...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007
      ( 9:23 PM )

Bohemian Mama has decided to fold up shop and is now reborn in a new blog: Chalkboard Insurgent. I am excited about blogging again - but with an emphasis on my teaching. I know I've lost a lot of my old bloggy connections, but I'll be working hard to renew acquaintance with my blogging buddies. See you over on the other side! Bohemian Mama - may you rest in peace.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006
      ( 5:41 AM )
The Day After


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Tuesday, November 07, 2006
      ( 12:58 PM )
It's a Good Day to be an Oregonian

With all the problems popping up (totally expected, of course), I like the plug Kos is giving Oregon's vote by mail system. I love it, for all the reasons he lists and more. This should be the wave of the future.

GO VOTE!!!!!!

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006
      ( 12:49 PM )
Down and Dirty

Yes, it's been a month since I blogged. I've been watching each day as the events leading up to this election have blossomed into the major FUBAR situation that is bound to happen next tuesday with some dismay, and also some resignation. It's been a long, drawn out election for me as a government teacher because I've had my students examining the Oregon ballot and voting themselves while also learning about the electoral process - both nationally and locally.

The one issue added to the curriculum this year is the electronic voting. They've read Robert Kennedy's article in Rolling Stone, and they've watched several NOW episodes about voting machines. Lou Dobbs also did a great segment of CNN's "Broken Government" series on the voting machines. What's scaring me is Karl Rove's continued insistence that he knows stuff the rest of us don't know... is that to make Republicans look good in the face of increasing opposition, or does he truly know some nefarious information and is setting the public up to feed us a bunch of crock when the election gets fixed?

The polls are looking pretty amazing, but this year, 2006, I refuse to hope. I've hoped before. I am going to remain a neutral observer and see what happens. Of course that's actually a lie...I'm going to hope no matter what. I always do: I'm a progressive! I'm all about hope!

Six days and counting.

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Monday, October 02, 2006
      ( 5:28 AM )
Clean House

It just get worse. Here in Oregon, the law states that if you know of any abuse towards children or minors and you fail to report it, you are criminally liable, just like the abuser. I don't know what the law is in DC, but frankly, nothing less than sweeping criminal indictments for any lawmaker who knew Mark Foley was a predator and did nothing should be accepted. Yesterday word was that the Republican leadership has known of his abusive behavior for years and yet kept it quiet. They enabled his predatory habits and are just as guilty of the abuse themselves.

It's just further indication of the Culture of Bullies that control the government these days. The behavior is chronic in the entire "leadership" of Washington, in all three branches. It's disgusting and it shows these people for the inhuman beings they are.

Unfortunately, if the media latches on to this new scandal, I fear that what will be lost is discussion of that horrible bill that was passed on Thursday. The shifting of power to the executive branch in that bill is so beyond unconstitutional. The removal of habeas corpus, the acceptance of torture, the denial of the Geneva treaty we signed in good faith - all those things are part of the entire package that now gives the Executive so much authority that the Congress has virtually made itself redundant. It is what Thomas Jefferson feared - the return of a king. And now that we know this king's minions also alow the abuse of children to take place in the halls of Congress, we can be further assured that no good can come of this. Not that we ever thought it could.

Now more than ever it is crucial to shift power in November. If only to try to rebalance the branches of government just a little. Though after the display on Thursday, I have no more faith in Democratic leadership than I do in the Republican at this point. But some sort of shift must occur or the consolidation of power will go completely unchecked.

This is not good.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006
      ( 2:53 PM )
Fools on the Hill

I have been trying to consider how to teach my government class about what is happening today in the Senate. I've set CSPAN to tape the debates. I've printed out various news reports. I've even tried to read that whole damned bill. We're only at the beginning of the semester - they've only just learned what happened during the Constitutional Convention, the compromises that were made. Some of them horrible. And now, in real life time, a "compromise" is being made that is taking away some of the very foundational concepts of our democracy.

