Saturday, June 23, 2007

Changing Washington Between Elections

The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) is a nonpartisan Quaker lobby group. The following is from their monthly newsletter. I think it's a nice follow up to our previous conversation about feeling "helpless." There are many things you can do right in your own community to bring about change.

Conversations and Change

As you continue to work with FCNL for new policies in Washington, we offer some suggestions for effective conversations with your elected representatives or with people in your community who, like you, might be in a position to influence your elected representatives:

Begin at the center. Embrace the issue that you care about, ask yourself what are its most essential elements? Why? The answers to these questions will inform your conversations.

Make time for a conversation.
Whether you are talking with an elected official, a next door neighbor, a classmate, or a member of your meeting or congregation, find a time when you can meet personally and hear the other person.

Ask. Maybe you know how the person feels about the topic that you are concerned about — but maybe you don’t. Expect to learn from the reasons or experiences that inform her or his ideas.

Offer. Contribute your own perspectives, worries, and experiences to the conversation — not as arguments for your point of view—but as simple human exchange.

Ask. Maybe the other person shares your sense that a solution is needed — maybe even the solution that you propose or support.

Stay in touch. You have begun a relationship that makes room for change. Find ways to keep the relationship open and lively.

Watch closely for change. Real change usually hides somewhere behind drama, beneath the headlines. Affirm the small changes you see in language, in acknowledgments, in understanding. You'll see the larger changes — like changes we've seen in Congress this year — built on the relationships you have created.

Reprinted from the Washington Newsletter (June 2007) published by the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I'll be taking a break on Friday

I will be serving Jury Duty in Baltimore City on Friday. Let's hope I don't have any amusing stories to report back to you on this!

I'm taking a lot of reading material, and hoping they don't show an annoying movie. I know they have to be "G" rated, but c'mon. Does anyone watch the movies when they're on Jury Duty? Or is it just my bad luck to get movies like "Music of the Heart"? (That was my last time.)

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are

I was just taking a short walk on my lunch hour to clear out my head. I find I have the most profound thoughts when I am away from my computer. That doesn't bode well for a new blogger, does it?!

On my walk I started thinking about the state of helplessness. I mean, I know — I post a lot of stories on here that can make a person feel like the world is just a huge mess. But really, I think there are two kinds of helplessness. The first is when you truly have no control over circumstances. Like that time I was at the doctor's office in the middle of getting a pap smear and the fire alarm went off. The momentary look of panic on the doctor's face was not exactly reassuring.

In that situation, you really do have to trust in a higher power. Ladies, you know what I'm sayin'.

But the other feeling of helplessness is more of a feeling of being overwhelmed by the magnitude of problems. There are solutions, and you do have power, but sometimes it can begin to feel like too much. But that is exactly the point of an organization like One.org, which is trying to make change one person at a time. And writing an email to your Senator or Representative to let them know your feelings on the war in Iraq, hate crimes legislation, or any issue is really not hard to do. If you're sitting here reading this blog, you have the skills and ability (and time?) to do it.

To quote Theodore Roosevelt: "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."

One hate crime is commmited every hour in the United States

From the Matthew Shepard Foundation:

On May 3, the United States House passed the federal hate crimes legislation with bi-partisan support (237 - 180). The legislation now heads to the United States Senate, where it has been renamed the Matthew Shepard Act. In response to this, Judy Shepard, Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, said "I can’t think of a better way to honor Matthew’s memory. He was a 21-year-old college student just living his life."

We need your help to ensure that this bill is sent to the President to be signed into law. Call now and ask your Senators to Support the Matthew Shepard Act

Call 202-224-3121 and ask for your Senator's office.

Thousands of people are attacked every year because of their sexual orientation, and there's still no federal hate crimes law to protect them.

Be the one to protect all Americans. Call.

3,545 U.S. military personnel have died in the Iraq war


My lack of posting has been due to overload at an work, and certainly not from a scarcity of news — as the grim headline above demonstrates.

According to news reports, at least 12 military personnel — soldiers and marines — have died in the last 24 hours. The month of June has been gruesome: 68 soldiers have died this month alone.

The Baltimore Sun has a special feature recognizing those from Maryland who have given their lives in this war. It's short. Please read it. Look at the faces.

Then, please contact your Senators and Representatives and ask them to stand up to the President and stop funding this war. Remind them why there was a change of power in Congress last November, and remind them of the power of the people to enact change.

Celebrate Solstice


This morning I heard a beautiful story on the radio by Garrison Keillor on the summer solstice. He has such an incredible voice, hearing him describe the tilt of the earth's axis was somehow calming and reassuring.

Celebrate the day today in whatever way brings you joy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Newt Gingrich is a Big Fat Liar


To borrow Al Franken's description of Rush Limbaugh, Newt has gone to new lengths of out-and-out lying. In a shameless attempt to fire up immigration policy opponents — and bolster his support with that crowd for a possible 2008 presidential run — Gingrich released a video yesterday on his website and at YouTube.

In the video, he makes the highly inflammatory — and completely false — statement that "Mohamed Atta, and several other 9/11 hijackers were in the United States illegally." In fact, the 9-11 Commission Report found that all 19 of the men who were responsible for the hijackings on 9-11 entered the United States legally on either a tourist or student visa. Which makes my head throb all the more when I try to follow what seems to be a Republican trail of logic these days. Gingrich follows his lie with this statement: "Today, more than five years since that tragic day, our borders remain open to gangs, drug dealers and terrorists."

Huh? This is a new low, even for Gingrich, to tie the immigration debate to the violence of 9-11. Read more here.

