Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Congess is remembering what its there for

Barbara Boxer said yesterday that Bush should read the Constitution, because he is missing a key point -- Congress is there as a check against presidential power. Congress has the power to stop the president when the president tries to exceed his authority; they not only have the power, they have the obligation. So while he might be the "decider", he is one by permission only, and that role can be taken away from him by vote of Congress at any time.

I would like to see them make it nearly impossible for a President to command an attack against another nation without having to declare war. This is how more recent Presidents have skirted the issue, by creating "police actions" (Vietnam), to "anti-terrorist activities" (Iraq), wars in all but name. If we are going to send soldiers to fight -- it's a war. If we bomb from air or sea, it's a war. Call it what it is, and go through proper channels with the proper checks and balances set in place.

Make it a big and scary thing, fraught with political risk, to have to ask for, and get permission for the exercise of military power. Because it is a big, scary thing for a country to do, and it should not be taken lightly.

Friday, January 26, 2007


I am just plain puzzled. The new mayor of DC, Adrian Fenty, has announced his plan to take the homeless to the movies. Yes, you read that right. He is going to take 100 homeless folks to see The Pursuit of Happyness. Let's hope he buys them popcorn.

I really don't get this. Is he trying to draw attention to the homeless problem in DC? Does he think the film will inspire the homeless of DC to become stockbrokers? Is it just a photo op?

The newest statistic on the homeless population in DC is troubling. 66 percent of the DC homeless population are high school graduates. And more than 40% of them are EMPLOYED. Next time your kid says he doesn't want to go to college, point that statistic their way. Read another way, though, and these statistics show promise. It means that with the right help, the right services, there exists potential to get many of these people off the streets and into housing.

Maybe Mayor Fenty will get some ideas for this while he is at the movie.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

and so it begins (again)

Tonight is the first night of the new semester. My class is Theories of Ethics, with Dr Stephen Barker. It is not the course I originally signed up for, Mesoamerica and the Pueblo Indians, but that course was dropped for low enrollment. I think this course will be more challenging, and more of a stretch for me.

I am a pretty fuzzy thinker. I run on intuition most of the time. So sometimes I have NO IDEA why I think what I think, or why I believe what I believe. Digging at a topic like Ethics, in a logical, intellectual sort of way is going to be difficult. I hope it will be interesting too.

OF course, the start of a new semester means the chaos descends upon our household again. Hopefully it will be a little easier, now that we have the puppy in daycare a few days a week. Yes, daycare. Yes, for the dog. Yes, I am now officially one of those crazy "dog people". I draw the line at sweaters and boots for the dog, though. And Halloween costumes. No costumes. I think.

Well, keep your fingers crossed, and let CHAOS REIGN.

Friday, January 19, 2007

words have power

I just went to Hopkins annual Martin Luther King celebration. For those who don't know, Hopkins has, for the last twenty-five years ,put on a program in honor of Dr. King. It is a special day, and I look forward to it every year.

This year, the invited speaker was Dr. Maya Angelou. What an amazing, truly amazing, woman! I was spell-bound. And she reminded me, quite forcefully, that words are a powerful tool. You can change the course of a person's life with words. Through your words, you can do great evil, or great good.

I took away several lessons from today. We all have a charge to better ourselves, and to better the world in general -- otherwise we are squandering the one thing we are all given, a lifetime. We all have courage -- use it. If you don't like the way the world is run, say so. If you don't like what your elected officials are doing, protest. But don't whine. It diminishes you and accomplishes nothing. It doesn't even make you feel better. And remember the power of words, to hurt or heal.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

where I started

Recently I've been thinking about where I started out. What got me moving in that direction was my son. I look at his life now, and invariably I think about my own childhood. It is so very very different. I wonder what that will mean for him in the future. He has everything he needs, and virtually everything he wants. He is happy most of the time.

My childhood was different. The house I lived in when I was small had two bedrooms and 1 bathroom, for 5 people. I remember having to go to the bathroom and trying desperately to hold it while someone was showering or bathing. I remember taking a bath once a week, with my sister, because a)water wasn't free and b) it tied up the bathroom. My sister and I shared a room until I was 10. We were luckier than my brother, who didn't have a room. He slept in the family room; his bed was tucked into one corner of the room. He didn't have a door, but we did put up a bead curtain to separate that room from the living room.

We had to hang our wash up to dry -- we didn't have a dryer. When it rained, I had to run out and pull the wash from the line and bring it in. I hated doing that because the wet laundry was so heavy, and because I had to stand on tip-toe to reach the line.

We always had enough food, but we were constrained by our budget. I remember being told not to drink milk, and just put enough on my cereal to wet it. And don't add milk if you had a second bowl of cereal. At dinner, there was enough for someone to have seconds, but not everyone. Whoever was fastest got it. I am still a very rapid eater. We did not eat out. I had virtually no experience with restaurants until I went to college.

We went to the beach once a year. We would get a tent from the Navy (always some old Army surplus thing that was moldy) and camp about an hour outside ocean city. Later we bought a third hand pop-up camper and pulled it behind the car. It was also moldy, but we loved it. It was so much more comfortable than a tent.

My sister and I went to public school. The schools were fine. We didn't have kindergarden, so we just started with day one of first grade. We didn't know our alphabet, didn't know how to read, but we could count to ten. No one ever read to us. We didn't have any books. Later we had the BookMobile, which was a godsend. It came to our neighborhood once a month to spread literature to the poor folks. You could check out 4 books. I would finish them the first day.

It wasn't grim. We had a lot of fun. Our neighborhood had parades and holiday parties. We had easter egg hunts and visits from Santa. We had a community dock. It used to be possible for working class and struggling folks to live near the water, and we did for a while. We ice skated on the creek, went sledding. My folks went heavily into debt and put in an above ground pool; so we swam a lot.

There were things I hated. I always had second-hand clothes from friends or neighbors or had to shop at 2 Guys. For those who have never experienced this, 2 Guys was the kind of store that didn't have dressing rooms. And the clothes weren't on hangers, they were in big bins, you just sort of rooted through. My mom would make us try things on in the aisle.

I had a sled (from Goodwill, with someone else's name on it). I had a bike, from a friend of a friend. It was so much too big for me that my dad strapped pieces of two x fours to the pedals so I could reach them. I had skates (from the Goodwill, two sizes too big). I coveted anything brand new. I wanted stuff from a good store, where they waited on you (or so I had heard).

I never really valued what we had, although in looking back, we had enough. My parents valued money above all things, and I knew we didn't have that. It was their measure of success, and so we were failures. I was raised to feel LACK and to strive for material success.

I am struggling now to fight my upbringing, and to use a different yardstick for my life. I HOPE I am passing on to my child that material stuff has little meaning. I hope he is getting value lessons, not just having his basic needs met.

I really want to do better by him.

Friday, January 12, 2007


No, it's not important in the grand scheme of things. It doesn't much matter, unless you are a fan. But here in Baltimore, it counts. Tomorrow, the hated Indianapolis Colts come to town for a playoff game. The city is more excited than if the pope was coming, or the president.

It's payback time. Yes it's been years and years since Irsay snuck our team out of town in the dead of night on Mayflower Vans. Yes we should be over it. And NO, we're NOT. Today my boss was wearing a purple Ravens t-shirt, with UNITAS across the back. That pretty much says it all. It's not that they took the team away -- it's that they took the NAME, and the HISTORY with them. In the record books, Johnny Unitas played for the Colts, not Baltimore. The chamionships, they count for Indy, not for Baltimore, even though they were won here, in front of Baltimore fans.

Tomorrow is big. I'm sitting in an office full of people wearing the Ravens purple and black. The lights at City Hall are purple. At 10pm, the light up signs near the stadium are going purple. Because its more than football -- it's PRIDE in our city on display.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

chilling words

"All lawbreakers are susceptible to being detained or taken care of in this campaign."

--Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense, in a press conference this morning

Reading this sent a chill down my spine. I know I am probably being over-dramatic, but this kind of statement scares the bejeezus out of me. I think it's the phrase "taken care of" that reminds me of some Mafia Don. I can imagine Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone, saying "your problem, its been taken care of", with a little dismissive hand wave. It's not really what I want to hear from a representative of our government. And I am sure it was a carefully chosen phrase.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

afghanistan, iraq, somalia?

You can forget a lot at my age, particulary in a span of several years. But I thought we were fighting terrorism in Afghanistan. Then we were routing out WMD in Iraq. Today, I read that we sent gunships and war planes to Somalia. Yup, Somalia.

Now, I am pretty sure we didn't declare war on Somalia. But apparently the government there says it OK by them if we bomb the crap out of some of their folks. Besides, the deaths were MOSTLY muslim extremists. An occasional newlywed, a 4 year old, well those were "collateral damage" -- you know, you can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs...

What the hell are we doing? If we suspect you of terrorist activity, look out. If you are extreme in your non-Christian religious views, better buy a bomb shelter, cause we are gunning for you.

I do not understand how Bush got carte blanche to do whatever the f*ck he wants to do with our military. I thought you had to , I don't know, get permission or something before you start dropping bombs on other countries... Or is the "War on Terror" so all-encompassing that the Dipshit in Chief can do anything he wants, as long as we are shooting at "suspected terrorists"??

I really think secession is beginning to sound like a good idea....

Friday, January 05, 2007

but she dresses well

We're gonna file this one in "is it just me, or does this bug anyone else?" Nancy Pelosi was just elected the first woman Speaker of the House. This is a wonderful milestone, full of social import. I opened the newspaper yesterday (The Baltimore Sun) and it chose to run a multi-page article on the new Speaker of the House. About her clothes! Apparently she dresses very well, very fashionably.

Why, oh why is this news? In this day and age, when we are celebrating the advancement of women in politics, why is it still important how the lady dresses? What are her issues? What is her agenda? How will she unify Democrats and Republicans in Congress? To me, those are issues. That she buys nice suits, and looks nice in them, is not EVEN on the LIST.

If we elect a woman president, are they gonna write about her HAIR? her makeup? her looks? Are we ever going to see equality in press coverage? Where does George Bush buy his suits? are his cowboy boots fashion-forward or a faux pas?

We can do better than this.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford was a good man. He didn't seek the presidency, but he filled the office when called upon. He pardoned Nixon, even though it was an unpopular thing to do, because he knew it was what the nation needed in order to move on.

Yesterday I saw a few minutes of his funeral service. Our nation's leaders, past and present, showed up to honor this decent man. I was struck by the irony of two voices in the long list of speakers: Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Both owe their careers to Gerald Ford. Both lauded his integrity and his decency in their eulogies. Both cite him as a mentor.

WTF??? How can you move so far from your mentor that you are his polar opposite, and yet still claim his influence and laud his virtues?? Lightning didn't strike either man, though I was waiting for it. Is it possible they see themselves as following in Ford's footsteps?

Gerald Ford gave one last interview a few months ago. He asked that it not air while he was alive. In it, he criticizes his proteges, and the war in Iraq. He did not want to interfere with current policy, but he wanted his opinion on record for posterity.

I wish there were more Gerald Fords in the world of politics, and far fewer Cheneys and Rumsfelds.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

HAPPY 2007!

A new year, a fresh start. I began as I always do, bleary-eyed, low on sleep, and raspy voiced. And as always, I begin with good intentions. I will get fit this year, I will lose ten pounds, I will be more understanding of foibles, my own and other's. I will seek enlightenment, and retrieve my sense of humor from the ash heap on which it has descended, etc etc etc.

What usually happens -- I am good with my diet for a few weeks; I exercise half-heartedly for a week, I am patient for a day or two. We'll see what happens this year.

I hope for health and happiness for me and mine, and the same for you and yours.