Saturday, August 22, 2009

Overwhelmed in the garden and rethinking for next year

Whew. I haven't posted about gardening in a long time, and for good reason...I just plain got swamped. This was pretty much the year that everything involving gardens crashed for me! My seedlings all failed for various reasons. I found that I have physically deteriorated significantly since just last year and can't keep up with a garden the size of the one I planted. My niece and her fiance promised to help all summer, but they haven't been able to. I started classes again recently for a change in life direction. On top of all that, I was subscribed to every gardening group known to Yahoo, and my mailbox was overstuffed every day! It just plain got to me, and as I am likely to do when faced with too much, I wasn't able to do much of anything. (Except the classes. I got A's.)

So here's the story. Once this year's garden is done, I am radically rethinking it. For one, far fewer tomatoes and more peppers. The reason for this is that peppers need far less care than tomatoes and have fewer pests, also taking up less space, and are easier to weed. Another thing I am thinking is going to container gardening, even homemade upside-down planting. I'm also wanting to experiment with growing tobacco, so that eliminates the problems of cucumber, melon, and squash vines.

I'm also rethinking a lot of my organic ideas. I hate to admit it, but I don't have the physical capability anymore to garden totally organically. Essentially, the weeds and the perennials are taking over, and I can't keep them back. Not when just a few minutes' of bending over and standing up makes me so light-headed I'm nauseous, and not when standing up for any length of time makes my knees scream in pain. So when I take down the garden this year, I am going to apply some weed killer to prevent them from coming up in the spring, and when spring comes, I am going to apply some pre-emergent herbicide.

Seed starting is a pain as well because of lack of space, the energy it uses, the fact that I have to do it upstairs, and so on. So the only thing I am planning on starting is the tobacco, and I'll be buying starts through sites like I'm going to cut back my tomato varieties from approximately 9,000 to one or two--probably Rutgers, which is the one tomato this year that excelled even in the weeds.

Next year: more and better mulching. I just can't keep down the weeds without heavy fabric and mulch.

And...I severely cut back on my Yahoo groups! I cut many of them to digests and special notices only or even no mail, and a few I dropped entirely. The important thing is to not FEEL overwhelmed. I almost totally lost my love of gardening because there was so much to do, and I don't want that. So next year...much less. Much less. And more happiness.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

There is no "next time"

A thought came to mind that I hadn't seen elsewhere. I don't post many blog entries because anything I have to say has generally been said by a lot of people elsewhere, and I don't feel my words are so deathless that they need to contribute to the junk drawer that is the blogosphere. When I see an aspect of something no one else seems to, though, it's time for a comment.

Now, a lot of people are saying we have to get healthcare done now, because if we don't, it won't get done at all. I agree with that, but I think it's much more than that. We have to succeed--Obama has to succeed--or else it's the end of the road for Democrats entirely.

Look at it this way. Obama was elected with the closest thing Dems have had to a mandate since LBJ was elected in 1964. We have the largest Congressional majority since that time, too. Obama came in with the kind of popularity that we haven't seen since Reagan and a clear mandate for change. Yet we're getting derailed by the combined might of the D.C. lobbies--Big Health is out to get us, and it's been revealed (via leaked internal memo) that Big Oil is planning the same strategy for climate change legislation.

If we can't accomplish major legislation with the assembly we have now, when will we? Is there any possibility that if the big corporations win now, they will be weaker in the future? If the most popular Democrat since Kennedy, since FDR really, can't accomplish the major change we need along with a veto-proof Senate, who is going to come along and do it? We get taunted by the right for having elected "The Messiah" and "The One." Yeah, we put a lot of pressure on Obama to deliver more than any other President has. But if he doesn't do it, if we can't do it, who in the world is going to?

Who will be able to stand up to Big Money if we cannot?

Paraphrasing the Chief of Staff in "The American President," the American people thirst for leadership, and they'll crawl through the desert to get it. And if they don't find it there, they'll drink the sand. Wake up, Democrats: if we can't show that we have the spine and cojones to lead, Americans will turn to people who do. And the only other option is the GOP.

We can't crow that the GOP is dead. We can't relax just because they keep putting up fools and buffoons. If we don't lead and succeed, the American people will choose a buffoon who can. They already did in 2000 and 2004. As it is, we stand to lose seats in 2010 because of our indecision, and we'll be able to accomplish far less--especially since, thinking they see the writing on the wall, Dems will tack even farther to the right, thinking that's what Americans want. That's not what they will be voting for: they'll be voting for anyone who can govern strongly. And if they see the GOP as strong in 2010, and we can't accomplish anything between there and 2012, we're going to see a Republican president...and that one may well be a loon like Sarah Palin.

There is no "maybe next time." This is it for us. We have the strongest leader in a generation, and if we can't get it done now, no one is going to trust us in the future. Be firm with your congressperson and your President. Tell them that the public option is not optional. As our President said, "We are the people we have waited for." If we let our agenda be destroyed by a well-ogranized group of lobbyists now, we might as well throw in the towel. This is it. If we don't win now, they own us.

Write, call, and pester your leaders until they listen. A free America is your responsibility.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Keeping the Heat on...Obama

Both Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow devoted significant time at the tops of their respective shows for this story, and were highly critical. As Jonathan Turley, a constitutional scholar at Georgetown U., said, what good are constitutional rights if there is no framework to enforce them?

The comments following this story (at the site) are passionate and sometimes enlightening.

Myself...I only hope that the argument put forth that the DOJ is doing its legally-mandated job is the correct one. By that argument, the DOJ must defend the United States' government against any and all lawsuits brought against it to the utmost of its capabilities, and the DOJ (with or without, most likely without, the oversight of Obama himself) is going over the top in its arguments so that no one involved in this case, at any time, can be accused of not doing due diligence. That's a valid argument, especially if Obama's administration has no intent of putting into effect any policies depending on their legal defense. Evidence against this, though, is that Obama has decided to maintain some long-standing "black sites" at which torture is alleged to have occurred. As Turley said on "Countdown," Obama seems to be all about programs, not principles. I don't know if I agree with that 100%, but there's something to it.

I just know that we have to hold the Obama Administration just as culpable as we would the Bush Administration. Yes, the lawsuit against the United States now has Obama's government as defendants, and they must defend themselves vigorously. And yes, it is entirely possible that they are choosing a ridiculously over-the-top defense not only to ensure due diligence but also to throw the case. But if the current DOJ pursues this as a matter of policy, it is our obligation to protest it in every avenue available to us.

(live links at website)

More Immunity Claims on Wiretapping from Obama DOJ by mcjoan

Tue Apr 07, 2009 at 05:02:04 PM PDT
In three separate cases in as many months, the Obama Justice Department has used the same arguments that the Bush administration Justice Department used to attempt to stop judicial review of extraordinary rendition and warrantless wiretapping. In the Mohamed v. Jeppesen extraordinary rendition case, the Obama administration reiterated the Bush administration argument that the case should be dismissed to preserve "states secrets." Likewise, in the Al-Haramain wiretapping case, Obama's DOJ used the arguments of the Bush administration to argue, again, that state secrets should prevent the Al-Haramain case--in which the only secret isn't a secret because it was inadvertently shared with plaintiff's attorneys--from moving forward.

Late Friday, the Obama DOJ actually went the Bush administration one argument further, in a third case. InJewel v. NSA, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is "suing the National Security Agency (NSA) and other government agencies on behalf of AT&T customers to stop the illegal, unconstitutional, and ongoing dragnet surveillance of their communications and communications records." The Obama administration filed its first response [pdf] to the suit Friday, demanding dismissal of the entire suit.

Just a reminder, as pointed out by Glenn; one of the rationales provided by all of those Senators who supported the FISAAA that granted immunity to the telcos was the the avenue of suing the government was still open. Jello Jay wrote: "If administration officials abused their power or improperly violated the privacy of innocent people, they must be held accountable. That is exactly why we rejected the White House's year-long push for blanket immunity covering government officials."

Let's hope that Senator Rockefeller holds that belief when the government is led by his own party. Here'sGlenn's synopsis of the government argument:

[T]he Obama DOJ demanded dismissal of the entire lawsuit based on (1) its Bush-mimicking claim that the "state secrets" privilege bars any lawsuits against the Bush administration for illegal spying, and (2) a brand new "sovereign immunity" claim of breathtaking scope -- never before advanced even by the Bush administration -- that the Patriot Act bars any lawsuits of any kind for illegal government surveillance unless there is "willful disclosure" of the illegally intercepted communications.

In other words, beyond even the outrageously broad "state secrets" privilege invented by the Bush administration and now embraced fully by the Obama administration, the Obama DOJ has now invented a brand new claim of government immunity, one which literally asserts that the U.S. Government is free to intercept all of your communications (calls, emails and the like) and -- even if what they're doing is blatantly illegal and they know it's illegal -- you are barred from suing them unless they "willfully disclose" to the public what they have learned.

There are several notable aspects to what happened here with this new court filing from Obama:

(1) Unlike in the prior cases where the Obama DOJ embraced the Bush theory of state secrets -- in which the Obama DOJ was simply maintaining already-asserted arguments in those lawsuits by the Bush DOJ -- the motion filed on Friday was the first response of any kind to this lawsuit by the Government. Indeed, EFF filed the lawsuit in October but purposely agreed with Bush lawyers to an extension of the time to respond until April, in the hope that by making this Obama's case, and giving his DOJ officials months to consider what to do when first responding, they would receive a different response than the one they would have gotten from the Bush DOJ.

That didn't happen. This brief and this case are exclusively the Obama DOJ's, and the ample time that elapsed -- almost three full months -- makes clear that it was fully considered by Obama officials. Yet they responded exactly as the Bush DOJ would have. This demonstrates that the Obama DOJ plans to invoke the exact radical doctrines of executive secrecy which Bush used -- not only when the Obama DOJ is taking over a case from the Bush DOJ, but even when they are deciding what response should be made in the first instance. Everything for which Bush critics excoriated the Bush DOJ -- using an absurdly broad rendition of "state secrets" to block entire lawsuits from proceeding even where they allege radical lawbreaking by the President and inventing new claims of absolute legal immunity -- are now things the Obama DOJ has left no doubt it intends to embrace itself.

(2) It is hard to overstate how extremist is the "sovereign immunity" argument which the Obama DOJ invented here in order to get rid of this lawsuit. I confirmed with both ACLU and EFF lawyers involved in numerous prior surveillance cases with the Bush administration that the Bush DOJ had never previously argued in any context that the Patriot Act bars all causes of action for any illegal surveillance in the absence of "willful disclosure." This is a brand new, extraordinarily broad claim of government immunity made for the first time ever by the Obama DOJ -- all in service of blocking EFF's lawsuit against Bush officials for illegal spying. As EFF's Kevin Bankston put it:

This is the first time [the DOJ] claimed sovereign immunity against Wiretap Act and Stored Communications Act claims. In other words, the administration is arguing that the U.S. can never be sued for spying that violates federal surveillance statutes, whether FISA, the Wiretap Act or the SCA.

Since EFF's lawsuit is the first to sue for actual damages under FISA and the Wiretap Act, it's arguable whether this immunity argument applied to any of the previous lawsuits. What is clear, though, is that the Bush DOJ, in any context, never articulated this bizarre view that all claims of illegal government surveillance are immunized in the absence of "willful disclosure" to the public of the intercepted communications. This is a brand new Obama DOJ invention to blanket themselves (and Bush officials) with extraordinary immunity even when they knowingly break our country's surveillance laws.

It's difficult to read the administration's brief in any other way than a reinforcement--even an inflation of--the unitary executive, or to attribute it to Bush holdovers. This is first of the cases in which the DOJ attorneys aren't carrying over arguments from the previous administration--they are initiating this case. And it appears that the promises of last summer and fall when FISAAA was being argued were pretty damned empty. As EFF points out:

"President Obama promised the American people a new era of transparency, accountability, and respect for civil liberties," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "But with the Obama Justice Department continuing the Bush administration's cover-up of the National Security Agency's dragnet surveillance of millions of Americans, and insisting that the much-publicized warrantless wiretapping program is still a 'secret' that cannot be reviewed by the courts, it feels like deja vu all over again."

Judge Walker, the judge also hearing Al-Haramain, has been hostile to these extraordinarily broad claims by the previous government, and will likely be so again. But it seems pretty clear that the Obama administration will appeal this one, if necessary, as far as it has to.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight

Sorry to have been away from my blog so long! But I must post because I just cannot believe what has happened to the GOP. Not that I'm sorry, mind you, because I'm not. Couldn't happen to a nicer vast right-wing conspiracy. But how did the Armies of Mordor turn into the Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight?

It's becoming a comedy. Every day, it seems, is an adventure into the GOP shooting itself in the foot. Here are a few recent stumbles: Bobby Jindal's goofy post-Obama speech response in which he tsk-tsk'd volcano monitoring (nicely underlined by Mt. Redoubt in Alaska, which said, "Bobby WHO?"). Bobby Jindal giving a fundraising speech during a prime-time Obama press conference. Eric Cantor abandoning the Obama presser for a Britney Spears concert. Sarah Palin in front of the turkey killing machine. David Vitter throwing fits over not getting priority treatment at an airport. Michael Steele criticizing Rush Limbaugh, then doing backflips to apologize. Michael Steele being pro-choice, then being reeled back in by his party masters. Michael Steele being pro-gay rights, then being reeled in by his party masters. Michael Steele stating that this was all strategy and part of his master plan. (OO!) Sarah Palin knocking the McCain campaign for not having anyone to pray with. The continuing goofy feigned outrage by various talking heads (repeated, of course, by the sheeple) over Obama using a teleprompter. (See below for a picture of Bush using one.) Being overall the Party of No (Ideas). And this is just a smattering of stuff over the last three or four months. There's more. Lots more.

