Saturday, December 30, 2006

New Year's Wishes

What are your hopes for 2007? Anyone have any special plans for ringing in the new year?

One year our family did a ritual where we lit a candle, and said what in the ending year we were thankful for, and then what our hopes were for the new year. Maybe we should do that here. Who would like to go first?

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P.S. Click here for Oscar's 'toons.

Remembering who enabled Saddam Hussein

I was wondering if I could find some appropriate words to post about the execution of Saddam Hussein. I'm conflicted--of course he was a bad man, but so much about the way all of this went down is just wrong. Just for starters, in a diary entitled Why Saddam Must Die Before Sunrise, FishOutOfWater noted

The Bush Administration wants Saddam dead before the Kurdish war crimes trial begins.
With Saddam dead, the complicity of Bush Senior with Saddam's regime can be covered up.
I'll leave you tonight with this excerpt from Show this picture everywhere, by wiscmass

Saddam was executed for murdering 148 Shiite men, women, and children from a town where someone tried to assassinate him about 25 years ago. But let's not forget that Saddam was able to maintain his power for so long with a lot of help from a few specific people. Accordingly, I want to see this picture everywhere for the next several days:

Read the rest here. Saddam Hussein was, of course, a very bad man. But we're not exactly the guys wearing the white hats in this story either.

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Friday, December 29, 2006

New post by Riverbend

There is a new post at Baghdad Burning for the first time since November 5.

End of another year

What has me most puzzled right now is: why add fuel to the fire? Sunnis and moderate Shia are being chased out of the larger cities in the south and the capital. Baghdad is being torn apart with Shia leaving Sunni areas and Sunnis leaving Shia areas- some under threat and some in fear of attacks. People are being openly shot at check points or in drive by killings… Many colleges have stopped classes. Thousands of Iraqis no longer send their children to school- it's just not safe.

Why make things worse by insisting on Saddam's execution now? Who gains if they hang Saddam? Iran, naturally, but who else? There is a real fear that this execution will be the final blow that will shatter Iraq. Some Sunni and Shia tribes have threatened to arm their members against the Americans if Saddam is executed. Iraqis in general are watching closely to see what happens next, and quietly preparing for the worst.
Here we come to the end of 2006 and I am sad. Not simply sad for the state of the country, but for the state of our humanity, as Iraqis. We've all lost some of the compassion and civility that I felt made us special four years ago. I take myself as an example. Nearly four years ago, I cringed every time I heard about the death of an American soldier. They were occupiers, but they were humans also and the knowledge that they were being killed in my country gave me sleepless nights. Never mind they crossed oceans to attack the country, I actually felt for them.

Had I not chronicled those feelings of agitation in this very blog, I wouldn't believe them now. Today, they simply represent numbers. 3000 Americans dead over nearly four years? Really? That's the number of dead Iraqis in less than a month. The Americans had families? Too bad. So do we. So do the corpses in the streets and the ones waiting for identification in the morgue.

Is the American soldier that died today in Anbar more important than a cousin I have who was shot last month on the night of his engagement to a woman he's wanted to marry for the last six years? I don't think so.

Just because Americans die in smaller numbers, it doesn't make them more significant, does it?
Click here for the rest.

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I strongly recommend reading Christy Hardin Smith's post Bringing Poverty to the Table. Yes, as I suspected, the post was prompted by Edwards' announcement yesterday. But even if you support a different candidate, please read. As Christy noted at the end of the piece:

That it has taken a Presidential candidate standing up and talking about this issue to get it back on the front pages of newspapers — at least for the day yesterday — is unconscionable. But at least people are talking about it again, and for that I applaud John Edwards for sticking to a topic that all of us need to be talking about much more frequently.
I don't have a candidate to support yet, as Gore still seems unwilling to run, Feingold has said he won't, and Howard Dean is a man of his word, who promised not to run if elected chair of the DNC. But poverty is one of those uncomfortable, dauntingly big and complex issues that tends to get swept under the rug by the majority. Maybe it's a bit like global warming in that respect. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were graphic examples of the urgency of both issues--we can't afford to ignore either. So I will join Christy in applauding Edwards getting poverty back into the headlines, even for one day. But I hope it will be for longer than that. Hopefully other candidates and officeholders will join him.

And I don't say this as a supporter of any political candidate. I say it as a human being. I also say it as an Episcopalian who is proud of my new Presiding Bishop who insists on keeping the focus on this issue, in spite of the efforts of others to shift the attention back to issues of human sexuality. From an interview in June of 2006:

Bishop JEFFERTS SCHORI: We need to be examining the poverty that is real around the world. We need to be examining the fact that our brothers and sisters, Anglican and not, in places like Africa and Asia don't have enough to eat. Their children don't have the opportunity to go to school. AIDS and tuberculosis and malaria are rampant in many parts of this world and people with those diseases don't have access to adequate health care. That's where our focus needs to be.

And, from a description of Katharine Jefferts Schori's book, scheduled to be released in January...
Grounding her reflections in a theology of the reign of God—‘God’s dream for creation’—she dares to ‘dream big’ herself, casting a vision of a world without poverty and hunger, where we all recognize our interdependence with every other child of God.
Jefferts Schori's book can be preordered here.

