Monday, April 30, 2007

Airborne all the way

I can't remember anymore if I picked up my Airborne t-shirt at a thrift store or from a friend but it's gray and soft and fits just right so it's always been a favorite. I learned early on, however, that it's a shirt that sparks conversation so in order to avoid the awkward "I don't know any Airborne" with strangers who are really gung-ho, I learned to just respond "All the way," to any inquiries and just keep walking.

But since the war started, my Airborne tee has spent a lot of time in the bottom of my drawer. These days, it seems like a political statement that I might not want to make, and lead to conversations that I might not want to have with a random stranger... people who will likely assume that I support the war because I'm wearing a military tee.

Today is laundry day, however, and though there were other bottom-of-the-drawer shirts I could have chosen, I decided I was up for any conversation that might be sparked so opted to wear my old fave. Sure enough, at the clerk at the post office, a really sweet guy with whom I often chat however briefly, asked who is Airborne.

"Just my way of showing support," I said, "though I am an anti-war activist."

He said nothing... which added a note of enigma to his usual friendly smile. I'm probably reading into the interaction but I do have a hard time believing there is a thinking person, as this clerk always seems to be, who doesn't have an opinion on the war.

I'll still have to keep mulling over whether wearing this shirt is passive-aggressive politics or one more way to show support of the troops even as I oppose the war...

Kingsolver on local eating

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Barbara Kingsolver's latest book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle will be out tomorrow. In it, she, her husband and their daughter explore a year of eating only locally grown food, whether they themselves grew it or whether they personally knew the farmers who did.

I'd imagine the release was timed to coincide with the beginning of the growing season. In the last couple of weeks, the offerings at the Greensboro Farmers' Curb Market have blossomed from hearty winter veggies into salad greens, radishes and the first plants for your home veggie garden. We've filled out our small garden plot with several tomato plants, a variety of herbs and even a couple of strawberry plants.

In her typical way, Kingsolver elegantly wraps up the value of eating locally in a interview this weekend:

Food is the one consumer choice we have to make every day. We can use that buying power in a transaction that burns excessive fossil fuels, erodes topsoil, supports multinationals that pay their workers just a few bucks a day -- or the same money could strengthen neighborhood food economies, keep green spaces alive around our towns, and compensate farmers for applying humane values. Every purchase weighs in on one side or the other. It just isn't possible to opt out."

It's not necessary to live on a farm to eat mindfully, but it's necessary to know farms exist, and have some appreciation for what they do. It takes a little background to recognize the social, biological and epicurean differences between CAFOs [Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations] and pasture operations, extractive vs. sustainable farming, or even what will be in season each month of the year. Amazingly, the outcome of responsible choices can be good health, money saved and a happy palate. Really, it's good news."

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Mitzvah Day

Rob and I participated in Mitzvah Day, an annual event during which the Jewish community spreads out to wreak good on Greensboro. Though the Hebrew word mitzvah literally means "commandment," it is most commonly used to mean a good deed - and though Rob and I are far from religious people, we like to do good now and then, to balance our sinful ways.

What appeared to be several hundred people gathered at Temple Emanuel this morning to embark on mitvah opportunities from visiting shut-ins to restocking the ReStore to what we did, which was manual labor at Bicentennial Garden. We pulled vines and spread mulch and likely horrified the one family not related to us in the group - typical of my family, my sister and her family, our mother and Rob and I teamed up and a morning of smart-assedness ensued. The non-related family smiled sweetly at us but there's no telling what the conversation at their house sounds like right now...

But we did get a lot done and are pleased to say the creek bed looks lovely with its renewed mulching. It was particularly satisfying to spend a morning beautifying a park that I have enjoyed my whole life, back when it was a tiny little thing, not nearly as developed and beautiful as it is today. It's easy to forget, having always lived in Greensboro, how lucky we are to have so many beautiful public spaces.

Friday, April 27, 2007

History does repeat

During my lunchtime reading, I came across this phrase, in justification for funding an opposed war:
They did not want to risk the accusation that they were putting American soldiers in peril by depriving them of the materials necessary to fight.

I know, nothing new there - but that's the point. This could have been taken out of any article about the Congressional debate about Iraq... but I'm reading A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn and this passage is in reference to the Mexican-American War in which President James K. Polk fought Mexico for control of California. Manifest destiny rolls on...

Kudos to Christine

Mike Penner, sports writer for the LA Times, published a column yesterday outing himself as a pre-op transexual; during leave in the next few weeks, he will become a post-op.

I have joined several people on the journey of admitting, both internally and, eventually, externally, to homosexuality; often they were women who dated men for a long while, hoping that the way in which they felt "different" was due to not having yet found the right man and not what they knew to be true somewhere deep down in their gut, that there would never be a right man, only a right woman.

I can only imagine how the difficulty of that kind of sexual orientation journey is compounded by transexuality. Even as the country becomes more comfortable with same sex couples, transexuality is still part of the misunderstood fringe. It was bold for Mike to come to terms with his need to become Christine and amazing that he could share it with the rest of us.

Kudos to you, Christine - I hope you have a speedy recovery from your surgery!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

David Halberstam on Bush

This is a quote from just two weeks ago, an interview in New York Magazine:

What do you think about President Bush?
Very simply, it's a national tragedy. It's not just a tragedy for him, that he will have gone down as such a failure. It's a great national tragedy to have at that moment somebody who has been so deeply, so much in over his head. It's so sad for us, as a country, for him. It's really dark out there. And we have a year and a half to go. This will be seen as a tragic moment in American life. I think there are some interesting people out there, candidates with considerable talent. But some have the capacity to raise our spirits. I'm not going to go into specifics yet.

NC Republican represents

Yet again, Rep. Walter Jones (yup, a Republican from NC) proves that he is a man who votes with his conscious even when that means not voting with his party. He and one other brave Republican, Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland, were the only Republicans to vote with the Democrats on legislation that sets a firm time table for getting out of Iraq.

It seems that Congressman Jones understands that the only way to support the troops is to oppose the war - you make NC look good, Walt!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

For all my Claypool lovers

A little treat for the Claypool lovers among us (ahem, David Boyd). An interview about his mocumentary, Electric Apricot: Quest for Festeroo.

p.s. Claypool (solo, not with Primus) is playing Asheville in June - a rare Cakalak appearance...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Syncopation at Triad Stage

Preview night at Triad Stage constantly amazes me - for the price of a movie, we get live theater with amazing actors and consistently breathtaking sets. Of course, even in a field of excellence, some plays will shine a little brighter and Syncopation is one such shining star.