Of course, I'll have to teach them what habeas corpus is and then explain that it's been part of the philosophy of the "Consent by the governed" since the Magna Carta. Removing the power of a king to imprison you without having to say why is something that has stood the test of time since the FOURTEENTH CENTURY. The fact that we have given so much power to the executive effectively negates the balance of powers that our Constitution was founded on. The fact that our leaders could even DEBATE whether we should entomb torture as an acceptable and non-prosecutable practice shows how far down the slope we have slidden from that ideal the Framers of the Constitution envisioned.

John Adams wanted a powerful presidency - he sought to locate more power in the hands of the executive, and he fought a battle with Thomas Jefferson over that concept. He introduced the Alien and Sedition Acts - he didn't like all the criticism he was getting, especially about consolidating his power - and so he got the Congress to make it illegal to say anything against the government, meaning him. It ended badly for all the legislators who had voted for this clearly unconstitutional idea.

Abraham Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus during the Civil War, the one thing he said he regretted doing. The one thing he has been very criticized for in a presidency of many hard choices. He shouldn't have done it. It would not have threatened the union, though he let fear rule the day.

Franklin Roosevelt suspended Habeas Corpus during WWII when he allowed Japanese Americans to be interned without charges for indefinite periods of time. A dark stain on America's history when we once again allowed fear to rule the day.

All three beloved presidents - yet all three stepped over the line. With bad consequences. But not irreparable - the country recovered and did its best to repair the damage.

I feel in my heart the Constitution is stronger than these horrid Fools on the Hill and that it will prevail. But only if it has someone to defend it left in the government. With the passing of this bill today, it becomes more clear that this defense is dying a slow death at best. The Republicans think the passage of this bill will ensure their hold on power. They are trading their souls for it. And there are Democrats who have now done the same. Will Americans allow their souls to be sold as well?

Thomas Jefferson must be doing double flips in his grave right now. What happened to that glorious republic he and the others worked so hard to build? Flawed and damaged though it was, started on some unholy premises (the 3/5 Compromise being the worst), but altogether a simple and completely solid supreme law of the land- the Constitution has survived 217 years because of its strengths and its ability to be amended for the better. This 109th Congress, these Fools on the Hill, now think they can strip our democracy of its foundations.

If the Democrats cannot win in November, they don't deserve to. If they cannot stand up for a simple concept like habeas corpus or stand against a horrifying idea like institutionalized torture, then do we really want them to win?

Rock and a hard place. And that rock has hit the slippery slope and is gaining speed. If even executive tyranny can't be stopped by butting up against the Constitution, then the only thing left is the power of the citizenry. The Consent of the Governed. Don't surrender it, Americans.

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Monday, September 25, 2006
      ( 1:07 PM )

Make a statement for freedom, read a banned book this week.

Go to the American Library Association to get a list and take action.

In honor of Banned Books Week, I'll be reading "Yertle the Turtle" by Dr. Seuss to my seniors in government class. No one is too old to read Seuss and no one is too young to read a banned book.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006
      ( 6:26 AM )
Making a Better World Oregon

Jack Bog is talking about Portland Mayor Tom Potter's "Vision Quest." I can pretty much agree with Jack on his take about this survey, but then again, since the mayor is asking, I think it behooves all Portlanders to respond. Speak up about what we envisiion this place looking like in the next few decades. One thing is for sure, if we're not thinking ahead, we'll be stuck behind in a few years. We've seen that happen in this state with taxes and education. Heaven forbid that pattern becomes regular.

Check out Jack's Comments on the Quest. I'm forming my answer to Question 1 now.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006
      ( 5:31 AM )

There was a speech far more meaningful and thoughtful and true than the President's speech last night.

I thought that Keith Olberman's soliloquy about Rumsfeld last week was amazing (as did most everyone) and it boggled my mind that he could keep his job afer that. But LAST NIGHT I watched the conclusion of Countdown with my jaw dropped completely open. If you didn't see it - WATCH IT - it's called "This Hole in the Ground."

I'm hoping, like his Rumsfeld comments, this commentary will be all over the airwaves this week. It was incredible. He told the truth. Why is that so incredible? Because until now, I have heard no news person, no commentator, no media personality whatsoever actually question the President's veracity or speak the truth about the squandered 5 years since 9/11. Olbermann put the onus purely where it belongs. On George W. Bush. Speaking about the footprint of the World Trade Center Towers, Keith Olbermann:

Five years later, Mr. Bush, we are still fighting the terrorists on these streets. And look carefully, sir, on these 16 empty acres. The terrorists are clearly, still winning.