And I have heard those words echoed by Bishop Gene Robinson, and by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and by many other people I respect and admire. I hope that more and more people will talk about it--especially people who have an audience. And when people try to distract us with something shiny, I hope that we will redirect, and bring the discussion back to issues of vital importance for our human family.

(Also posted at Daily Kos, My Left Wing and Street Prophets)

Update: I just discovered that Part II of Christy's discussion of poverty is now posted at FDL.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Teeth Wanted!

Thought those of you with children or grandchildren may want to send an email about this to the toothfairy...

The Radiation and Public Health Project is working to show the links between nuclear power & weapons and radioactive strontium-90 in the human body. They need baby teeth from all over the country/world in order to show the difference between areas around nuclear reactors and those not near them. The website gives you directions on how to participate.

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Why we're here

I wasn't going to try to do a post today, as we need to get ourselves on the road and head back to Columbus from Chicago, in time to pick up our dog that's at the sitter. But I felt that, since people are starting to declare candidate preferences, it was worth a few minutes of my time to say something about who we are and why we're here. It was this guy who "brought us to the party"...some of us for the first time.

Maybe this isn't necessary, but I'm still kind of smarting from Oscar's departure. Yes, it was his choice. But one of the special things about Howard Dean was that, stereotypes aside, he attracted a diverse group of supporters. And for me, both in politics and in the rest of life, learning to live together in community with people who are different is a big part of the curriculum.

I don't know what will happen to this blog as the next presidential election approaches. I know that I *don't* want to be the boss of it, so I relinquish any notion I am steering this thing. But for a long time, most of the posts were by me. Such that, when I looked at the blog this morning and saw the words "Why I'm supporting Edwards", for a moment I had to ask myself, "When did I write *that* title? That's not what I *thought* I wrote!"

It shouldn't be necessary, but I'm toying with the idear of adding a disclaimer somewhere that opinions expressed in posts at Howard-Empowered People belong to the individual posters, and in no way represent the group as a whole. Because, in my mind's eye, I'm imagining that someone is going to ask "Is this the Edwards blog now?" No, it's not. People are welcome to write their own posts about who they support or don't support. I only hope that we will find a way to continue as a community, held together by those values that first brought us together, and deal respectfully with our differences.

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Why I'm supporting Edwards

In 2003 and 2004, many of us where changed by our experiences with Gov. Dean’s campaign for president. He told us that we have the power, and we believed it. We took up the power and we started changing our country. People set up DeanCorp and went out and tried to make our country better. He told us, “The biggest lie that people like me tell people like you is that if you vote for me, I solve all you problems. The truth is that you have the power.”

Well, who is going to inspire people to take action to build a better country this time around? I am watching Sen. Edwards on C-Span announcing his candidacy. He is talking about people getting involved, signing up for OneCorp (Sound a little like DeanCorp?) He is telling us that the same sort of message about us needing to take up our power.

I know that it is early. A lot of you probably haven’t made up your minds yet. Some of you might have ill feelings from one comment or another from the 2004 cycle, but I would ask that you all listen seriously to what Sen. Edwards has to say and think about how you can get involved.

Full disclosure: I’ve been in talks for some time about working as a staffer for Edwards’ campaign. You can see some of my thinking from this blog post.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Edwards announces a day early

Via Yahoo News

The North Carolina Democrat's campaign accidentally went live with his election Web site a day before an announcement Thursday that was scheduled to use Hurricane-ravaged New Orleans as a backdrop.

The slip-up gave an unintended double-meaning to his campaign slogan on the John Edwards '08 Web site: "Tomorrow begins today."
There's been some discussion of Edwards as a candidate in the comments on this blog. I am probably more uncommitted than many. Yes, I know he voted for the war. Yes, I know he took advantage of the lame Confederate flags on pickup trucks kerfuffle and used it to scold Howard Dean.

So, on the one hand, I see bloggers out there falling all over themselves praising him (not at this blog), and I'm certainly more skeptical than *that*. But on the other hand, I can't accept the notion that anyone who has ever taken a position with which I disagree, or ever dissed Howard, is therefore not redeemable, ever.

And, really, truly, I do not have an agenda with this post. And I *do* feel like I'm just not ready for the '08 campaign season to begin in earnest. But I'd like to toss a few questions out there.

I'm wondering what you all want/need from a candidate. What issues are crucial, in your minds? How would a candidate indicate that s/he takes the grassroots seriously and will be willing to work with us?

We do a lot of "ruling out"--and I've certainly done that myself, with Hillary, Biden, etc. Or we sometimes say who seems okay--or at least seems to suck less than other potential candidates. And certainly most people at this blog would be happiest if Howard Dean would be the nominee. But I'm wondering if it's possible to step back for just a moment from naming names and talk more generally about what we want in or from a candidate.