It is the story of dance partners with an undertone of the women's suffrage movement of the early 20th century. It was beautifully performed, a pleasure to watch and completely captivating. But don't take my word for it - see it yourself.

Reid's diplomatic surge

I've been listening to C-Span a lot lately - and while the men and women of our congress are not always the most captivating orators, the content has been mighty interesting lately.

For example, I happened to catch Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speak on Iraq yesterday. You can read the transcript here. He talks a great game:

We need a surge in diplomacy to bring warring factions to the negotiating table. And we need a surge in accountability, to compel the Iraqi people to take responsibility for their own destiny. The destiny of their own country...

Our first step immediately transitions the U.S. mission away from policing a civil war-- to training and equipping Iraqi security forces, protecting U.S. forces and conducting targeted counter-terror operations.

This transitions our mission to one that is aligned with U.S. strategic interests, while at the same time, reducing our combat footprint. U.S. troops should not be interjecting themselves between warring factions, kicking down doors, trying to sort Shia from Sunni or friend from foe.

Our second step calls for beginning the phased redeployment of our troops no later than October 1, 2007 with a goal of removing all combat forces by April 1, 2008, except for those carrying out the limited missions I just mentioned."

Now, let's see if Reid can walk a good game, too...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Correspondents Dinner

Rob pointed out the irony that Bush said of this year's Correspondents Dinner

I had looked forward to poking fun tonight but in light of this week’s tragedy at Virginia Tech, I decided not to try to be funny."

This, though he felt free to crack jokes last year when he was already personally responsible for the deaths of a couple thousand American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis.

200 innocents released

According to Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, the 200th person to be exonerated by DNA evidence is about to leave prison. These 200 come from every background and many professions though, predictable, a disproportionate number are black men who could not afford legal council at the time of their conviction. These people spent years, often decades, in prison for violent crimes they didn't commit.

We all like to think of crime solving as cut and dried stuff - like CSI - they target the right person, get the damning evidence and then, just for fun, convince them to confess in a really low-key interrogation. But as with most things, the truth lies in the gray areas where I'd like to believe it's earnest law enforcers and lawyers making the kinds of mistakes we all make from time to time. But in their cases, it can lead to unjust imprisonment and years shaved off a person's life because of faulty eyewitness testimony, coerced confessions or overworked and underfunded crime labs. CSI may be able to push through evidence but, last I heard, in Greensboro we have to send our evidence off to a backed-up SBI lab.

Of course, the upside is at least these 200 had the opportunity to revisit their case and keep pushing for justice year after year. Those imprisoned without habeas corpus at Guantanamo and wherever else the U.S. has so-called enemy combatants stashed don't even have that light at the end of the tunnel.

Read more about why the innocent so often slip through the cracks on the Innocence Project Web site or the book that opened my eyes to these issues while I was getting my psychology degree, Witness for the Defense by Elizabeth Loftus.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Insight from Killian

Joe Killian, embattled (I just wanted a chance to use the buzz word of the minute) News & Record reporter, has some interesting insight on the protest from a reporters perspective. Despite what the Gathering of Eagles may think, and despite the fact that I sometimes do journalistic freelance work, being an opinion writer is a world away from being a news reporter... and despite recent criticism of Joe's coverage of the protest by members of (apparently) both sides of the debate, organizers would do well to read the comments section of his post to learn more about how to shape such an event to have more impact on the way it's covered.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The rally was a smash success!

Cindy Sheehan speaking to the crowd, courtesy of Rob. More pics will be posted on his blog, Life Through the Rectangle, as soon as he gets the chance to post them.

With all the hubbub on the Gathering of Eagles Web site and the pride in arrest on the anti-war side, I had my fears that those spoiling for a fight would divert the rally from his primary purpose: peacefully opposing the war. But my fears were quickly assuaged when I got to the rally this morning.

Cakalak Thunder, the drumming group that has spurred on walkers at the Winter Walk for AIDS year after year, started the march. The crowd, which started unnervingly small, filled with people who seemed to come out of nowhere right before we stepped into the street, guided by the Greensboro Police Department.

The streets were largely empty though the occasional person stopped on the sidewalk to watch us pass, particularly as we marched by the Center City Park (nice to see so many people using it!). The true crowd appeared, though, when we rounded the corner into the Governmental Plaza. I stood there wondering what had happened with the Gathering of Eagles folks until Rob pointed out that they were, in fact, there, yelling at us from behind the police barricade. In the plaza were tables from Food not Bombs and various political groups. There was also a mannequin being water-boarded, a piece of protest art dreamed up by our good friend James.

The plaza was filled with the same diversity of people as the fundraiser last night, even one woman holding a sign that read "Republican for Peace." Speakers included a vet wearing a Rolling Thunder tee-shirt who spoke about supporting the troops by preserving their lives, college anti-war organizers and, my personal favorite, a 10-year-old Palestinian girl who read a poem she wrote about a brighter future on its way. I'll confess that I had mixed feelings when a member of the Nation of Islam spoke - Louis Farrakhan has certainly made a name for himself making racist and anti-Semitic statements, but the man who spoke today was right on the money with him comments, inclusive, moving and a wonderful speaker.

There were also performances: a Middle Eastern man and woman danced, and Boxcar Bertha and Snuzz (who was once in Bus Stop with my bro-in-law, Chuck) played some new-school revolution music.

Cindy Sheehan, of course, spoke again with great eloquence and reason... even if she did slam the News & Record. She's truly an inspiration.

More than anything, I was pleased that those who attended chose to lead by example, filing the afternoon with caring and community, with smiles and spirits uplifted and many, many hugs exchanged and not a stranger among us.

I thanked a couple members of the Greensboro Police Department as we left. Though the GPD filmed the march, I can kind of understand it given Greensboro's funky history and the tension in the air. And though the police were prepared for the worst, they showed the best of law enforcement, sticking to the edges of the rally and and responding in kind to my thanks. Props to Bellamy and his force.