Nicole Kidman celebrates 40th birthday


Is this newsworthy? Probably not, but it's a nice excuse to post a really nice photograph this morning. Happy Birthday, Nicole!

Blog housekeeping (Blogkeeping?)

I've gotten such nice feedback from folks about this blog, and I really appreciate it. As you know, I'm new to maintaining a blog. Sometimes when I put something new up here, I'm not sure how it will turn out. And that goes for both the look and the content. So I appreciate your patience with me so far — and I know the topics are a little scattered some days, but I guess that's because I am, too!

There is a range of blogger experience in our readership at Madwoman. Some of you are first-time blog readers, some maintain your own blogs. I encourage all of you to click on the Comments link at the bottom of any story you read here and share your thoughts with everyone, no matter how brief or profound. I have changed some settings, and you can now post anonymously, without a google account.

Again, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Iraqi Orphanage Nightmare

We saw this story last night on CBS news and it brought tears to our eyes. Lara Logan is an incredible reporter, and this story was one of her best.

U.S. soldiers came upon "multiple bodies laying on the floor" of a facility in central Baghdad. According to Staff Sgt. Mitchell Gibson of the 82nd Airborne Division, "They thought they were all dead, so they threw a basketball (to) try and get some attention, and actually one of the kids lifted up their head, tilted it over and just looked and then went back down. And they said, 'oh, they're alive' and so they went into the building."

"The building" was a government-run orphanage for children with special needs. In the kitchen were staffers cooking meals for themselves, surrounded by fully stocked shelves of food and clothing. But in the courtyard where the soldiers entered were 24 boys, lying naked and emaciated on the floor, tied to their cribs.

At this point, we are not surprised to see news coverage of wounded civilians, even children. But what on earth is going on when the Iraqis are treating their own people this way? And this is the government our men and women in uniform are fighting (and dying) for?

Logan very aptly stated that "This is a tough test for the Iraqi government: How a nation cares for its most vulnerable is one of the most important benchmarks for the health of any society."

The Iraqi government has failed yet another test.

In a Glamour exclusive, America’s most famous female soldier straightens out the “war hero” controversy once and for all

I'll bet you didn't know I read Glamour magazine, did you? Okay, I don't really. But I do read Mother Jones, and they turned me on to this incredible story written by Jessica Lynch. Give it a read. You never know where you'll find the truth.

Update: Obama responds

As I expected, Barack Obama has issued a statement that he did not approve the document attacking Hillary Clinton for her financial ties to India. He now says that it was a "dumb mistake" made by his staff.

I was told that he posted a statement on this at his website, but I can't find it. If someone else knows where it is, please help me find it. But here's an article discussing his response to his campaign's actions. And another here.

I'm sorry, but so far I'm hearing way too much denial of involvement from him on way too many topics. Here's a nice summary, that doesn't even include this latest campaign gaffe. I'm waiting for him to start taking some responsibility before he gets my endorsement for president.

We've already witnessed the damage that occurs when those in power refuse to take responsibility. Just ask Scooter.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Just plain "Audacity"?


I know quite a few folks who are supporting Barack Obama in the next presidential campaign. I'm trying to keep an open mind about him, as with all the others on the Democratic side. One thing I will admit I have liked about Obama has been his call to rise above partisan politics and work together to find solutions. All the more reason I was surprised this morning to read that Obama's team has sent out a document attacking Clinton, which reads at best as being in poor taste, and at worst as being racist.

Perhaps some rogue Obama staffer is responsible, just like with the "1984" ad that I also thought was in poor taste. That one, you'll remember, played on the old saw about Clinton's voice being annoying. To me, it came across as incredibly misogynistic. The person responsible for that ad turned out to be someone loosely associated with the campaign, working for an advertising company hired by the Obama campaign. He subsequently left the ad company.

Now comes an "opposition document" labeled "Hillary Clinton (D-Punjab)’s Personal Financial and Political Ties to India." The document attacks Clinton and her husband for both personal financial holdings in Indian companies, as well for campaign fundraising with Indian ties. This bothers me on several levels. First, D-Punjab? WTF? Let me wipe the slinging mud out of my eye! So much for Obama's website statement that "Americans are tired of divisive ideological politics." Guess he thought we could use a little more nastiness on the campaign trail. That was just petty, and I expected a little more class from his campaign than that.

The main complaint about Clinton's Indian donors is aimed at money she accepted from Cisco Systems, which did lay off American workers and replace them workers in India. Note to Obama staff: Cisco's not the only company doing this. I had quite a time recently being bounced around Banaglore, or somewhere, trying to get my Earthlink DSL issue resolved. I know Obama prides himself on the huge number of small donations his campaign has collected, and that is indeed impressive. But I'm not sure this issue of Clinton accepting money from a company that outsources to India is what we should be getting ourselves worked up about. A quick look at Obama's donors shows the president and the CFO of EBay, chairman of Walt Disney Company, numerous executives from Google, and many many executives and employees from Microsoft. Et tu, Barack?

The document continues with an attack on individual donors who have had legal troubles. Um, Obama? Have you already forgotten your old friend Antoin Rezko? Back in the 1990's he gave you lots of money for your campaigns, and held fundraisers and rallys back when you were having a tough time in your congressional campaign. C'mon, you remember: he even helped you and your wife out when you bought a house. They bought the lot next door, and sold you land so you could widen your lot. Remember?

I just wonder, and worry, that this is a new side to the Obama campaign. I certainly hope we won't see more of this kind of smear tactic in what is going to be a very long presidential campaign. I hope that Obama did not approve of this attack, and I hope he will have the cojones to say it was wrong. Other wise, "fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride."