Saturday, December 30, 2006
Friday, December 29, 2006
I'm so darn happy and thankful lately. It's weird. Maybe it's the 'bioidentical hormones,' maybe my horoscope is right - I'm just going to have to get used to this silly grin - I'm going to have a good year.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
I accepted a part time position as Campaign Coordinator for the Plains Art Museum starting January 3. This will be in addition to my Realtor work. As Downtown Dad says, real estate is the best part time job I've ever had. I'm still not used to the commissioned aspect of sales though, and I am fiscally very happy to fill in 20 hours a week by doing something that I'll actually get paid for!
I also volunteered to sew costumes for the Middle School play. I got my first project last week. Four fish costumes. It's embarrassing how excited I am about this project! I cleared off two tables in the 'craft room' part of the basement and dragged out the sewing machine that Tessie brought home from grandma's last summer. After setting it up and reading the booklet - I realized this isn't some cast off sewing machine - this is a fancy schmancy Pfaff! It does embroidery, and fancy stitches! It has extra feet for things like button holes and zippers! It has adjustable tensions and needle heights! It does everything but cut out the material for you - which is what I spent the better part of yesterday doing.
The other project looming over my head is a Prospecting Contest that I, as part of the Education Committee came up with. Darn my creativity :). It's a really cool idea though; we are comparing modern day prospecting for clients to the 1849ers prospecting for gold. OK, so growing up in California, gold rush history is ingrained in my psyche... not so much for these upper Midwesterners. Turns out I needed to write a skit giving a background of the California gold rush while explaining the relationship between a grungy old gold miner and a modern day Realtor. I did it though, and if I do say so myself - it's brilliant! I still have to make a couple of the props before our meeting tomorrow, but I think that's doable!
So, now that the sun has asserted its presence and the rest of the family will be rising, I should get on to accomplishing other tasks. In addition to the rest of the tasks, I am still determined to write and BLOG! I'm not putting any horrible 'resolution' type demands on it, but my aim is to get to it every day. Hopefully it will become easier, and more habit than horrible.
Monday, December 11, 2006
In the flickering recesses of my memory, back when I was an 8mm black and white four year old, I fell in love with my big sisters. Both of them, tall and movie-star glamorous, Channel #5 styled and sprayed, with smiling red lips, and high heels. They were nearly 20 years old when I came into their world, yet they graciously accepted me and took me with them to movies, and out for ice cream cones. What little girl wouldn’t feel special and lucky just to be around them?
We grew up separated by distance as well as age, so those early perceptions of my sisters never got the chance to ripen in the day to day details of tearful midnight talks or giggled whispers. They remained static icons of perfection, and became two pillars in the foundation of what I envisioned would someday be the grownup me.
One sisterly pillar, so traditional, so devoutly determined and scripturally secure in her one and only marriage with six children. She was always there with a sorghum sweetened “bless your heart” regardless if it was fabulous news or a heart wrenching failure. The second, standing just as staunchly, almost the antithesis of the other - a divorced career woman with an only child, headstrong and strong willed, with the audacity to rebel against the traditional. Her car, as she urgently whispered to me, was at the ready in the church parking lot, in case I decided to take her advice and flee the altar.
Though we are still twenty some years apart in age, we are much closer in life experience, but I must admit I still harbor a little hero-worship for these amazing women. Now though, those feelings are based on a very real respect for the lives they have led, the battles they have fought, and the impact that they as real people have had on me. In my sisters’ eyes, I will probably always be a black and white four year old, but that just gives me the freedom to fall in love with them all over again.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
My endeavors have been all pointed to clearing the decks in my personal space so I can spend time writing - trying to write, and trying to rewrite. As of today, I actually accomplished part of that - not the writing part, but the deck clearing part was a real milestone. Laundry done. Dishes done. Vacuuming and dusting done. Groceries for the week pretty much done. Tasks that have been floating around on my daily task list for weeks, nay months - done! YAY.
So, that would mean I would have time for that writing thing then, right? Oy! I guess that would be right. Now I have no excuses. No tasks to putter at. No impending deadline to take my eye off of the goal. So did I write today? You're looking at it. Actually, the deck clearing part did take me until late afternoon, when I had to make dinner for the family and do the dishes, and watch a little bit of a movie... but here I am writing.
The thing is that while I didn't get the plot line down for the great American novel today - I might tomorrow. And while I didn't finish the writing assignment for the online class I'm taking - I might tomorrow. What I mean is in a sense, that horoscope thing just might be true. I've been aiming at getting all of this stuff in line and I did it. I've been aiming at getting a part time job, and last week I got a call out of the blue from a friend who referred me to someone looking for what I do. (OK, not writing) I'm interviewing tomorrow. Things is beginnin' to look up!
Thursday, November 30, 2006
There was a time when I could spend an hour or two on a paragraph, a story, or poem or something; then give up for a while, but I always saved it. That way in case I had more inspiration a little later I could finish it. Not lately. I spent two hours this afternoon on a 'short creative piece' that was an assignment for an online class I'm taking. I reread it and then promptly hit delete and shut down the program.
I think my muse is pissed at me. Since I've been making an effort to drink less alcohol and more water, I'm guessing she is going through withdrawals.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Sunday, November 05, 2006
On Sundays, I like to stay in bed, reading the newspaper, sipping nummy coffee and watching the CBS morning show. I want that cocoon-y feeling to last all day. Alas, I'm a Realtor and Sundays are our busiest day, and this Sunday was just that.
I knew I was going to show one client three houses that her husband had already seen. This was to be a cursory second showing just to make sure they were both on the same page. I forgot that not only are this couple not on the same page ever.... they are really not even reading the same book! So, what I thought would be 45 minutes turned into an hour and a half. This started to crush into the time I had set aside for my next showings of three houses to a young couple just starting their home search... but not seriously - that is until my ex-husband, the father of my oldest and most perplexing child Beezer called. A call from your ex, no matter how even keeled your relationship has become, can be stressful. Add to that, the fact that he's calling because your mutual son hasn't returned any of his calls... since MAY!
I've always tried to keep the whole split family thing to a minimum. I apply heavily the old addage 'if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.' Which does work, most of the time. I'm fairly pleased with the outcome of our 45 minute conversation, after which I called the call-delinquent son. "Please call your dad" I begged. "OK, but I'm just going into a meeting." he said, none too convincingly. I cajoled, he demurred, I repeated, he begged off. So, 4 hours later, I have no idea where things stand.