Rally coverage & the Eagles

Yesterday, I heard Joe Killian of the News & Record take some heat for his Friday article on the anti-war demonstration slated to take place today ("Anti-war rally will face opposition, Apr. 20)... that is, I heard anti-war people giving him grief. The Gathering of Eagles folks seemed pleased with the coverage. Whatever people think of the way Killian chose to cover the event, a couple of things popped out to me:

Given the hook of the piece, the Gathering of Eagles counter-protest actually assisted the anti-war side in raising awareness in a big way. A tip of the hat to you, GoE, for your help!

Statement #5 on the GoE mission statement says,
We believe that our freedom of speech is one of the greatest things our country espouses, and we absolutely hold that any American citizen has the right to express his or her approval or disapproval with any policy, law, or action of our nation and her government in a peaceful manner as afforded by the laws of our land."

Meanwhile, local GoE member Charles Gant is quoted in Killian's piece as saying,
We want to be able to shout Sheehan down, so she can't be heard by anyone. She's anti-American, and she doesn't have anything worth saying."
That reminds me of the Crusades mentality that thou shalt not kill... unless they're not like us, in which case, have at it.

Meanwhile, in both of her speeches yesterday, Cindy Sheehan emphasized that the GoE has as much right to be there as the anti-war side, that their First Amendment rights are every bit as valid as ours.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Cindy Sheehan in the 'boro

When we heard Cindy Sheehan speak at the March on the Pentagon in March, she spoke with serious brevity - it was inspiring but didn't really give any real insight. Today, Rob and I had the opportunity to hear her speak twice, both times at greater length.

The first was at a press conference at the Beloved Community Center (The walls at BCC are lined with Civil Rights-era photos, grainy black-and-whites that show the Greensboro Four at the Woolworth's lunch counter among other inspirational scenes); The second was at a fundraiser for tomorrow's anti-war (or as Cindy said, pro-peace) rally at a private home on Willoughby. Both times, what struck me most was how rational she is. She spoke with great clarity and compassion, and in both instances she reminded people that the Gathering of Eagles counter-protesters had the same right to "peaceably assemble and raise their voices" in support of what they believe as we do. She also reminded those assembled that we have more in common with them than we have in differences - a useful reminder as the harmful policies of this administration drive wedges increasingly deeper between the American people.

I had hoped to ask Cindy what she thinks will motivate the majority of Americans into action, all those people who tell pollsters they disagree with the war but have yet to turn that belief into activism. A draft? Four-dollars-per-gallon gas? A child, like Casey Sheehan, killed in an amoral war? The crowd at the fundraiser was (fortunately) much larger than I anticipated so my brief conversation with Cindy was limited to thanking her for her great work - and a hug.

This sane woman, this amazing woman who took what must be the most horrible tragedy a parent can suffer - the loss of a child - and turned it into the most important movement in America today while reminding us of the power of each individual to make change - this is not the woman portrayed in the media. Why?

Incidentally, the fundraiser was the picture of America: people of every shade of brown and white, every age, every sexuality, in all kinds of clothes with, likely, every imaginable background. I hope that someday, this will be how all of America will look.

Anti-War Rally Tomorrow

For the last two weeks, I've been mulling over writing about the anti-war rally in Greensboro tomorrow. On the one hand, I'm thrilled to see some major anti-war happenings locally; on the other hand, I don't agree with everything the organizers stand for or all of their methods. But sitting here, staring at the empty blogging screen, it occurs to me that at this point, my relatively minor disagreements pale in comparison to my very strong belief that this war has got to end.

Staying in Iraq, throwing more lives and more money into the mix, is not the magic remedy to finding an easy or peaceful way out. It's going to be ugly whether we leave now or leave 10 years from now. Yes, we broke it. Yes, it would be nice if we could then fix it - but this isn't a thrift-store vase - it's a country with a dramatically different culture than ours and three currently warring factions. The lives of our soldiers are not the glue that can piece it all back together.

Tomorrow, anti-war protesters will gather on the corner of E. Market and Dudley and parade to the Governmental Plaza on Greene Street for the rally that starts at noon. The Gathering of Eagles will apparently be staging their counter-protest on Greene.

Each side has a right to be there to make their views known - it is the beauty of America that we can disagree in the public sphere. But my fear is that people will forget that we share this democracy, that both sides are spoiling for a fight so intently that the important message, the anti-war focus, will be lost in inter-faction fighting.

Come out - join the debate. Be a part of democracy.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Free trade with death squads

During Bush's recent travels to South America, he announced that Colombia "has made great strides toward freedom and prosperity” and is therefore a worthwhile partner for the U.S. in a trade agreement.

Interesting, then, that The Washington Post has found that the Colombian government knowingly aids the death squads that "silence" union activists. Just to be clear, the activists were working only to obtain fair compensation and safe working conditions for the people of Colombia and are being murdered for doing so - in some years, as many as 200 activists have been murdered.

So is Bush ignoring all of this? Does he think it's unimportant? Or does he, in some sick way, envy their ability to keep the working class down?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The peril of selective reasoning

This piece was originally published in the News & Record on April 18, 2007.

I’d imagine I was far from alone in picking a well-worn Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., novel from my bookshelf upon reading his obituary Thursday morning. I opted to use Mother Night as my vehicle for mourning, re-reading my crisp, yellowed copy over the course of the next two days; Vonnegut was always a quick read due to deceptively simple language, short chapters and that quality that is most often summed up as being “a page-turner”.

Vonnegut was a master of cynicism hidden in humor, wild but somehow plausible scenarios that made readers laugh through injustice, suicide and even the end of times. It was only after laughing my way through my first reading of Cat’s Cradle that I realized the way it tapped into a feeling so applicable to today’s world: that we have somehow outsmarted ourselves right into extinction.

Mother Night includes some similarly timely ideas, one of which is most apparent as the protagonist, Howard W. Campbell, Jr., mused about the misfiring of the totalitarian mind with words that could easily be applied to any kind of extremist. In it, he likens the gaps in the knowledge of every human being to missing teeth in the gears of a clock. For extremists, the missing teeth were not always the result of simple omission but instead “[t]he willful filing off of gear teeth,” Vonnegut wrote, “the willful doing without certain obvious pieces of information…” In short, those facts that do not support the belief are dismissed as false.

Psychologists speak of this processing of information in terms of cognitive dissonance: When our deeply held beliefs are threatened by new, contrary information, we must either reject the new information or change our beliefs. Care to guess which option we most often take? In this context, discarding information is most often the result of self-protective tendencies and not a desire to be ignorant.