But today, how lovely!--the GOP finally offered its Republican Road to Recovery budget response to Obama's budget. "Here it is," John Boehner intoned solemnly, holding up a 19-page pamphlet with a spiffy blue cover with an official-looking seal. This was it: the real thing. Only it was virtually empty. It contained no numbers. That's right. Mike Pence, R-Indiana, was on MSNBC to crow about it but was stopped cold by Norah O'Donnell. (I'm going to have to rethink my opinion of her as a bimbo.) She demanded to know what Pence's actual deficit-reducing figures were, and he clumsily evaded the issue. (Video is here: GOP Budget Plan Fizzles) According to HuffPo, there was actually some sort of response actually in the works (heavy on tax cuts for the wealthy, natch), but Pence wanted to get on the TeeVee and rushed this thing out. Boehner strong-armed Eric Cantor into going along with it, and everyone looked...well...stupid.

How did this happen? In 2004, you had a virtual army, a Politburo, and a Corleone Family all rolled up into one. Those guys marched in lockstep, painted anyone who disagreed with them as traitors to America, and enforced omerta on everyone in the party. This was the Party of BOO!, the bouncer who wouldn't let the Dems into the club, the full-tilt total media spin machine that issued dicta and talking points to an enslaved media and a cowed public. But since then, they've started to lose control of the audience the more strictly try to enforce the message. Now, there have been written tomes of analysis on how the Republicans drove the country into the sh*tter during the Bush years, and I'm not going to try to summarize any of them. But how did the GOP lose their grip? I'll give it to you in one word: KATRINA.

Yup. Hurricane Katrina was the tipping point. That was when the emperor's new clothes came off. At that point, the incompetence of the GOP stood revealed before an aghast nation, and that nation began asking questions. They began doubting in the mighty wall that was the GOP. But let's fast-forward so as to not compile some tedious timeline. What we have now is a GOP in denial, that cannot believe it doesn't have the same power and credibility pre-Katrina. They haven't grasped that beyond the devout, no one believes their bullshit. This is a crowd that honestly thinks that the reason they lost in 2006 and 2008 was that they didn't get their message out. Here's your clue: we all got your message. We rejected it. And we're rejecting it now.

But they still think that all they have to do is yell louder. That's why you have hysterical wingnuts out there crying "Socialism!" and "Communism!" and "Fascism!" and "Dictatorship!" And that's why you have frightened, frustrated loons out there bitterly complaining that Obama uses a teleprompter. Just like the tick that does nothing in its life but hang onto a blade of grass waiting for a mammal to happen by, that's all they've got now.

You know, there used to be a responsible, sensible GOP. They had admirable goals: reduce government waste, reduce bureaucracy, budget wisely, and leave people the hell alone. That GOP started disappearing in Nixon's southern strategy and had totally vanished by Ronnie's second term. What took office in 1994 (the "Republican Revolution") and in 2000 was so far from common-sense Republicanism that it wouldn't get the endorsement of Henry Luce. Against Bush II, Eisenhower would have been seen as a dangerous liberal, and the party would have drummed him out. I don't even know if the current GOP has an ideology other than "I got mine, screw you!"

They've become clueless and angry, and the American populace responds to that by staying away. There's a reason why Obama's popularity is going up despite the constant attacks. We're responding to a President who tells us what we have within us to succeed, not a cabal that tells us that everything not-us is threatening to kill us. Is it hope? Maybe. Or maybe it's just relief that the White House finally has someone competent and responsible in charge.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Repudiation and Succession

We can be excused our happiness for so many reasons, not the least being that just in his first week President Obama is proving to be just the leader we've expected. Jubilation's easy to come by when your team wins, and it fills out like a full sail when it carries the promise of a positive course for the world. Knowing that we will all sacrifice together for a better day makes it sweeter, though tougher: we're all going to carry a burden for the greater good, and at the finish, we'll have the right to be proud of ourselves, our fellow citizens, and our country. So the winning has passed and the work has started, and in ourselves we find the patriotism that has eluded our most cynical. So this is more than just a repudiation of the Bush era. It's much more than that.