And, in a crime against every victim here and every patriotic sentiment you mouthed but did not enact, you have done nothing about it.

And there is something worse still than this vast gaping hole in this city, and in the fabric of our nation. There is its symbolism of the promise unfulfilled, the urgent oath, reduced to lazy execution.

The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country. The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.

Those who did not belong to his party -- tabled that.

Those who doubted the mechanics of his election -- ignored that.

Those who wondered of his qualifications -- forgot that.

History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation's wounds, but to take political advantage.

Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.

The President -- and those around him -- did that.

They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them, "bi-partisanship" meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused, as appeasers, as those who, in the Vice President's words yesterday, "validate the strategy of the terrorists."

They promised protection, and then showed that to them "protection" meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken, a despot who we now learn from our own Senate Intelligence Committee, hated al-Qaida as much as we did.

The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had 'something to do' with 9/11 is "lying by implication."

The impolite phrase is "impeachable offense."

Enough Said. Thank you, Mr. Olbermann.

UPDATE: Crooks & Liars is carrying the video as well - so hopefully it will be up on You Tube, etc. soon. Atrios links as do several Kossacks. Let the word be spread.

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Sunday, September 10, 2006
      ( 4:18 PM )
Back To School...Again

Before this week starts and we get caught up in the 5 Year Anniversary, I thought I'd take a few minutes to enjoy the pure delight that fills my soul every time this year. This last week was the first week the students came back. What a rush. I can't help it. I love teenagers. The writhing masses of ferociously self-centered puberty-driven, half-awake human beings that cross my threshold every year just thrill me. It's the greatest feeling to see them sitting there, their hooded eyes (after all, most aren't even awake till sometime near noon) just daring me to teach them something new. I love a challenge, what can I say?

Some new things this year:

1. Not one of the sophomores (15/16 yr olds) believes that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9/11. To a kid, they also recognize that the reason for invading Iraq (weapons of mass destruction) turned out to be false. So either they had very frank discussions with their teachers last year, or the truth is finally seeping through to the public at large. I usually find that kids just repeat what they hear at home. In my district, that is often a conservative, very narrow view. So it's really surprising to find such an overwhelming number who actually are aware of the truth from the start.

2. Already all my seniors who are of age are ALREADY registered to vote in the upcoming election!! Wow!!

Some old things:
Coming into the class, the kids feel powerless about what's happening in the world. But this is the way I like it. By the time they leave my class they have knowledge and tools to go into the world with power. That's what I love about teenagers, once they get a taste of making change in the world, you can't stop them. It's a heady thing.

This is going to be a great year. I have a classroom this year (I no longer have to run from classroom to classroom with a cart), and I love the subjects I'm teaching. I'm looking forward to how these kids will teach me. That's the best part.

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      ( 3:56 PM )
Belated Poetry Friday

Meant to post on Friday - it got away from me...

Teenagers are tired
The Teachers are not ready
Ah, first week of school!

can you tell what I've been up to?

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Monday, August 28, 2006
      ( 9:19 AM )
Weird is as Weird Does

There was a great column in the Oregonian this Sunday: How Weird Are We? It's about how we Portlanders pride ourselves on our unique weirdness, but is our weirdness really all that original? Now this may seem to be a trivial question amidst all the heavy issues that face us these days. But the column brought up a good point:

Time was, every place was weird -- using the less-common dictionary definition: "of strange or extraordinary character." Unique, in other words. Back in the day, every city was weird, there were weird streets and weird neighborhoods and weird businesses serving weird people. You know, kind of like Alaska. It was a wonderful age.

But then normal reared its featureless and banal head. Chain stores, fast-food restaurants, hotel giants all spread like English ivy. America began to homogenize faster than milk -- which, of course, is homogenized precisely to prevent the cream from rising to the top!