While the “willful filing” can be seen clearly in most hot-button issues, it is in the movements on either side of the Iraq war debate that it is most apparent today. Each side denies that there is any validity in the arguments of the other side; each suspects the other of spreading lies and deluding themselves into believing those lies. And though the teeth were filed with the intention of strengthening their argument and therefore their side of the debate, each lost tooth tends to alienate the majority of Americans who work so hard to add teeth with every news program watched and every analytical book read.

I staunchly believe that we must leave Iraq, and I, like many, wonder why 64 percent of Americans agree and yet are still not compelled to turn belief into activism. Still, I can understand the ambivalence of mainstream America who, on the one hand, supports the anti-war movement but, on the other, is uncomfortable with many of the methods employed thus far. Perhaps they are seeking something more immediately effective than the change in Congress they pushed through in the last election, but with the restraint that allows communication between sides, that allows us to retain the ideals and, yes, rules, that define America.

When I wrote similarly about finding a middle ground in the abortion debate, I was accused of being na├»ve. But I would gladly bear that accusation so long as I, like Howard W. Campbell, Jr., can look back on my life with the knowledge that “never have I willfully destroyed a tooth on the gear of my thinking machine.”

I finally made it!

I'm famous!! Even the Gathering of Eagles is talking about me!

Monday, April 16, 2007

My time as a high school teacher

Of all the job offers I ever imagined might someday come my way, none surprised me more, nor made me laugh harder, than the recent invitation to act as writer-in-residence at Greensboro Day School. At the time of the initial email, I couldn't imagine what Bill Moore, English teacher and writer-in-residence coordinator, could possibly say that would make me re-enter a classroom. (My only previous teaching experience was a horrific half-year teaching middle school kids Hebrew on Sunday mornings. Good times.) As it turns out, Bill was able to offer what may have been the only possible thing that could have made me accept the gig: a week. That's right - at Greensboro Day School, the writer-in-residence spends a mere week in their position and I am a person who fully believes I can do anything for a week.

So off I went last Monday to talk to high school English classes about effective opinion writing with a coup de grace on using healthy skepticism in reading blogs and healthy fear in posting personal (or naughty) stuff on blogs. As I said to them, though I think it's a pretty safe bet to think that I won't agree with everything I've posted here should I reread my own words in five or ten years, at least I can know that when I wrote it, I wrote with all earnestness.

There were a lot of surprising things about my week at GDS. Foremost, that I enjoyed it. Let it be no reflection on the kids that I thought I wouldn't - the aforementioned disastrous teaching experience suggested that I am just not cut out for teaching, and subsequent experience as a girl scout troop leader left me with the belief that I am most effective when dealing with kids in very small groups... preferably groups of one or two.

The GDS students certainly made the week easy. Out of 23 or so classes, only one child rolled her eyes at me, a moment that was overwhelmed by the rounds of applause I received in several other classes. Also - much to my delight - I heard many truly interesting opinions stated incredibly well. Among my favorites were a piece on the trials and tribulations of life, a pro-swim center piece that I'm convinced could have pushed through the bond, and a David Sedaris-esque piece about the evils of women (the kid was disappointed that I loved it - I assured him he would have to work much harder to anger me). There were plenty of other well-argued points, full of reason and maturity. Perhaps most amazingly, these were churned out in about 15 minutes in order to leave me enough time for my lead-in about the importance of bravery and restraint in opinion writing and to offer a little feedback in response to the pieces read.

I also noticed a couple of interesting things that could be social commentary or could be a coincidence. For example, the writing assignment I gave allowed the kids to pick any topic they wanted and it seemed that the more advanced the class, the more freaked out the students were at the idea of a free write. One kid explained that they are so used to writing in response to prompts that this was unnerving because so alien. Also, the African American kids seemed to be less likely to share their pieces... particularly the kids who wrote on things like stereotypes and fitting in. Could be a sign that they feel out of the mainstream of GDS and didn't want to read anything that would make them even more conspicuous... or not...

In the end, I suppose I hope that I was able to convince at least a couple of kids that despite their position of relative powerlessness, that opinions stated well can not only add to the dialogue of our country and perhaps influence the opinions of others, but also show adults who are disconnected from their teen years that the youth of America are a force to be reckoned with.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Vonnegut on a Reagan re-election

In honor of the late, great Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Mother Jones, re-published a 1983 essay they asked him (among others) to write in response to the possibility of a Reagan re-election. Vonnegut as I've never seen him and, yet, as I've always loved him here.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Where's the cat, Mr. Vonnegut?

Kurt Vonnegut, a man who has been among my favorite authors since I first picked up Cat's Cradle in my early teens, died last night at the age of 84. A ripe old age, to be sure, but age rarely makes the requiem less sad.

All week, I have been talking to students at Greensboro Day School about (among other things) hedging serious points in humor - the humor keeps people reading if it's used well and Vonnegut was a master of using humor well. I laughed my way through Cat's Cradle until I realized that it detailed the end of humanity, the undoing of the planet because of the careless use of the human mind. Not so far fetched, is it?

In a high school creative writing class, Mrs. Trail asked us to write a short story in the style of any author. Naturally, I chose Vonnegut, writing two or three pages within which were five or six chapters. In it, much of humanity had shrunk to only a few inches in height because they ate vegetables that were genetically modified to grow to enormous proportions and therefore feed more people. The newly tiny people were cared for by hippies who ate only organics and quickly built apartment complexes out of shoe boxes to tend to their tiny brethren.

Perhaps there is a heaven and Vonnegut is now sitting up there trading jabs with other giants of their fields... but I prefer to think that when we die, the energy that makes us animate disperses into the world, perhaps even breaks through the ozone into the cosmos, and that the energy that was Mr. Vonnegut is now gracing every corner of earth, perhaps implanting brilliant and ironic thoughts into the not-yet-born.

Thank you for sharing your wonderful cynicism with us, Mr. Vonnegut.

Everything in this post is a lie.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Privacy, just not for the people

The house has finally subpoenaed hundreds of documents that the Justice Department has either been withholding or censoring dramatically in the hopes of getting to the bottom of the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. Every time I read about Conyers (D-Mich) I like him even more.