Like I said, there's no point whatsoever to this post.
Friday, November 03, 2006
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
The house is a pit, and I woke up this morning with what I thought was a clear day. So thinking I had no committments, I started picking up. Ooops, I've got a meeting at 9:30... yikes, it's 8:30 now... OK, I can shower and get there... don't forget dog food and bird seed! After the meeting, dealt with customer issues until 12:30. Downtown Dad calls, 'wanna go to lunch?' 'sure' phone calls through lunch, finally resolve issues, kids call, 'mom, where are you?' go home, dole out money, help with homework, check to see if all the ingredients are there for dinner.... run back out to yoga... back home, fix dinner, sit down to eat it and have a glass of wine - aw man, I didn't get the dog food and bird seed....Yikes, I have to post a blog a day! Whew.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Monday, October 23, 2006
Yay for saliva! 2 to 4 pints a day? Well, maybe. I had to fill 4 one-ounce vials at specified times on Sunday for a hormone test and I'd have never thought we made that much! This test was news to me. I'm used to peeing in bottles, or having blood tests, but spit tests? Who knew? No wonder the whole french kissing thing - mixing the hormones... starts to make sense doesn't it?
The really interesting thing to me, besides the fact that they test your spit, was that in preparation for this test, you can't put on face cream, and you have to sleep on a clean pillowcase and use clean towels. I had no idea that so many things were apsorbed through your skin! That really makes you think twice about deodorants, lotions, cleaning products!
Anyway, so at 7:30 a.m approximately 1 hour after I normally awaken (per the instructions) I took out my purple vial and the purple straw and before I brushed my teeth (ewww) and before my first cup of coffee... I started spitting. Ew.
So, you should know, I'm kind of shy about bodily functions. I ALWAYS close the door when I use the potty. I (used to, when I had one) reluctantly admit if I had my period and couldn't participate in some activity (hmmm... what would that be? Swimming? Sex? Yeah whatever.) I say that because, Downtown Dad got up about 7:20 and went into the kitchen to make coffee. I took advantage of this absense to get down to spittin' but he came back in - There I sat with a blue straw and matching vial. What could I do but explain? He left the room shaking his head.
So at 11 a.m. approximately 1 hour after breakfast... OK, so we sat around for a couple hours watching TV! I filled the green vial. I had an open house from 1 p.m. to 2:30, so that worked out perfectly with spitting in the blue vial at about 5:00. In case you are interested, my highly educated waiter-son Beezer came over for dinner - I made bacon wrapped scallops and green beans with parmesan cheese. So after socializing, I had to excuse myself around 10 to go spit into the orange vial.
All of the vials fit neatly back into the ziplock bag conveniently provided, and with the questionairre filled out, the authorization signed and the box closed and sealed with the enclosed sticker, I stored it in the refrigerator overnight, ready to pop in the mail with the prepaid postage sticker affixed.
There is really no point to this post other than to record this event. Another embarassing milestone.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
I like my women doctors and nurses. They patiently listen to my answers when they ask about symptoms as if I'm the only one who this has ever happened to; they cluck and chuckle sympathetically when I return to them for help after false assumptions of toughing this out, or trying something different; they nod wisely - yet non-judgementally as they once again set me on the path I know is necessary but will be full of ups and downs. The path began this time, with a visit to our Compounding Pharmacy to get a saliva test kit.
I didn't think the downs would begin so quickly though.... After my appointment, it was almost noon. I was on my way home to take Bear to lunch at an ecclectic restaurant which is only open from 11 til 2, and since the kids were off school this week, this would work out perfectly.
I'd been about 400 feet from an intersection, merging from my lane into the far left side of the two left turn lanes and Some Jerk who was behind me, took the opportunity to scoot by me on my right, before I'd completed my lane change - and skinned his car against mine. Even travelling at low speed, (at least I was) some of his cream colored Audi got on my maroon minivan, and vice-versa, and there we stood, in the middle of the intersection in the classic hands on hips stance, looking at the damage. We exchanged insurance cards and then decided to move to a nearby parking lot to call the police to make a report. Not that this makes any difference to me, but Some Jerk was a young man of middle eastern descent with a thick accent and an apparent disdain for women who weren't like him. Once the cop came, (in a town of 98% scandahoovians, one shouldn't be surprised at the fact that she was) a young fair haired woman, Some Jerk not only answered the questions she asked me, but took over the conversation. Can't people learn from the examples on Judge Judy and answer calmly, in turn and always with a deferential "ma'am" tacked on the end? His behavior earned him zero points in her book and she made that quite plain with her repeated curt reply of "sir, I'm not asking you." In the end, no citations were issued. We both got cards with each other's information on it to give to our insurance companys and we were free to go. As Some Jerk was getting into his car, the cop asked me to wait a moment and got out a diagram of the intersection to draw what actually happened. It was clear to me then that while she made no acknowledgement of guilt on either part, she believed my version as the true and correct one.
As this accident was occurring I'd been on my cell phone (OK, I didn't mention that in the report) leaving a voicemail for Downtown Dad. As Some Jerk hit me I'd yelled "Jeezuzkryst" and dropped my cell phone - voice mail still recording. So by the time we were done and I was safely parking my battered van in my driveway, about 45 minutes later, an understandably frantic Downtown Dad rang my cell again. After relating the whole tale to him, and assuring him I was alive, and not in jail, or in the hospital - I realized that I still had time to take Bear to lunch. It was after lunch that I started to feel a little - what I refer to as Wonky about driving. Every car was WAY too close to me; every turn was a set up for disaster; every time I backed up I was anticipating something going crunch. Hormones or just delayed stress? You be the judge.
Wanting only to stay home, I knew I still had to get over to the Compounding Pharmacy (which, by the way, is across the street from my accident site) to pick up the saliva test kit. This process is another learning experience for me. Apparently my hormone levels show up in my spit. This spit needs to be collected at a certain time in my cycle, and at specific times of the day and then mailed to the testing facility. So.... I'll end this post for today and go drink a lot of water, coz on Sunday, I got a lot of spittin' to do! Euuuu.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
I also joined an online writing class. I always feel bouyed by their feedback - the imaginary people who populate my online world are always so nice. Jeez, there have to be at least 40 people in this class. I started out commenting on each of their introductions, but a person can only be just so friendly and after a while I had to stop. In other online classes the attrition rate is pretty high, so maybe a few will fall by the wayside.