It is this franchising of the United States, where all the cities lose their individuality under the box-store identities being forced upon them, that is the United States that has turned into such an unfeeling, brutal influence in the world. It's this un-weirding of America that has spread into globalization, where the corporate powers now homogenize not just this country but as many corners of the world that they can. Losing our identity in this way - could this explain some of the trend from blue to red in this country? Americans who are voting republican against their own interests are Walmarted to within an inch of their lives. Keeping uniqueness and weirdness in American communities allows something the republicans can't stand: independence. Once a community feels some sense of indepence, they might start questioning what they're being forced to swallow. Can't let that happen.

I live in one of the more progressive cities in the country, and yet I can concede that little by little, our weirdness is slipping. If we are going to stay strong and able to resist this insipid slide into the black and gray control of the corporatocracy, we have to work at it. Unlike the columnist, I prefer to go with the first definition of Weird, according to Websters: "having a mysterious or unearthly quality; of an odd, bizarre or inexplicable nature." Now that is something to strive for.

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      ( 8:36 AM )
Nashville Talks Sings Back

I just heard on the Thom Hartmann show this morning (if you don't listen to Thom, you are missing one of the best progressive voices on the radio) about the Music Row Democrats. These are Country Music professionals - writers, singers, producers - who have just had enough. They have formed a PAC to raise money to publicize how progressive values are more in line with what most Americans hold true in their hearts. Redefining democrats is what they are trying to do. So despite the stranglehold their industry has on progressive ideas, they have stepped out at the risk to their own careers to take a stand.

I generally don't listen to country music anymore because of the likes of Toby Keith and his ilk. I went to Texas A&M for a few years of my varried undergraduate career and so was indeed exposed in the most obvious way to country music. I think it is a genre that contains a lot of talent and heart. And I can see why the "middle" of America relates with it. But when it closes the doors to ideas other than the loyalist drivel that comes from Toby-ites, then it loses its soul. When even Merle Haggard isn't gettting play because he thinks the government should fix America before it screws up the whole world, then something is wrong.

So if you're proud to call yourself a Dixie Chicks fan even if you never listened to country music in your life, then maybe downlowding a few soon-to-be-hits from the Music Row Dems and sharing them around might be a new way to open up conversation that will lead to some more progressive conversions in your circle of influence.

Besides - if we're taking the country back, we might as well take country music with it.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006
      ( 7:35 AM )
Pluto, We Hardly Knew Ye

PRAGUE, Czech Republic - Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.

Yes, that's right. A few human astronomers have the "authority" to declare what a planet is and what a planet isn't. And evidently, Pluto ain't it. Poor Pluto. We've all known there's been controversy over the years about the outermost sphere in our galaxy. But is it really fair to strip a poor little planetary-like orb circling our Sun of its status just because its orbit is a bit off. Now it can't be in the club anymore.

For now, membership will be restricted to the eight "classical" planets in the solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Much-maligned Pluto doesn't make the grade under the new rules for a planet: "a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a ... nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit."

Pluto is automatically disqualified because its oblong orbit overlaps with Neptune's.

Pluto is now a "dwarf planet." Most astronomers seem to feel that the new classification is appropriate. That Pluto never should have been part of the gang in the first place. Now, I'm just thinking of all those textbooks and teaching materials that will need to be changed...

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      ( 7:22 AM )
Enough Jon Benet

I was trying to avoid commenting on this travesty of a distraction in the media, but I read a great blog this morning on Oregon Blue by Karol Collymore about it. She echoes my own thoughts on the matter and I couldn't have said it better than her conclusion:

I thought it was just the mass media, cable news, rating seekers. But it's not. KOIN news 6 was talking about what the alleged perputrator was having for breakfast in jail. I'm sure they weren't the only ones, just the one I happened to see. So with all that the world is handing us to deal with - borderline rasict politicians, Bush press conferences, election fraud, children without health insurance, the working poor, and raging wars across the globe - I would like to point our sick obession with a long dead child. And one more greater point: There are still 43 missing children in Oregon dating back to 1982 (www.missingkids.com). This does not count the ones that have been found, dead or alive. The only one on the list you've heard of? Brooke Wilburger, another beautiful blonde.