My favorite part of this whole thing was the reason Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse gave for wanting to withhold or edit the documents:

Because there are individuals' privacy interests implicated by publicly releasing this information...

Let's see... when was the last time we were concerned about the privacy of individuals in this country??? Oh, yeah - illegal wiretapping! That's it!

Perhaps we should give the individuals to whom Roehrkasse is referring the same reassurance this administration gave us: If you haven't done anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about.

The cover-ups in this administration stink almost as badly as the crimes themselves.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Kingsolver on local food

Barbara Kingsolver, best known for her Oprah Bookclub novel, The Poisonwood Bible, has a book coming out next month that documents her family's year-long quest to eat food grown in their garden or by people they know. Animal, Vegetable, Miracles apparently explores Kingsolver's personal food revelations, like the joys of eating conscientiously raised meats (as opposed to vegetarianism), and takes advantage of Kingsolver's background as a biologist to explore why our current food system is so detrimental to both the consumers and the Earth. If Kingsolver's previous works are any indication, this will be a not-to-miss book.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Does this feel like fascism to anyone else?

I can't tell you how many times I have heard people say that our administration's policy of spying on its own citizens is not an issue for people who "haven't done anything wrong."

I present, as evidence for the contrary, exhibit A: Professor Walter F. Murphy, emeritus of Princeton University. I hadn't heard of him before either but apparently his works on both constitutional theory and judicial behavior are classics in the field. Before you allow your assumptions to get the best of you, it's fair to point out that the guy has liberal social issue opinions but is adamantly anti-abortion and supported Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court.

Apparently Prof. Murphy spoke out about the president's many violations of the Constitution and his speech was broadcast on the Internet. Recently, Prof. Murphy discovered, when he tried to board a flight, that he has been put on the Terrorist Watch list because of this lecture. Forget about the fact that Prof. Murphy is also a decorated vet who served in Korea with more than two decades in the service.

Read his account here.

Friday, April 06, 2007

In the words of another Vietnam vets

A Vietnam vet posting as RoseColored Glasses posted this account in the comment section of Michael's account but I was concerned most people wouldn't see it there. This is long but it's packed with great insight - well worth the read.
In 1968, I came home from serving two US Army tours in Vietnam, having been awarded five medals, including a Bronze Star. During my second tour I acquired Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Depression. Treatment would not become available for either ailment until the mid to late 70's. Returning to the University of Minnesota at Morris, I found that most of my former classmates were either facing the military draft or were violently against the war. I was not their favorite person.

Feeling isolated and alone, I was unable to relate to my family due to untreated Depression and PTSD. Disillusioned with school, I moved to Minneapolis Minnesota and began a career in the Defense Industrial Complex that would span over three decades from 1969 through 2005. I thought that through working on defense systems, I could contribute to the quality and quantity of weapons that the next generation would take to war. Given a clearly defined mission and the best armaments and systems in the world, I believed that another Vietnam could be avoided for the American Soldier. In pursuit of this goal, I participated in the design, development and production of 25 large scale weapons systems under Federal Government and Foreign Military Sales Contracts. I worked in several different disciplines for the companies that produced these weapons, negotiating and controlling the associated contracts with procurement agencies in the US Armed Forces and in 16 allied countries.

By the time treatment for PTSD and Depression became available, I had such high security clearances that had I been treated for these disorders, the US Government would have revoked my clearances and my career would have ended or would have been sharply curtailed. This quandary led to my journey through the Defense Industrial Complex. I found that accepting extreme challenges and succeeding at them became a way to displace PTSD and elevate depressive moods. For extended periods of time this method of self-management led to a satisfying, although somewhat adventurous and diversified life. However, down periods always occurred, especially after the latest challenge had been met. A new challenge was then required. Family, friends and acquaintances were often puzzled by the frequent changes in my job sites and locations. Two marriages fell by the wayside.

I became known in the industry as a front-end loaded trouble shooter on complex projects, installing processes and business systems required by the Federal Acquisition Regulation. These systems included estimating and pricing, proposal preparation, contract administration, cost and schedule control, program management, design to cost, life cycle cost, export management and other specialties unique to US Government Contracts. Getting through government source selection boards and surviving audits during competition was a significant challenge for defense contractors. Installing required business systems after contract award, under ambitious cost, schedule and technical conditions, was an even more difficult undertaking. I became a leader in the problem solving and creative processes necessary to win contracts and successfully fulfill them. When my mood demanded it, there was always a new job, with a new challenge and a subsequent elevated feeling from success. It was not unusual for a career professional in the Defense Industry to move regularly with the ebb and flow of competitive procurements and associated government funding shifts.

I came to know many of the career military and civil servants who managed the government procurement process. These individuals never went away, regardless of elections or politics. They developed the alternatives from which elected officials must choose. The American Public rarely heard from these powerful insiders, while the insiders slanted the choices supplied to elected officials in a self-perpetuating manner. I recognized the mirror image way in which procuring agencies and defense contractors organized their operations on the largest systems acquisitions. Key executives regularly moved back and forth between government and industry. I often observed the short, happy life of a defense company program manager. Appointed by the powerful insiders to head a single project, he had no authority over company resources, he perpetually competed with other program managers for the same talent pool and he always took the heat from management when things did not go well. His counterpart in the government quarters had similar experiences. I often supported several program managers at the same time. They all were desperate to achieve success. They each believed they had the most important program in the company.

In early 2005, approaching age sixty, I found myself unable to self-manage an extremely deep depressive episode. The journey had simply wound down. This situation nearly resulted in death. Recovering with help from my family and the US Veteran's Administration, I now reside in a veteran's home, volunteering through the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) to Small, Veteran-Owned, Women-Owned and Minority-Owned businesses that are pursuing contracts with the Federal Government. I provide advice, alternatives and business s based on my experiences. It is refreshing to witness the successes of small, motivated and flexible companies. I believe they deserve every special consideration they have achieved under our system of government.

After thirty-six years in the Defense Industrial Complex my greatest satisfaction came from watching "Stormin Norman" and his Gulf War Forces defeat the Iraqi Army in Operation Desert Storm. They used the Abrams Main Battle Tank, the Hellfire Missile and an array of communications and other systems on which I worked. I have had the privilege of meeting several young soldiers coming back from current conflicts in the Middle East who have praised these systems for their life saving performances.