The kids have had the week off, and while the house started out clean on Monday, we are just about at full on pig stye and it's only Thursday. The good thing is that they are getting along, so I really hate to nag. It's really been nice for me to have this time to write. You'd think with all this time I'd be able to come up with something entertaining, but nope. Maybe tomorrow.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
But this only strenthens my notion that there's a great need for blogs like this, chronicaling women's journeys through this crazy time of life. Truly, after reading Ageless, I realize that the feelings, symptoms or thoughts I have are little signposts along the road. They may not make sense at the time, but maybe viewed in retrospect or from a different perspective, a pattern may emerge. At least thats what I hope.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
So, since every day I whack myself upside the head and say 'why didn't you just write down your feelings yesterday, then you'd have something to build on?' I figured I'd just go ahead and write down my feelings from today.
I'm reading Suzanne Sommers newest tome, Ageless. Not that I'd really ever seek out the knowledge of Chrissy from Three's a Crowd, but having seen her talk about her book on one of the morning news programs, what she had to say really struck a chord in me. It's all about hormone replacement, and it makes a lot of sense. Last year at this time, I was going through major mondo stress because we had two mortgages and one house was not selling! This stress, coupled with the beginning stages of perimenopause caused me to think that I was headed for the looney bin. Well, once the house sold, and I got some sleep and exercise and fresh air and drank water once in a while instead of vodka, things started to look a little better. But here we are in October again, and darned if I'm not feeling the hot flashes, the glowering resentment of practically anyone who dares interrupt what I'm doing - even if its vacuuming - and the loss of interest in anything! Its starting to look like a cycle. So I'm really interested in the bioidentical hormone replacement therapy she talks about. The only thing that bothers me is - well two things... this looks expensive, and it looks like this is a long term committment.
OK, that's backdrop number one - two be built on in later posts. And now for backdrop number two....
I really think I want to write. A story, a really truly novel. I get dumb fragments of ideas and they are starting to bug me. Like little imaginary salesmen knocking on my door when I'm doing really important stuff,... like vacuuming (see backdrop number one). I MUST MUST MUST start writing these little fragment salesmen down.... and, as usual, when my fingers area firmly engaged in the asdf jkl; my mind is a blank. BUT! With this post as a backdrop, I can post ideas and not have to delve into the tedious pre-story I always feel obligated to divulge before the idea germ can be born.
Backdrop number two - done. Backdrop number three... ah yes, like the third ghost in A Christmas Carol, more mercurial and harder to pin down....
I think that it may be a combination of the previous two - this need in me to write down what happens in my life and feel like it's private, but yet there's the chance that some anonymous person may read this and comment and yes, I have to admit its the feedback that I simultaneously crave and fear.
OK - so thats it for now.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Anyway, in the new one http://highschoolparallel.blogspot.com I will transcribe a daily entry from my 1970's era diary and then parallel the happenings in my high school daughter's life. If it's not interesting to anyone else, it should be fascinating to me!
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
So, my last two posts have been... shall we say 'interesting'....
I admit I was just posting again to see if I actually remembered how to do it.
I realize now the difference between a blog and a journal. I was having trouble deciding what to post because of the 'consider your audience' mantra. I know now that if I have a qualm about whether or not to post it, it's something that should go in a private journal, not this. Sounds simple, but that's my MO - live and learn.
So, here we are in the last week of August. The last week of summer. Usually the saddest part of the year for me. Based on my childhood, its sad because we took our family vacations this week. Memories remind me that I had to leave my friends and usually get into a sweaty station wagon with my parents and go to some Americana-touristy place, usually dressed identically to my little sister. Alternately, we'd climb into a plane and go to a Hawaiian island and stay at some dingy retirement place with leering, Brylcreamed retirees for two weeks - again dressed to match.
Now, 30 years later, its only sad in retrospect. I get this mixed feeling of sad and happy. Sad that the hot weather and pool season is ending, but happy that the kids are going back to school. The happy tends to be a little muted as the years progress now too. "The kids" are now "the teenagers" and they are progressively less annoying to be around.
There's no ironic point to this post. I'm actually just sitting here in my office doing my 'floor time.' I' have 15 more minutes and then I can blast out to run a couple errands and then throw on my bathing suit and soak up those fleeting last rays of summer sun!
Monday, August 28, 2006
Do-bun ne zu-ni Mita-ini I wanna be beautiful
Utsukushiku nari-tai like a water rat
Sya-shi-n-niwa utsuranai He's got beauty
Utsuku-shisa-ga aru-kara you can't see in a picture
Linda Linda Linda
Linda Linda Linda
Moshi-mo Boku-ga itsuka If I see you
Kimi-to deai hanshi aunara and have a talk
Sonna tokiwa do-ka Ai no Please catch
Imi-(w)o Shit-te kuda-sai the meaning of love
Linda Linda Linda
Linda Linda Linda
Do-bun ne zu-ni Mita-ini Just like a water rat,
Dare-yorimo yasa-shii nicer than anyone else
Do-bun ne zu-ni Mita-ini Just like a water rat,
Na-niyouimo Ata-ta-kaku warmer than anyone else
Linda Linda Linda
Linda Linda Linda
Moshi-mo Boku-ga itsuka If I see you
Kimi-to deai hanshi aunara and have a talk
Sonna tokiwa do-ka Ai no Please catch
Imi-(w)o Shit-te kuda-sai the meaning of love
Aija na-kutemo Koja na-kutemo Even though it may not be love,
Kimi-(w)o hanashi-wa-shi-na-i I'll never leave you
Keshite makenai I'll get power,
Tsuyoi chikara-(w)o the only power
Boku-wa hito-su-dake motsu nothing can beat
Linda Linda Linda
Linda Linda Linda
Linda Linda Linda
Linda Linda Linda
Sunday, August 27, 2006
I just signed up with the whole Windows Live suite of gadgets which includes Writer, an automatic blog publishing thingy. I'm just trying this out for now, since I really don't have anything to say.... well, I have stuff to say, I just don't have the time right now. :)
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Monday, February 06, 2006
Why, as history will attest, if women my age have always been on the leading edge of trends, then why must we take a back seat to pregnant women in our need for medical guidance through this liberating stage of our lives!? I live in a relatively small metro area, yet I have been relegated to the 'newer' OB/GYN doctors since all of the 'recommended' doctors have closed practices, and my appointments have to be booked out a month in the future - in deference to the doctors' birthing patients. Yes, it's true that clinically its all the same plumbing, but there are WAY too many differences in what WE at this age are going through, compared to what newly pregnant moms are experiencing.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not drawing a line in the sand, I'd just like to see a physician specialization that deals solely with pre, peri, and menopausal women, so we don't have to take a back seat to the ones on the other side of the spectrum, (or speculum, as it were) in making our appointments.