At the base, we've repudiated more than just an administration. That sense of relief you feel, the tonnage lifted from your backs, is more than just a farewell to the most secretive, dangerous, subversive, underhanded eight years this country has ever seen. It is, and it's more than, the repudiation of a generation.

We've repudiated supply-side economics, that bastard grandchild of trickle-down. We've repudiated the religion of tax cuts and laissez-faire. With it went the fantasy that the free market cures all economic ills. Ayn Rand and her acolytes have sailed into irrelevance, the idea that somehow businesses will work for the betterment of humankind because the search for profits will lead us there discredited. Greed is an exhausted notion. Selfishness has gone with it.

Goodbye, the ideas that a government cannot care about and for its citizens. Take along with you the baggage of a generation's misdeeds: Enron, Bechtel, Halliburton, Iran-Contra, Abscam, Abramoff, "national malaise," stagflation, wiretapping, misbegotten wars, disrespect for our servicemen from the top, and a return to the law of the economic jungle. Put in your baggage Star Wars, MAD, neocolonialism, bellicosity, and rules-for-thee-but-not-for-me. Those notions are old now.

So it is with jingoism, the bitter distillation of patriotism, anger, and fear. So it is with anti-intellectualism and the rule of the brute. So it is with fear of dissent. So it is with the darkness of paranoia. So it is with the weary resignation that lets such things live.

Not everything is fixed, and not all evil is dead. It won't ever be. If we've learned anything since the last great hope, it's that human nature will always keep utopia bobbing just ahead of our fingertips. Forces that survive on the power of savage fear will always find food. But in this day, and in this time, though they don't realize it, they have become irrelevant. They're howling into the wind now, afraid that power will slip away from them. They don't know it already has.

But it's never far from their reach. Smoldering resentment is seductive. It nurses its anger on patient milk. That this country has passed through its greatest crisis of character since the war that nearly tore us apart is a reason to celebrate, and we should. We've looked national despair in the eye and found the will to stare it down. Now we can stand fast, work together, and hold on to the confidence we've found within ourselves.

We've let go, at long last, of a generation. We are the ones we've been waiting for.

Monday, January 19, 2009

He Is Beautiful

It seems there are a few out there who do not understand the mood of this country at this historic time. They are called Republicans.

Someone I know recently remarked that he hasn't seen a jubilance like this moment in this country since V-J day. (And yes, he was a young man at the time.) That struck me, because of my silly grin for the last couple of weeks, mirroring the one I began wearing on November 4th. I balance that with the sneering remarks from the right, many of them variations on "Obama the Messiah." Yes, I worry that we expect too much out of him. But I want to say to those who sneer: "You don't understand. It's not about him. It's about US."

Today, I saw coverage of Obama saying things he has said since long before the election. It won't be easy; we are only going to come through this together; we have within us everything we need to do exactly what is called upon at this moment; we must sacrifice. What we must understand is that this is a man who acutely understands history and the spirit of this country. America has done its best when this country is at its worst. This country transforms iron and coal into steel in the crucible of turmoil. We hurt, we rage, we suffer, but our fortune has always been that in the moments crisis threaten us, we have found the leaders who have challenged us to reach within ourselves and find our common spring. From it, from ourselves, flow the waters that replenish us, heal us, and bring us to new days.

No one can think Obama is sugarcoating anything. He certainly isn't. He is telling us that things are awful, they're going to get worse, and we're going to suffer. Isn't that a prescription for defeat? Not at all, not when that man informs us that we have within us the resources to endure and flourish. And we do. He tells us what we fully know. What those few who sneer don't understand is that we hunger for this. We have hungered for this since the old call to ask what we can do for our country. We have hungered for the man who would look at our spirits' empty bellies and say, "Only together can we fill them." We have hungered for the man who would see the country in crisis, tell us the truth, and say: We have what we need. It is within us.

This country has been in constant crisis since the days of Viet Nam. We have been beset on all sides by anger, ignorance, frustration, and the erosion of the spirit that nourishes us. We've seen the false populists come and go. We've seen the incompetent come and go. We've seen the cheerleaders come and go. But has it really been since Kennedy that we have had a man who said to us, "We are the people we have been waiting for"? Has it really been nearly fifty years since we were told that we, together, can accomplish so much more than us, apart?

Yes. At last, we have what we have hungered for. We are called to sacrifice, and we say, "At last!" We are called to service, and we say, "We can do it!" A man, a solitary man, calls us to unite, and we say, "Thank you!"

Is it any wonder we respond with the biggest, most powerful, most sincere outpouring of affection and admiration since those halcyon days of Camelot? He asks us to do the impossible, and tells us that we have it within us. And we, together, tell him: "Yes, we can."