Operation Desert Storm had a clearly defined mission to liberate a small country from an aggressor. We accomplished the mission utilizing the best weapons in the world. Unfortunately, we did not leave the area. The lessons of Vietnam have not been remembered and once again political factors govern our presence in several countries. This time it is the Middle East. A Future Combat System (FCS) is now under development geared for urban warfare with unmanned vehicles, state of the art sensors and remote standoff capabilities. The terrorist enemy has grown to become a formidable force, cable of striking without notice even within our own country. He threatens the world economy with violent disruptions in several domains at the same time. He is a product of our own creation, rebelling against the "US Police Force" with help from neighbors who play either benign or active roles. Our enemy knows his neighborhood far better than we do. US intelligence and military capabilities are strained to the maximum monitoring perceived hot spots all over the globe. We must face the fact that our long term presence in other countries is resented.

How much longer can we afford to be the "World's Policeman"? We are spending over $500B per year for defense, homeland security and nation building. Investments we are making in developing new democracies are draining our domestic programs such as health care, stifling the education of our young people and limiting research and development in valuable commercial technologies. The largest corporations selling to our government are no more than extensions of our government in the cloak of industry. They are not in the business of making money for the stockholder. They are in the business of spending money for the government. As a result they are some of the poorest growth stocks on Wall Street. Recent consolidation in the Defense Industrial Complex has dramatically reduced competition. Only public laws mandating a twenty per cent allocation of Federal Contract Funding to small business have kept diversification in the mix. Even then, much of the moneys that flow to small business go through a select group of large business prime contractors who add their respective overhead and general administrative expense to the small business cost and pass it on to the government.

When we consider the largest evolving countries in the world today, such as China, India and others, we should note that they are successfully competing with us in a fast moving, complex world economy. These countries are not all pure democracies and probably never will be. No overt action on our part created these powerhouses. As we struggle to compete with them we must have education, research and development and a healthy work force to keep pace. How much can we afford to spend forcing our capitalistic ideologies on other societies? Events have proven that the world has become a tightly wound place economically. Countries who wish to succeed and grow will play the game anyway.

I hope that this account of my experiences has supplied useful insights into the US Government Defense Industrial Complex. My odyssey was driven by a need to manage illnesses acquired in warfare. I found a way to deal with the maladies for years by spreading myself thin and accepting every new challenge. I thrilled at success and moved on after defeat, pursuing a misguided goal. Out of necessity I have now been forced to look inward, wind down to a smaller perspective, take care of my health - begin serving the little guy.

Perhaps it is time for our country to consider a similar transition.

Micky to attend same-sex weddings

It seems that Disney is working to shake off its history of exclusion (a la banning the long-haired in the 60s) and will start allowing same-sex couples to purchase its Fairy Tale Wedding packages. For the sake of fairness, I'm unclear whether their previous exclusion from these packages was intentional or a thoughtless side-effect of requiring a valid marriage license for booking. Now, the many Mickey lovers of the gay community can now enter connubial bliss with the grand rodent by their side.

The timing is right for such a move because even though statistics compiled by The Third Way show that the country is still a ambivalent about full marital rights for gays and lesbians (61% of Americans support legal civil union), an overwhelming majority believe that the GLBT community should have equal job opportunities (90%) and should be allowed to serve openly in the military (80%).

Interestingly, 56% of Americans do not think that same-sex couples lack significant legal protections. Sadly, that's just plain wrong. There are so many things that those of us in hetero marriages take for granted - that if our spouse is sick, we can stay with them in the hospital; if they should die, what's theirs is automatically ours; that if we have children and are both good parents, we have equal rights to see our children should we divorce. None of this is true for same-sex couples. I have one lesbian friend who is counting down the days until her daughter is 18 because her ex had sole legal custody (two people of the same gender cannot share legal custody under our laws) and has chosen to keep the child from her.

And though I think the civil rights implications of the gay marriage debate are the most important part, there are practical reasons that allowing the same rights of marriage to the GLBT community would benefit the whole country, one of which Disney has cleverly tapped into: the millions, perhaps billions, of dollars gays and lesbians would pump into our economy to throw the sames kinds of elaborate weddings that hetero couples indulge in. Someone should remind Bush - that kind of tax revenue could fund a couple more days in Iraq...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

In the words of a Vietnam vet

Michael, a Vietnam vet living in High Point, has written to me in response to both of my columns that touch on Vietnam. His emails are honest, straight-forward and incredibly moving. Yesterday, he emailed to explain to me why so many Vietnam vets would participate in the counter-protest to the recent march on the Pentagon. When I asked if I could post his story here, he replied:

Sarah, you may use anything within my e-mail and you need not change the names unless you feel otherwise. Please believe me, I hold no grudges for the way Vietnam veterans were treated. It happened and it’s part of our history. I have moved on and kept only what is beneficial to me.

I truly believe that the majority of people in the anti-Iraq War movement understand that we have to continue to support our troops regardless of what we think of the war in which they are involved. But remembering the horrific way we treated the young men of the Vietnam should stand as a reminder of how we should proceed in our anti-war movement: with respect, understanding and compassion. Once we lose those, we lose our right to the high ground.

In Michael's words:

When I returned from Vietnam in November 1970, we landed at Travis Air Force Base, near San Francisco. We were hurried onto a bus and taken to a processing center to get new uniforms, travel vouchers and pay. As we left the base, I happened to notice the same wire screen over the windows I’d seen on buses in Vietnam. Over there, the screen was to stop Viet Cong grenades. In California, the screens protected us from protesters’ rocks. Sure enough, the bus I was on was hit by a couple of times as we left Travis. I remember being very nervous about flying home in my uniform. I had no more difficulty with protesters until I enrolled at High Point College in 1971.

I was taking a political science course when the terrible news came to light about the massacre at Mi Lai. Like the rest of the country, I was sickened that US troops would be involved in something like this but I wasn’t surprised. Those soldiers from the 23rd Infantry “Americal” Division had been bloodied for months patrolling the same area time and again. The VC knew they were coming and where to set the booby traps, Vietnam’s version on today’s IEDs. The poorly lead soldiers had simply had enough and a tragedy occurred. The professor, Dr. Carl Wheeless, was discussing the massacre and, knowing I was a Vietnam veteran, asked me to comment. I told the class that I certainly didn’t agree with the action but I understood it. You see, Sarah, I discovered in Vietnam that there is nothing more vicious on the face of this earth than a 19 year-old frightened and angry American with an automatic weapon. Anyway, from that point on in my college career, I was marked. There was a fellow in the classroom that was the president of the Young Democrats and that group never lost an opportunity to harass me during my two-and-a-half years there.