Is there anyone else out there that is feeling this same thing?
Sunday, February 05, 2006
There are some in my family that would call that blasphemy. I come from a long line of Southern Baptists who can be described with words like missionary, evangelical, and prayerful. They would say that Jesus is the Reason for the Season. Jesus, as they are not shy about saying, is their reason for everything. Well, that's OK. Over the years, I think we've learned to accept each other's beliefs - to agree to disagree as it were. I've toned down my need to battle their views, and they've learned not to try to sell me theirs, and most importantly, that I'm not an evil horned devil.
I have my own relationship and ideas of God and religion. Much like my extended family includes divorces, remarriages, step children, and half siblings, in-laws and outlaws; my spirituality includes a 'taped together' God. A little pagan, a little Buddhist, some Jewish, some historical Christianity and a whole lot of community caring - just not much Jesus. I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas in the spirit of the season and in the spirit of reconnecting. I believe in sharing and smiling and giving and staying in touch with others - Christmas season or not.
Saturday, February 04, 2006
January 30, 2006
one last goodbye
His body was donated to science, as was his wish. Prior to the medical school picking him up, she lovingly attached a picture to his shirt. It was of him during his younger, healthier years. In addition to the picture she wrote a note that read, "This was a wonderful man. He lived a long, rich, full life. We hope you learn much from his body. Please treat him with respect." She placed Hershey Kisses in his pockets and said goodbye one last time.
Friday, February 03, 2006
The first thing, although worrying about it, and goal planning, and rationalizing missed deadlines, does take up most of my waking hours, is not really the most important - seeing all three of my bestest friends in the whole wide world is - and there is danger of this not happening, a danger almost as real as me not losing 30 pounds.
Toad and Tami are on board with me, but Wheat, only recently having relocated from our home town, is now finding it hard to rationalize returning. I understand her reluctance, even more so in light of Goleta's recent press - which prompted this email volley...
To: Wheat; Margeaux
Subject: Going postal in Goleta
To: Toad; Wheat
Subject: Going postal in Goleta
I KNOW! I finally got through to SB Newspress and looked at the victims
names... no one I knew, but jee golly willikers, that's a little close
to home! No official word on who the shootist was yet, but I'm hoping
it's NOT a menopausal DP alumnus, class of 76!
To: Toad; Margeaux
Subject: Going postal in Goleta
Maybe her coworkers were trying to make her go to her 30th high school reunion. hee hee hee hee heeeeeee they're coming to take me away ha ha ho ho hee hee to the funny farm where life is wonderful all the time and all the men wear clean white coats......yeah I know....I'm going to hell......
To: Toad; Wheat
Subject: Going postal in Goleta
Um, no.... you're going to your 30th high school reunion... which, I realize could be likened to hell in some ways... but if you really think about it, if it really is hell, then hell really isn't such a bad place after all now is it?
Monday, January 23, 2006
Yesterday, in the "Blogosphere," was Blog for Choice day and I missed it. So here, better late than never is a quote from the Bush vs Choice Blog sponsoring this, along with my sincerest apologies for being late.
The majority of Americans support a woman's legal right to choose. However, most Americans are unaware that one of the greatest obstacles is simply finding a doctor. There is a shortage of providers: 87 percent of U.S. counties and 98 percent of rural counties do not have a single abortion provider. Nearly a quarter of women wanting abortions have to travel 50 miles or more for the service. The difficulty in affording, finding or receiving abortion services delays almost half the women who have abortions beyond 15 weeks gestation.
Abortion is one of the most common surgical procedures among U.S. women. More than 1 million women have abortions each year. Despite this medical need, doctors emerging from medical schools and residency programs are not being trained to meet the needs of their patients.
The shortage of abortion providers is startling. More than 50 percent of U.S. providers are over the age of 50. The number of Ob/Gyns performing abortions has been steadily declining over the past 20 years. Currently, a mere 2 percent of Ob/Gyns perform more than 50 percent of U.S. abortions.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Congressman Barr and I have disagreed many times over the years, but we have joined together today with thousands of our fellow citizens-Democrats and Republicans alike-to express our shared concern that America's Constitution is in grave danger.
In spite of our differences over ideology and politics, we are in strong agreement that the American values we hold most dear have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the Administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power.
As we begin this new year, the Executive Branch of our government has been caught eavesdropping on huge numbers of American citizens and has brazenly declared that it has the unilateral right to continue without regard to the established law enacted by Congress precisely to prevent such abuses. It is imperative that respect for the rule of law be restored in our country.
And that is why many of us have come here to Constitution Hall to sound an alarm and call upon our fellow citizens to put aside partisan differences insofar as it is possible to do so and join with us in demanding that our Constitution be defended and preserved.
It is appropriate that we make this appeal on the day our nation has set aside to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who challenged America to breathe new life into our oldest values by extending its promise to all of our people.
And on this particular Martin Luther King Day, it is especially important to recall that for the last several years of his life, Dr. King was illegally wiretapped-one of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government during that period.
The FBI privately labeled King the "most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country" and vowed to "take him off his pedestal." The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and tried to blackmail him into committing suicide.
This campaign continued until Dr. King's murder. The discovery that the FBI conducted this long-running and extensive campaign of secret electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and to learn the most intimate details of Dr. King's life, was instrumental in helping to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping.
And one result was the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), which was enacted expressly to ensure that foreign intelligence surveillance would be presented to an impartial judge to verify that there was indeed a sufficient cause for the surveillance. It included ample flexibility and an ability for the executive to move with as much speed as the executive desired. I voted for that law during my first term in Congress and for almost thirty years the system has proven a workable and valued means of affording a level of protection for American citizens, while permitting foreign surveillance to continue whenever it is necessary.
And yet, just one month ago, Americans awoke to the shocking news that in spite of this long settled law, the Executive Branch has been secretly spying on large numbers of Americans for the last four years and eavesdropping on, and I quote the report, "large volumes of telephone calls, e-mail messages, and other Internet traffic inside the United States." The New York Times reported that the President decided to launch this massive eavesdropping program "without search warrants or any new laws that would permit domestic intelligence collection."
