. "Each one," Rabbi said, "is more different than the next, but retains all the joy and wonder that is God's."

I was floored. But it didn't stop there. Rabbi made this beautiful segue-way into where we find God in our everyday lives. We find her in the trees, in the Earth, in each other, in the air. He added, "In the Jewish tradition, we write YHWH when we refer to God. But it isn't pronounced Yahweh, Jehovah or Yehovah."

He then challenged the crowd to say YHWH without any vowels. No one tried. Finally, Rabbi goes, "I've tried, and the only thing I can come up with is..."

And then he uttered the simplest breath into the microphone. Breath. Air. Years upon years of religious "scholars" claiming to have a lock on what God is, and Rabbi Waskow sums it up better than anyone I've ever seen. God is that quiet air that we take in, and give out.

Oh, you poor blog readers of mine. Sometimes I get on these religious kicks and just can't move on to anything else until I flush them out of my system. But Rabbi's words stuck with me all throughout the weekend, including a trip to the desert on Hiroshima Day, where in the pitch black sky of night I waited in the sand next to a candle. A quiet, warm breeze accompanied us throughout the night.

Rabbi's words reminded me that because God is everywhere, God must even be in the most dreadful of places. Below I'm going to steal a story from a colleague and acquaintance of mine, Rose Marie Berger, who is the poetry editor for Sojourners. I went on a delegation to Venezuela with Rose about two years ago, and this past Christmas she offered a reflection on some of these same themes. It's a story from a trip she took to Bosnia, shortly after their war with Serbia, when thousands upon thousands of Bosnian Muslims were killed and many more displaced to refugee camps. I hope you enjoy this reflection as much as I did, and still do.

(I promise, no more religion after this for at least one week!)

    It was 1999. There were 1,500 Kosovar refugees in this camp on the dusty outskirts of Sarajevo. They had come by bus, car, and on foot. First held in the expansive bottling rooms at the Coca-Cola factory, the refugees now lived in an old cattle barn, in tents, and on an open field.

    We were invited into the barn's converted milking room and given the best of the plastic seats around a plywood table. Forty families live here in 6-by-8 foot cubicles separated by curtains. The men tell us that Serb soldiers (self-proclaimed Christians) herded them out of their homes. One asks us to find information about his brother, who he presumed was dead in Kosovo. Adem, the oldest man in the camp at 80, wears a blue wool beret and his weatherworn face glistens with tears. Thirty members of his family were killed by Serb paramilitaries in Kosovo.

    The women stand around the ring of conversation holding children on their hips. They serve us coffee in chipped red cups. Harija, in her mid-30s, shot her words at us like fire. "How can I live with this pain that my neighbor - my husband shoveled snow from her walk before he even cleared our own - stood in our yard while I was hanging laundry and spoke aloud how she was going to kill me and my children because we are Muslim? She was trying to decide between mortar or sniper." Harija looked at us. "Did you come here just to stir up pain, or are you going to help us?" she said. Then she wept.

    There was no doctor in this camp. The outhouses were overflowing. The only food available was bread and canned vegetables. The graffiti on the wall showed a young man with a gun to his head. We delivered watermelons to a few of the families. One man led me down a shoe-strewn hall. He opened the curtain and there, on the bunk bed, lay a 2-day-old baby boy wrapped in clean linens and a rough gray army blanket. The mother looked worn but happy in her torn T-shirt and dusty skirt.

    I pray over the child, making the sign of the cross on his forehead. No one seems to mind the mix of religious symbols.

    For Christ to come at all, he must be born in the lowliest of places.

    -Rose Marie Berger, December 2004

Monday, August 08, 2005

Quick remembrance

Two posts in one night, but I have to share this beautiful poem. We just commemorated 60 years since the first nuclear bomb fell, and when I came across this poem, I welled up with tears. How easy it is to destroy our enemy, or in the case with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, destroy generations upon generations of our enemy. How much harder it is to look at our enemies from a human lens.

    For the Unknown Enemy
    by William Stafford

    This monument is for the unknown
    good in our enemies. Like a picture
    their life began to appear: they
    gathered at home in the evening
    and sang. Above their fields they saw
    a new sky. A holiday came
    and they carried the baby to the park
    for a party. Sunlight surrounded them.

    Here we glimpse what our minds long turned
    away from. The great mutual
    blindness darkened that sunlight in the park,
    and the sky that was new, and the holidays.
    This monument says that one afternoon
    we stood here letting a part of our minds
    escape. They came back, but different.
    Enemy: one day we glimpsed your life.

    This monument is for you.

The Vegas Report

I just returned a little less than 24 hours ago from Las Vegas - my first time. I met Martin Sheen, too! But not in a casino...out in the middle of the desert, protesting nuclear weapons and commemorating the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

About 700 of us gathered at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site, which resides in the middle of nowhere, about 65 miles from even the nearest glimpse of Vegas lights. Martin wore a blue suit and tie. I wore flip-flops and jeans. We both got covered in beetles. Yuck. There were beetles the size of golf balls climbing all over everybody, which gave the night a very "Survivor: Nevada Desert" feel to it.

I won't go into great detail yet, but most of the weekend was pretty powerful, especially some of the speakers who were there - most notably Rabbi Arthur Waskow, who directs The Shalom Center, and Tony de Brum, an indigenous resident of the Marshall Islands - the site of numerous nuclear tests throughout the 1940s, 50s, 60s and likely even today.

Tony de Brum had the crowd in his hands. Half of them, myself included, barely even knew where the Marshall Islands were. Here we find out that if you add up the yield of U.S. nuclear weapons tests on the Islands since the U.S. started testing nukes, you'd have 1.6 Hiroshimas dropped per day, every day, for 12 years. Unbelievable.

His spirit was so strong, his story and experience so rich, yet devastating. His drive to talk about nuclear weapons and testing - a subject about as interesting and sexy as social security - reminded me of that Jane Addams quote, "Nothing could be worse than fear that one has given up too soon and left one effort unexpended which might have saved the world." Tony made me believe that we can still change this world. So did Rabbi Waskow, but I don't have the focus right now to get into his sermon.

This is more or less just a note to let everyone know that I am back on the blog, and that I survived McCarran International airprot. Forget losing your ass at a casino...I almost tossed my cookies taxiing on the damn runway!