Many Vietnam veterans see today’s war protesters as the same group(s) that harassed us for so many years. We were called as “baby killers” and portrayed as psychopathic maniacs by Hollywood. It wasn’t until the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was unveiled in 1987 that the nation took a look at how Vietnam vets had been treated. The same people who had been reviled by us wanted to slap us on the back and say, “Sorry.” Since then, I have even been thanked for my service. Sarah, those scars run deep. Look this up: Kennedy sent troops to Vietnam in ‘61 and Johnson escalated the war. By 1968, the administration had mismanaged the war to the point they no support at home. Nixon won the election by telling America we would have “Peace with honor.” Almost overnight, the war protesters called it Nixon’s War. The Democrats committed us to war in Vietnam, then blotched the job and blamed the Republicans. It’s that simple. Scores of Vietnam veterans do no trust the Democrats and now you know why. Again, Sarah, this is my opinion.

"Free speech" at BYU

Granted, Brigham Young University isn't a state school so I can understand them having more leeway in dictating what happens on the campus, but I think this account of a protest against this administration's policies is notable in a few ways: free speech was still abridged - treated as though it's something kids do to pass the time, and tons of people turned out for a demonstration at a school that I assumed is fairly conservative. And, while two campus protests (this and the UNCG incident... which wasn't an anti-war protest specifically but implicitly) is a coincidence (three makes a trend), it makes me hopefully that this is the beginning of a significant college anti-war movement.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Arresting protesters

Many of the people who objected to my recent anti-war article cited, as proof that our civil liberties have not been threatened, my ability to protest. I'll gladly give them that we still have plenty of rights (though I prefer to defend mine before they're completely gone) but I think they should consider the following story, passed to me by a friend of our protagonist, Tim. I have opted to edit this story in two ways only: I have fixed the spelling when necessary (it's compulsive, I admit) and have removed identifying names. Otherwise, it is exactly as I received it in an email.
Background: the events at UNCG were not in any way planned as a was really conceived by the Cakalak Thunder drum corps as a piece of street theater in which they would challenge the College Republicans, who were in the middle of a reactionary and largely unsuccessful "Morals Week" to a "beat battle", which the Republicans would of course have to forfeit since they have no marching band. Tim had no part in the planning of this event, contrary to the beliefs and accusations of the UNCG police, and was simply coming to show support and to let people know about the April 21st rally.

12:00 A supporter of Cakalak Thunder walks up to the area across the lawn from the UNCG Jackson Library and announces on a bullhorn that Cakalak is coming to lay down its "beat battle" challenge to the Republicans. He is immediately told that if he continues to use the bullhorn, he will be arrested. A substantial number of students and non-students is already gathered.

12:05 Cakalak Thunder marches up from Walker Ave. playing the drums. The police immediately step amongst them and order then to stop. They comply, though they produce a permit from the school. A chant goes up from the crowd, "Let them play! Let them play!"

12:10 Cakalak goes into an a capella version of one of their more popular cadences. About 80 supporters are in the area immediately around them.

12:15 Cakalak starts playing the drums. The crowd of supporters continues to grow. Cops try to snatch away drum sticks and bass drum mallets, and pull aside individual drummers. the beat, as they say, goes on.

12:20 Tim comes up, finds Scott, who has the WCW fliers, and the two start handing out fliers for the April 21st anti-war/pro-impeachment demonstration.

12:24 Officer G of the UNCG police tells Tim he can't hand out fliers. Tim replies, "Yes I can, and I'm not going to stop." Ofc. G repeats, "I'm telling you to stop". J, a UNCG officer in plain clothes (not sure of rank) threatens, "If you hand any more out I'll arrest you." Scott, who hasn't heard the discussion, walks over to where Tim and the officers are arguing, takes the remaining fliers from Tim to hand out and is immediately stopped by the police, who take the fliers, but then hand them back, saying that we cannot hand them out. Tim tells the officers that he is going to speak to the crowd

12:30 Tim addresses the crowd (without the bullhorn), saying that he came to support the drum corps, that he's with "World Can't Wait", but that the cops have told him that he can't hand out fliers. He talks about the demonstration on April 21st, and that Cindy Sheehan will be speaking there. Scott puts the fliers on the ground and says that if we can't hand them out, people can just take them, which several people do. The cops rush over and snatch up the remaining

12:35 Tim is approached by a reporter from the UNCG Carolinian, and talks to her for a few minutes. At this point Cakalak, trying to keep the energy up, decide to march a circuit past the front of the library, where the College Republicans are gathered with about eight people. There are well over a hundred supporters of the drum corps and seemingly-sympathetic onlookers gathered at this point. Tim goes to follow the drummers, stops to tell officer J, pointing at him, saying, "You haven't heard the last of this. We have Constitutional rights. We'll be back, we're not going to stop exercising our rights." J replies, "Get your hand out of my face or I'll arrest you." The drums are very loud.

Tim, walking away: "Ah, fucking forget it."

J, following Tim: "What did you say?"

Tim, still walking away: "Nothing, just forget it."

J then orders Tim to get on the ground. Tim immediately complies and is handcuffed.

12:40 The drummers are made aware by another non-student supporter (also in her 60s) that Tim has been arrested. They begin heading toward the cop car where he is standing with J, hands cuffed behind him. Tim says to J, "Look, we could make this all go away right here. Just take the cuffs off. Here they come, anyway," indicating that the drummers are approaching J and Tim, still banging away on the drums. Tim is lectured about "the rules" by Officer G, who says that they have seventeen thousand students in a one-half square mile area, and that they have to keep order.

12:43 The drummers arrive where Tim and J are standing. Cakalaker Jonathan asks Tim if he wants us to be there. Tim says yes.

12:45 J walks Tim about twenty yards to another cop car, while the drummers and supporters follow. Tim is put in the car and taken away.