While I would go so far as to disagree with Karol that the politicians she's talking about are not "borderline" but actually rabid racists, I totally echo her thoughts here. I think of the REAL things that are going on in this world. And I know that the rest of the world that has media access is actually hearing about those things, while our media obsesses on this thing. The real tragedy are the comatose American citizens who allow themselves to lulled into ignorance by this kind of constant "news."

Wake Up America!

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Thursday, August 17, 2006
      ( 8:54 AM )
Oregon - You can Do Better!

Today Sadly, No! points us to a 50-state survey on GW Bush's approval ratings taken this week. Overall, the average points to a 38% approval rating. A bit higher than other recent polls. However, like Sadly notes about his own state, I'm disturbed (or at least bemused) by the fact that Oregon rates at a 33% Approval. What's going on, Oregon? I realize the Eastern and Southern part of the state are being slowly invaded by all the California yokels who just don't want to live around so many brown people, but really - can't we still claim a higher (and more diverse) population in the West of the state? What happened to Little Beirut?

I challenge all my blue Oregonians: bring those numbers DOWN!! Oregon should not only be leading the way in biodiesel, we should also be leading the way in the low, Low, LOW approval ratings for this failure of an administration. Shouldn't we at least have him in the 20's? I mean, for crying out loud. What is it going to take - what more could he do...wait, never mind.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006
      ( 9:08 AM )

Best thing I heard on the radio last week: Al Franken was asking what Joe Lieberman's slogan should be for his new campaign. A caller came on and offered:

"Lieberman - Party of One?"


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      ( 8:17 AM )
Fond Farewell

I have been dropping in on some of my favorite blogs that I didn't have a chance to keep up with in the last half year of my "sabbatical" - and I was sad to see that Notes on the Atrocities is shutting down. But as I read Jeff's explanations about why he was deciding to stop blogging it really hit a chord with me.

I'm throwing in the towel because it's not good for my mental health. This past week, on the Buddhist retreat, we practiced the most basic form of meditation--putting the attention on the breath as a way of calming the mind. It predates Buddhism and has been practiced by most religious communities for thousands of years. I've been a practicing Buddhist for 7 years, and in that time, I've never seen the level of my mind's inattention get as bad as it is now. It's an index--and a pretty good one--of where one's mental health is. Blogging isn't the only factor, but it's a central contributor. Moreover, it's far from essential--I don't have to blog to feed myself. I can't cut back on all the things that jeopardize my mental health, but blogging is expendable.

This hits home for me because in the last year I have been slowly learning about and beginning the practices of the middle way of buddhism and I realize that it is that clutter in the mind that so often brings you to that 2nd of the Four Truths: the reason people suffer is because they constantly want what they don't have. It is easy to see how blogging can lend itself to this clutter. I think I felt that last year and when I gave it up in December, having every inention of the break being only a few weeks, I did not realize how much I did not need it until I let it go.

Now that I am back blogging, it is not a necessity for me anymore. I definitely missed it and I sometimes pine for being a dynamic part of the ol blogging circle - but I think that's a symptom of the same thing we all have: that need to be a part of something bigger. But the real truth is that I am part of something bigger that is real. Being a mama, being a teacher, being a participant in my community, being a friend. These tangible things are what not only enrich our lives but can actually be done contemplatively. This is what I'm learning about practicing that middle way: if you cannot do something or be something with your full awareness then it is only sapping you of your full self. And I have not found a way I can contemplatively blog. Therein lies the twist.

So blogging for me has changed its nature, but it has also become something to learn to savor and enjoy rather than feel pulled to and obligated to. I also agree with Notes that bloggers are definitely the way forward for the Democratic party to return to its progressive roots.

Blogs are that medium and I think they're the main reason the Democratic party has begun to veer left after all these years--and will keep veering left if bloggers do their work. Bloggers are canaries in the coalmine--we speak for the people. Eventually, the country will follow and we'll move away from the madness of the neocon precipice.

I'm proud that I was part of the little wave that began way back when haloscan was the comment format on Daily Kos and before Atrios had even mentioned Trent Lott. But I'm more proud that in that same time I've raised an infant into a cool little boy, I've put myself through grad school and I've become a high school social studies teacher. Keeping perspective is definitely a habit worth practicing. I'd like to thank Notes for giving that to me today.

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