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Open Thread


Here is a quote from OPEN MIND by Diane Mariechild ~

Social change must start in our hearts: peace and prayer open our hearts. People who practice spiritual disciplines have the most enduring impact on life because the inward work we do makes us more effective in any situation. We are most effective when we can return good will for ill will and show kindness to those who would harm us; when we look for a common solution without anger or a desire to retaliation; and act on principles of care and concern without a need for reciprocation.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This quote made me think of our many conversations here and how we help each other keep on despite frustrations. I suppose, in that regard, blogging here is a spiritual practice. Thanks, Renee. ♥ Thanks to all! XOXOXXX ~ listener

You're quite welcome, listener. Just adding a quick note that, since so many are in need of prayers and light, I wanted to add a candle to this thread. Since it's Kwanzaa time, I figured I'd use these candles. And here's the link to the HEP candle page.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The "peace on earth" part of Christmas

From the blog An Inch at a Time: Reflections on the Journey, part of a sermon given by Rev. Susan Russell of All Saints Church in Pasadena, California.

It is a longing that transcends culture, religion, language and custom -- a longing that is represented tonight for us as Christians in the baby in the manger -- the sudden, amazing and incomprehensible gift of grace: a God who loved us enough to become one of us. Yes, we manifest the wonder of Christmas in the gifts given, the meals shared, the gathering of family and loved ones. But the greater wonder is that the God who is love incarnate came down at Christmas to be among us as one of us. Came to show us how to share that love with a world in desperate need of it – to a world yearning for the “peace on earth, good will among all people” the angels proclaimed.

The “peace on earth” part of Christmas is arguably the crescendo of the Christmas story but twenty five years ago tonight my attention was on another part … on the “and she brought forth her first born son” part. What must it have been like, I wondered, for a teenaged mother to bring forth her first-born child and cradle him in a manger rather than a bassinet in an occupied territory under martial law with the words of the angel who announced his coming still echoing in her head? It was the year I heard the Christmas story quite specifically through the lens of my own experience; the particularity my impending motherhood. On Christmas Eve 1981 I was not only pregnant for the first time, I was waaaaaay past “great with child.” Actually, I’d hit “great with child” back about October, reached “enormous with child” sometime in November and by “O Holy Night” was pretty much “immobilized with child.”

Although Jamie came into the world a week later – on New Year’s Eve -- on that particular Christmas Eve for me it was all about the baby. And in what seems like the blink of an eye here it is 25 years later -- and this Christmas Eve my New Year’s Eve baby is a helicopter crew chief serving on active duty in Iraq -- so “peace on earth, good will among all people” – the crescendo of the Christmas story – is very much the focus of both the prayers in my heart and the music in my head this Christmas Eve.
Click here for the rest.

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Happy Boxing Day and first day of Kwanzaa

And today is also the "second day of Christmas" right? The one with the "two turtle doves"?

Here's a required part of Christmas when celebrated with my Mom's family:

One of the most beautiful and most revered Polish customs is the breaking of the oplatek. The use of the Christmas wafer (oplatek) is not only by native Poles in Poland but also by people of Polish ancestry all over the world.

The oplatek is a thin wafer made of flour and water. For table use, it is white. In Poland, colored wafers are used to make Christmas tree decorations. In the past, the wafers were baked by organists or by religious and were distributed from house to house in the parish during Advent. Today, they are produced commercially and are sold in religious stores and houses. Sometimes an oplatek is sent in a greeting card to loved ones away from home.

Family members extend oplatki (plural--oplatek is the singular) to one another, and break pieces off, offering good wishes and blessings for the coming year.

Every year we know that Oplatki Time is coming. It's awkward--like knowing you will be required to give a mini-speech to people you haven't seen since last year. Every year someone jokes about not doing it, or tries to barter it down to just holding up the wafers and making one big communal Christmas wish/blessing. But we always do the thing. It's tradition, dang it.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to Heifer in my Mom's honor. She was really surprised, and quite touched. Will share more later, but now it's family time. Thank *you* all for being here--you're family too!

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas all you wonderful Howard-empowered people!

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Blessed Christmas

The picture is from listener

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Christmas Eve

(A poem for Christmas Eve)

Out of the depth and quiet
of this chill, stark night,
a gnawing ache, a yearning
deepens, rising
like a threatening wave.

The young woman trembles.
Every inmost part of her is
shaken, all comfort broken.
Her hand gropes for something firm to grasp,
but all that was certain has become
obscure, all encompassing,
racked with pain.
Scarcely able to catch her breath,
~ each wave is larger, more
frightening than the last ~
as the great wave breaks over her,
she is broken,
momentarily forgetting what she accepted,
what love she bears,
yet choosing steadfastness when all seems lost.

Suddenly and completely
she, still bathed in sweat,
enfolds love in her arms,
knows joy as one victorious,
sees clearly as one who has been
stretched and changed,
that peace is always
born of travail.

~ listener

You did it my dear friends! You carried that great Hope through a mighty long process until the time was right.
You laboured greatly and with much Travail. And oh what Joy, what Peace you have brought into being!
Alleluia! ♥ Alleluia! ♥

Thinking of you tonight, especially, Kimmy Cash
with prayerful hopes of a gentle labour and smooth delivery
and great joy at the last. ♥

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