I'm not clear on the exact time line after this point, but Tim was first taken to the UNCG police station downtown (not the one on Tate St.) where they fill out paperwork and question him. Officer J makes the accusation that Jonathan had asked Tim if Tim wanted the drummers and supporters to "escalate", and that Tim had replied, "Yes." Both cops but especially J, talked about the main reason the "rule" against handing out any information was the problem of "littering." J made a point to talk about "African-American rap show promoters" who will bring 5000 flyers to promote a show at the coliseum, and they all wind up on the ground and "somebody has to pick them up". J becomes so angry during the questioning that he storms out of the room, slamming the door.

Tim is then transported to the Guilford County Jailhouse and booked. He is told he is charged with 2nd degree trespass and has to pay a $500 bond if he wants to get out. He asks to speak with the magistrate. He asks why he's been charged with trespassing and is told by the magistrate, "You were told to leave, and you refused," which is completely untrue. He asks why he cannot be released on his own recognizance and is told that it is because he "almost started a riot." He is released by friends who post his bail at about 3:30pm.
Bellamy needs to get a handle on this if he wants the public to trust him and the police force.

Therapy bolsters my marriage

This column was originally published in the News & Record on April 4, 2007.

I really like my husband, Rob. I love him deeply and unabashedly, but I think the fact that I also like him is more notable. I, like many people, have been in relationships where the love has lasted much longer than the like. It seems that the memory of whatever it was about a person that sparked loving feelings in the first place is sometimes enough to keep the love going - and with it relationships that are, perhaps, less than the people involved had hoped for or deserve.

Also like most people, I have seen many marriages fall apart, sometimes for obvious reasons, like infidelity, but, more often, for reasons that fall under the generic “irreconcilable differences.” Perhaps even more upsetting, I have seen couples who stay together despite their disdain for one another, despite feeling unfulfilled and misunderstood.

I will admit that my fear of both divorce and loveless marriage has left me a little twitchy and overly cautious of the slippery slope of marital failure. Rob and I rarely argue, and our few arguments are rarely substantial, but the difficulty we have had bouncing back from arguments always set me in a tail-spin of paranoid worrying.

About six months ago, Rob and I decided to be proactive and seek the insight of a psychologist in what we thought of as “communication coaching.” Psychologists, rarely approached by happy, healthy people, seemed a little confused at my request, but one call led to another until we found ourselves in the office of Dr. Dennis McKnight.

After the first meeting, during which we gave Dr. McKnight the abridged version of our life to this point, he sent us home with the Myers-Briggs, one of the most widely used personality assessments.

Far from horoscope-esque vagaries, the Myers-Briggs, when answered honestly, pops out a four-letter abbreviation for who we are: extroverts or introverts, analytical or emotionally-driven, big picture or detail-oriented. From our four letter combinations, Dr. McKnight was able to tell us that many of our communication issues come from my need to hammer out solutions to problems immediately and aggressively, and Rob’s need for a break between acknowledging a problem and solving it, time to process and consider every angle.

Though I could have easily shaken Dr. McKnight’s hand at that moment and happily left his office forever with this one piece of essential knowledge, we instead decided to continue with our coaching to ensure that our marriage has the most solid foundation we can give it. We have entered our last few appointments unsure that there was anything left to discuss and have left with an even deeper understanding of one another and our relationship.

Counseling has gotten a bad rap over the years. Its image has been tarnished by misunderstanding and an often mistaken belief that a knowledgeable third-party has nothing useful to say about our lives. But, often, the objectivity and understanding of human behavior offered by a great psychologist can bring to light the motives and behaviors we are all too skilled at hiding from even ourselves. I suspect it is this brand of ego-free communication that Sen. David Hoyle is considering as he lobbies for voluntary premarital counseling for the courthouse-wedding faction. Having been married in Las Vegas by a minister-for-hire, this is a group to which Rob and I can truly relate.

Rob and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary last week. These days, I am less worried that we won’t make it to our 30th than that I won’t have anything new to write in the Hallmark card when we do.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Gospel of Judas

Salon's featured interview today with Karen L. King, the religious historian who wrote Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity, brought to mind a series of conversations I had with my friend Scott. Six or seven years ago, Scott converted from the church of rock n' roll to the significantly more conservative Seventh Day Adventist church. Which would have been all well and good except his literal interpretation of the Bible led him to criticize my less-than-Christian ways... especially funny since I'm Jewish...

I was armed with all that I learned during a New Testament history class - an amazingly challenging class taught by a Duke doctoral candidate. I asked Scott things like: What about the magicians who lived during the same time as Jesus, who performed similar "miracles" but have since been forgotten? What about the many gospels that didn't make the cannon, including one (I wish I could remember the name...) that showed Jesus as an impetuous child who would kill his playmates when they angered him but would resurrect them when their parents complained? Do you not find it at all suspicious that the canonized gospels were written 50 to 150 years after Jesus died or that the gospels disagree with one another in details or that their deviation from their historical context could easily have been caused by a desire to appease the ruling class - that is, the Romans?

I'm generally not in the business of trying to debunk people's beliefs. I think religion is useful and comforting to a lot of people and I would never want to take anything away from a person that makes them feel a little better about life or a little stronger or more hopeful. But I also chafe at being held to the standards of another person's religion.

Of course, my questions did not, in any way, alter Scott's belief, though he did eventually get over the phase of judging me and has gone back to just being a friend. But that's faith - he, like more believers, believes what he believes because he believes it. The historical context of all religious texts are fascinating to me but to most people, it's a largely irrelevant setting of the story of their belief. Sometimes that is enough.

That said, tonight is Pesach, or Passover, a holiday in which Jews recall the story of Moses leading us from slavery in Egypt. The "us" is very intentional - within the ritual meal to celebrate the holiday, a story is told in which only the wicked child would dare insinuate that we are not the same Jews who were slaves all those centuries ago. Isn't religion fascinating?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Eating their own

This is no April Fool's Day joke: one of Bush's chief campaign advisers has spoken out in opposition to his former boss. Matthew Dowd spoke to the New York Times about the seeming sincerity that initially wooed him from the Democratic party to being instrumental to both of Bush's elections. But his disappointment in Bush's many failures, including the lack of follow-through on his promise to unify America and his increasingly blatant isolationist tendencies (in terms of gaining consensus about policy) have driven him from Bush's side and perhaps even back to the democratic party.

They're on the descent down the slippery slope of losing power when they start eating their own - in public, no less.