During the period when this eavesdropping was still secret, the President seemed to go out of his way to reassure the American people on more than one occasion that, of course, judicial permission is required for any government spying on American citizens and that, of course, these constitutional safeguards were still in place.
But surprisingly, the President's soothing statements turned out to be false. Moreover, as soon as this massive domestic spying program was uncovered by the press, the President not only confirmed that the story was true, but in the next breath declared that he has no intention stopping or of bringing these wholesale invasions of privacy to an end.
At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and insistently.
A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. They recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution - our system of checks and balances - was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."
An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution - an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."
Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet, "On Common Sense" ignited the American Revolution, succinctly described America's alternative. Here, he said, we intended to make certain that, in his phrase, "the law is king."
Vigilant adherence to the rule of law actually strengthens our democracy, of course, and strengthens America. It ensures that those who govern us operate within our constitutional structure, which means that our democratic institutions play their indispensable role in shaping policy and determining the direction of our nation. It means that the people of this nation ultimately determine its course and not executive officials operating in secret without constraint, under the rule of law.
And make no mistake, the rule of law makes us stronger by ensuring that decisions will be tested, studied, reviewed, and examined through the normal processes of government that are designed to improve policy, and avoid error. And the knowledge that they will be reviewed prevents over-reaching and checks the accretion to power.
A commitment to openness, truthfulness, and accountability helps our country avoid many serious mistakes, that we would otherwise make. Recently, for example, we learned from just declassified documents, after almost forty years, that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized the tragic Vietnam war, was actually based on false information. And we now know that the decision by Congress to authorize the Iraq War, 38 years later, was also based on false information. Now the point is that America would have been better off knowing the truth and avoiding both of these colossal mistakes in our history. And that is the reason why following the rule of law makes us safer, not more vulnerable.
The President and I agree on one thing. The threat from terrorism is all too real. There is simply no question that we continue to face new challenges in the wake of the attack on September 11th and that we must be ever-vigilant in protecting our citizens from harm.
Where we disagree is on the proposition that we have to break the law or sacrifice our system of government in order to protect Americans from terrorism. When in fact, doing so would make us weaker and more vulnerable.
And remember that once violated, the rule of law is itself in danger. Unless stopped, lawlessness grows. The greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles. As the executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its mistakes and reveal errors, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police its activities. Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become a government of men and not laws.
The President's men have minced words about America's laws. The Attorney General, for example, openly conceded that the "kind of surveillance" we now know they have been conducting does require a court order unless authorized by statute. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act self-evidently does not authorize what the NSA has been doing, and no one inside or outside the Administration claims that it does. Incredibly, the Administration claims, instead, that the surveillance was implicitly authorized when Congress voted to use force against those who attacked us on September 11th.
But, this argument simply does not hold any water. Without getting into the legal intricacies, it faces a number of embarrassing facts. First, another admission by the Attorney General: he concedes that the Administration knew that the NSA project was prohibited by existing law and that is why they consulted with some members of Congress about the possibility of changing the statute. Genl. Gonzalez says that they were told by the members of congress consulted that this would probably not be possible. And so they decided not to make the request. So how can they now argue that the Authorization for the use of military force somehow implicitly authorized it all along? Indeed, when the Authorization was being debated, the Administration did in fact seek to have language inserted in it that would have authorized them to use military force domestically - and the Congress refused to agree. Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Jim McGovern, among others, made clear statements during the debate on the floor of the house and the senate, respectively, clearly stating that that Authorization did not operate domestically. And there is no assertion to the contrary.
When President Bush failed to convince Congress to give him the power he wanted when this measure was passed, he secretly assumed that power anyway, as if congressional authorization was a useless bother. But as Justice Frankfurter once wrote: "To find authority so explicitly withheld is not merely to disregard in a particular instance the clear will of Congress. It is to disrespect the whole legislative process and the constitutional division of authority between the President and the Congress."
This is precisely the "disrespect" for the law that the Supreme Court struck down in the steel seizure case during the Korean War.
It is this same disrespect for America's Constitution which has now brought our republic to the brink of a dangerous breach in the fabric of the Constitution. And the disrespect embodied in these apparent mass violations of the law is part of a larger pattern of seeming indifference to the Constitution that is deeply troubling to millions of Americans in both political parties.
For example, as you know the President has also declared that he has a heretofore unrecognized inherent power to seize and imprison any American citizen that he alone determines to be a threat to our nation, and that, notwithstanding his American citizenship, that person imprisoned has no right to talk with a lawyer-even if he wants to argue that the President or his appointees have made a mistake and imprisoned the wrong person. The President claims that he can imprison that American citizen -- any American Citizen he chooses -- indefinitely for the rest of his live without an even arrest warrant, without notifying them about what charges have been filed against them, without even informing their families that they have been imprisoned. No such right exists in the America that you and I know and love. It is foreign to our constitution. It must be rejected.
At the same time, the Executive branch has also claimed a previously unrecognized authority to mistreat prisoners in its custody in ways that plainly constitute torture and have plainly constituted torture in a widespread pattern that has been extensively documented in U.S. facilities located in several countries around the world.
Over 100 of these captives have reportedly died while being tortured by Executive branch interrogators and many more have been broken and humiliated. And, in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, investigators who documented the pattern of torture estimated that more than 90 percent of the victims were completely innocent of any criminal charges whatsoever. This is a shameful exercise of power that overturns a set of principles that our nation has observed since General George Washington first enunciated them during our Revolutionary War. They have been observed by every president since then - until now. They violate the Geneva Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture, and our own laws against torture.
The President has also claimed that he has the authority to kidnap individuals on the streets of foreign cities and deliver them for imprisonment and interrogation on our behalf by autocratic regimes in nations that are infamous for the cruelty of their techniques for torture. Some of our traditional allies have been deeply shocked by these new, and uncharacteristic patterns on the part of Americans. The British Ambassador to Uzbekistan - one of those nations with the worst reputations for torture in its prisons - registered a complaint to his home office about the cruelty and senselessness of the new U.S. practice that he witnessed: "This material we’re getting is useless,” he wrote and then he continued with this – “we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful."
Can it be true that any president really has such powers under our Constitution? If the answer is "yes" then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited? If the President has the inherent authority to eavesdrop on American citizens without a warrant, imprison American citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can't he do?
The Dean of Yale Law School, Harold Koh, said after analyzing the Executive Branch's extravagant claims of these previously unrecognized powers: "If the President has commander-in-chief power to commit torture, he has the power to commit genocide, to sanction slavery, to promote apartheid, to license summary execution."
The fact that our normal American safeguards have thus far failed to contain this unprecedented expansion of executive power is, itself, deeply troubling. This failure is due in part to the fact that the Executive Branch has followed a determined strategy of obfuscating, delaying, withholding information, appearing to yield but then refusing to do so and dissembling in order to frustrate the efforts of the legislative and judicial branches to restore a healthy constitutional balance.
For example, after appearing to support legislation sponsored by John McCain to stop the continuation of torture, the President declared in the act of signing the bill that he reserved the right not to comply with it. Similarly, the Executive Branch claimed that it could unilaterally imprison American citizens without giving them access to review by any tribunal. And when the Supreme Court disagreed, the President engaged in legal maneuvers designed to prevent the Court from providing any meaningful content to the rights of the citizens affected.
A conservative jurist on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that the Executive branch's handling of one such case seemed to involve the sudden abandonment of principle, and I quote him, "at substantial cost to the government's credibility before the courts."
As a result of this unprecedented claim of new unilateral power, the Executive branch has now put our constitutional design at grave risk. The stakes for America's democracy are far higher than has been generally recognized.
These claims must be rejected and a healthy balance of power restored to our Republic. Otherwise, the fundamental nature of our democracy may well undergo a radical transformation.
For more than two centuries, America's freedoms have been preserved in large part by our founders' wise decision to separate the aggregate power of our government into three co-equal branches, each of which, as you know, serves to check and balance the power of the other two.
On more than a few occasions, in our history, the dynamic interaction among all three branches has resulted in collisions and temporary impasses that create what are invariably labeled "constitutional crises." These crises have often been dangerous and uncertain times for our Republic. But in each such case so far, we have found a resolution of the crisis by renewing our common agreement to live together under the rule of law.
The principle alternative to democracy throughout history has, of course, been the consolidation of virtually all state power in the hands of a single strongman or small group who exercise that power without the informed consent of the governed.
It was in revolt against just such a regime, after all, that America was founded. When Lincoln declared at the time of our greatest crisis that the ultimate question being decided in the Civil War was, in his memorable phrase, "whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure," he was not only saving our union, he was recognizing the fact that democracies are rare in history. And when they fail, as did Athens and the Roman Republic upon whose designs our founders drew heavily, what emerges in their place is another strongman regime.
There have of course been other periods in American history when the Executive Branch claimed new powers later seen as excessive and mistaken. Our second president, John Adams, passed the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts and sought to silence and imprison critics and political opponents. And when his successor, President Thomas Jefferson, eliminated the abuses, in his first inaugural he said: "[The essential principles of our Government] form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation... [S]hould we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty and safety."
President Lincoln, of course, suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War. Some of the worst abuses prior to those of the current administration were committed by President Wilson during and after WWI with the notorious Red Scare and Palmer Raids. The internment of Japanese Americans during WWII marked a shameful low point for the respect of individual rights at the hands of the executive. And, of course, during the Vietnam War, the notorious COINTELPRO program was part and parcel of those abuses experienced by Dr. King and so many thousands of others.
But in each of these cases throughout American history, when the conflict and turmoil subsided, our nation recovered its equilibrium and absorbed the lessons learned in a recurring cycle of excess and regret.
But, there are reasons for concern this time around, that conditions may be changing and that the cycle may not repeat itself. For one thing, we have for decades been witnessing the slow and steady accumulation of presidential power. In a globe where there are nuclear weapons and cold war tensions, Congress and the American people accepted ever enlarging spheres of presidential initiative to conduct intelligence and counter- intelligence activities and to allocate our military forces on the global stage. When military force has been used as an instrument of foreign policy or in response to humanitarian demands, it has almost always been as the result of presidential initiative and leadership. But, as Justice Frankfurter wrote in that famous Steel Seizure Case, "The accretion of dangerous power does not come in a day. It does come, however slowly, from the generative force of unchecked disregard of the restrictions that fence in even the most disinterested assertion of authority."
A second reason to that believe we may be experiencing something new -- outside that historical cycle -- is that we are, after all, told by this Administration that the war footing upon which he has tried to place the country is going to "last” in their phrase, “for the rest of our lives." And so, we are told that the conditions of national threat that have been used by other Presidents to justify arrogations of power will, in this case, persist in near perpetuity.
Third, we need to be keenly aware of the startling advances in the sophistication of eavesdropping and surveillance technologies with their capacity to easily sweep up and analyze enormous quantities of information and then mine it for intelligence. And this adds significant vulnerability to the privacy and freedom of enormous numbers of innocent people at the same time as the potential power of those technologies grows. Those technologies do have the potential for shifting the balance of power between the apparatus of the state and the freedom of the individual in ways that are both subtle and profound.
Don't misunderstand me: the threat of additional terror strikes is real and the concerted efforts by terrorists to acquire weapons of mass destruction does indeed create a real imperative to exercise the powers of the Executive Branch with swiftness and agility. Moreover, there is in fact an inherent power conferred by the Constitution to the any President to take unilateral action when necessary to protect the nation from a sudden and immediate threat. And it is simply not possible to precisely define in legalistic terms exactly when that power is appropriate and when it is not. But the existence of that inherent power cannot be used to justify a gross and excessive power grab lasting for many years and producing a serious imbalance in the relationship between the executive and the other two branches of government.
And there is a final reason to worry that we may be experiencing something more than just another cycle. This Administration has come to power in the thrall of a legal theory that aims to convince us that this excessive concentration of presidential power is exactly what our Constitution intended.
This legal theory, which its proponents call the theory of the unitary executive but which ought to be more accurately described as the unilateral executive, threatens to expand the president's powers until the contours of the constitution that the Framers actually gave us become obliterated beyond all recognition. Under this theory, the President's authority when acting as Commander-in-Chief or when making foreign policy cannot be reviewed by the judiciary, cannot be checked by Congress. And President Bush has pushed the implications of this idea to its maximum by continually stressing his role as Commander-in-Chief, invoking it has frequently as he can, conflating it with his other roles, both domestic and foreign. And when added to the idea that we have entered a perpetual state of war, the implications of this theory stretch quite literally as far into the future as we can imagine.
This effort to rework America's carefully balanced constitutional design into a lopsided structure dominated by an all powerful Executive Branch with a subservient Congress and subservient judiciary is ironically accompanied by an effort by the same administration to rework America's foreign policy from one that is based primarily on U.S. moral authority into one that is based on a misguided and self-defeating effort to establish a form of dominance in the world.
And the common denominator seems to be based on an instinct to intimidate and control.
This same pattern has characterized the effort to silence dissenting views within the Executive branch, to censor information that may be inconsistent with its stated ideological goals, and to demand conformity from all Executive branch employees.
For example, CIA analysts who strongly disagreed with the White House assertion that Osama bin Laden was linked to Saddam Hussein found themselves under pressure at work and became fearful of losing promotions and salary increases.
Ironically, that is exactly what happened to the FBI officials in the 1960s who disagreed with J. Edgar Hoover's assertion that Martin Luther King was closely connected to Communists. The head of the FBI's domestic intelligence division testified that his effort to tell the truth about King's innocence of the charge resulted in he and his colleagues becoming isolated within the FBI and pressured. And I quote: "It was evident that we had to change our ways or we would all be out on the street.... The men and I (he continued) discussed how to get out of trouble. To be in trouble with Mr. Hoover was a serious matter. These men (he continued) were trying to buy homes, mortgages on homes, children in school. They lived in fear of getting transferred, losing money on their homes, as they usually did. ... so they wanted another memorandum written to get us out of the trouble that we were in."
The Constitution's framers who studied human nature so closely understood this dilemma quite well. As Alexander Hamilton put it, "a power over a man's support is a power over his will." (Federalist No. 73)
In any case, quite soon, there was no more difference of opinion within the FBI. And the false accusation became the unanimous view. In exactly the same way, George Tenet's CIA eventually joined in endorsing a manifestly false view that there was a linkage between al Qaeda and the government of Iraq.
In the words of George Orwell: "We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right.
Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that, sooner or later, a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield." 2,200 American soldiers have lost their lives as this false belief bumped into a solid reality.
And indeed, whenever power is unchecked and unaccountable it almost inevitably leads to gross mistakes and abuses. That is part of human nature. In the absence of rigorous accountability, incompetence flourishes. Dishonesty is encouraged and rewarded. It is human nature -- whether for Republicans or Democrats or people of any set of views.
Last week, for example, Vice President Cheney attempted to defend the Administration's eavesdropping on American citizens by saying that if it had conducted this program prior to 9/11, they would have found out the names of some of the hijackers.
Tragically, he apparently still does not know that the Administration did in fact have the names of at least 2 of the hijackers well before 9/11 and had available to them information that could have led to the identification of most of the others. One of them was in the phonebook. And yet, because of incompetence, unaccountable incompetence in the handling of this information, it was never used to protect the American people.
It is often the case, again, regardless of which party might be in power, that an Executive branch, beguiled by the pursuit of unchecked power, responds to its own mistakes by reflexively proposing that it be given still more power. Often, the request itself it used to mask accountability for mistakes in the use of power it already has.
Moreover, if the pattern of practice begun by this Administration is not challenged, it may well become a permanent part of the American system. That’s why many conservatives have pointed out that granting unchecked power to this President means that the next will have unchecked power as well. And the next President may be someone whose values and belief you do not trust. And that is why Republicans as well as Democrats should be concerned with what this President has done. If his attempt to dramatically expand executive power goes unquestioned, then our constitutional design of checks and balances will be lost. And the next President or some future President will be able, in the name of national security, to restrict our liberties in a way the framers never would have imagined possible.
This same instinct to expand its power and to establish dominance has characterized the relationship between this Administration and the courts and the Congress.
In a properly functioning system, the Judicial branch would serve as the constitutional umpire to ensure that the branches of government observed their proper spheres of authority, observed civil liberties, adhered to the rule of law. Unfortunately, the unilateral executive has tried hard to thwart the ability of the judiciary to call balls and strikes by keeping controversies out of its hands - notably those challenging its ability to detain individuals without legal process -- by appointing judges who will be deferential to its exercise of power and by its support of assaults on the independence of the third branch.
The President's decision, for example, to ignore the FISA law was a direct assault on the power of the judges who sit on that court. Congress established the FISA court precisely to be a check on executive power to wiretap. And yet, to ensure that the court could not function as a check on executive power, the President simply did not take matters to it and did not even let the court know that it was being bypassed.
The President's judicial appointments are clearly designed to ensure the courts will not serve as an effective check on executive power. As we have all learned, Judge Alito is a longtime supporter of a powerful executive - a supporter of that so-called unitary executive. Whether you support his confirmation or not - and I respect the fact that some of the co-sponsors of this event do. I do not – but whatever your view, we must all agree that he will not vote as an effective check on the expansion of executive power. Likewise, Chief Justice Roberts has made plain his deference to the expansion of executive power through his support of judicial deference to executive agency rulemaking.
And the Administration has also supported the assault on judicial independence that has been conducted largely in Congress. That assault includes a threat by the Republican majority in the Senate to permanently change the rules to eliminate the right of the minority to engage in extended debate of the President's nominees. The assault has extended to legislative efforts to curtail the jurisdiction of courts in matters ranging from habeas corpus to the pledge of allegiance. In short, the Administration has demonstrated a contempt for the judicial role and sought to evade judicial review of its actions at every turn.
But the most serious damage in our constitutional framework has been done to the legislative branch. The sharp decline of congressional power and autonomy in recent years has been almost as shocking as the efforts by the Executive to attain this massive expansion of its power.
I was elected to the Congress in 1976, served eight years in the house, 8 years in the Senate, presided over the Senate for 8 years as Vice President. As a young man, I saw the Congress first hand as the son of a Senator. My father was elected to Congress in 1938, 10 years before I was born, and left the Senate after I had graduated from college.
The Congress we have today is structurally unrecognizable compared to the one in which my father served. There are many distinguished and outstanding Senators and Congressmen serving today. I am honored to know them and to have worked with them. But the legislative branch of government, as a whole, under its current leadership now operates as if it were entirely subservient to the Executive branch. It is astonishing to me, and so foreign to what the Congress is supposed to be.
Moreover, too many members of the House and Senate now feel compelled to spend a majority of their time not in thoughtful debate on the issues, but instead raising money to purchase 30 second TV commercials.
Moreover, there have now been two or three generations of congressmen who don't really know what an oversight hearing is. In the 70's and 80's, the oversight hearings in which my colleagues and I participated held the feet of the Executive branch to the fire - no matter which party was in power. Yet oversight is almost unknown in the Congress today.
The role of the authorization committees has declined into insignificance. The 13 annual appropriation bills are hardly ever actually passed as bills, anymore. Everything is lumped into a familiar single giant measure that is not even available for members of Congress to read before they vote on it. Members of the minority party are now routinely excluded from conference committees, and amendments are routinely disallowed during floor consideration of legislation.
In the United States Senate, which used to pride itself on being the "greatest deliberative body in the world," meaningful debate is now a rarity. Even on the eve of the fateful vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq, Senator Robert Byrd famously asked: "Why is this chamber empty?" In the House of Representatives, the number who face a genuinely competitive election contest every two years is typically less than a dozen out of 435.
And too many incumbents have come to believe that the key to continued access to the money for re-election is to stay on the good side of those who have the money to give; and, in the case of the majority party, the whole process is largely controlled by the incumbent president and his political organization.
So the willingness of Congress to challenge the Executive branch is further limited when the same party controls both Congress and the Administration. The Executive branch, time and again, has co-opted Congress' role, and too often Congress has been a willing accomplice in the surrender of its own power.
Look for example at the Congressional role in "overseeing" this massive four year eavesdropping campaign that on its face seemed so clearly to violate the Bill of Rights. The President says he informed Congress, but what he really means is that he talked with the chairman and ranking member of the House and Senate intelligence committees and sometimes the leaders of the House and Senate. This small group, in turn, claimed they were not given the full facts, though at least one of the committee leaders handwrote a letter of concern to the vice-president.
Though I sympathize with the awkward position in which these men and women were placed, I cannot disagree with the Liberty Coalition when it says that Democrats as well as Republicans in the Congress must share the blame for not taking sufficient action to protest and seek to prevent what they consider a grossly unconstitutional program. Many did.
Moreover, in the Congress as a whole-both House and Senate-the enhanced role of money in the re-election process, coupled with the sharply diminished role for reasoned deliberation and debate, has produced an atmosphere conducive to pervasive institutionalized corruption that some have fallen vulnerable to.
The Abramoff scandal is but the tip of a giant iceberg threatening the integrity of the entire legislative branch of government.
It is the pitiful state of our legislative branch which primarily explains the failure of our vaunted checks and balances to prevent the dangerous overreach by the Executive Branch now threatening a radical transformation of the American system.
I call upon Democratic and Republican members of Congress today to uphold your oath of office and defend the Constitution. Stop going along to get along. Start acting like the independent and co-equal branch of American government you are supposed to be under the Constitution of our country. But there is yet another Constitutional player whose pulse must also be taken and whose role must be examined in order to understand the dangerous imbalance that has accompanied these efforts by the Executive branch to dominate our constitutional system.
We the people are-collectively-still the key to the survival of America's democracy. We-must examine ourselves. We - as Lincoln put it, "[e]ven we here"-must examine our own role as citizens in allowing and not preventing the shocking decay and hollowing out and degradation of American democracy! It is time to stand up for the American system that we know and love! It is time to breathe new life back into America’s democracy!
Thomas Jefferson said: "An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will" America’s based on the belief that we can govern ourselves. And exercise the power of self-government. The American idea proceeded from the bedrock principle that all just power is derived from the consent of the governed.
The intricate and carefully balanced constitutional system that is now in such danger was created with the full and widespread participation of the population as a whole. The Federalist Papers were, back in the day, widely-read newspaper essays, and they represented only one of twenty-four series of essays that crowded the vibrant marketplace of ideas in which farmers and shopkeepers recapitulated the debates that played out so fruitfully in Philadelphia.
And when the Convention had done its best, it was the people - in their various States - that refused to confirm the result until, at their insistence, the Bill of Rights was made integral to the document sent forward for ratification.
And it is "We the people" who must now find, once again, the ability we once had to play an integral role in saving our Constitution. And here there is cause for both concern and for great hope. The age of printed pamphlets and political essays has long since been replaced by television - a distracting and absorbing medium which sees determined to entertain and sell more than it informs and educates.
Lincoln's memorable call during the Civil War is now applicable in a new way to our dilemma today: "We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."
Forty years have passed since the majority of Americans adopted television as their principal source of information. And its dominance has now become so extensive that virtually all significant political communication now takes place within the confines of flickering 30-second television advertisements, and they’re not the Federalist Papers.
The political economy supported by these short but expensive television ads is as different from the vibrant politics of America's first century as those politics were different from the feudalism which thrived on the ignorance of the masses of people in the Dark Ages.
The constricted role of ideas in the American political system today has encouraged efforts by the Executive branch to believe it can and should control the flow of information as a means of controlling the outcome of important decisions that still lie in the hands of the people.
The Administration vigorously asserts its power to maintain secrecy in its operations. After all, if the other branches don’t know what is happening they can't be a check or a balance.
For example, when the Administration was attempting to persuade Congress to enact the Medicare prescription drug benefit, many in the House and Senate raised concerns about the cost and design of the program. But, rather than engaging in open debate on the basis of factual data, the Administration withheld facts and actively prevented the Congress from hearing testimony that it had sought from the principal administration expert who had the information showing in advance of the vote that, indeed, the true cost estimates were far beyond the numbers given to Congress by the President. And the workings of the program would play out very differently than Congress had been told.
Deprived of that information, and believing the false numbers given to it instead, the Congress approved the program. And tragically, the entire initiative is now collapsing- all over the country- with the Administration making an appeal just this weekend to major insurance companies to volunteer to bail it out. But the American people, who have the right to believe that its elected representatives will learn the truth and act on the basis of knowledge and utilize the rule of reason, have been let down.
To take another example, scientific warnings about the catastrophic consequences of unchecked global warming were censored by a political appointee in the White House who had no scientific training, whatsoever. Today, one of the leading scientific experts in the world on global warming in NASA, has been ordered not to talk to members of the press, ordered to keep a careful log of everyone he meets with so that the Executive branch can monitor and control what he shares of his knowledge of global warming. This is a planetary crisis – we owe ourselves a truthful and reasoned discussion.
One of the other ways the Administration has tried to control the flow of information has been by consistently resorting to the language and politics of fear in order to short-circuit the debate and drive its agenda forward without regard to the evidence or the public interest. President Eisenhower said this: "Any who act as if freedom's defenses are to be found in suppression and suspicion and fear confess a doctrine that is alien to America."
Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction. Justice Brandeis once wrote: "Men feared witches and burnt women."
The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk.
Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the full Bill of Rights.
Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of nuclear missiles ready to be launched on a moment’s notice to completely annihilate the country? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when the last generation had to fight and win two World Wars simultaneously?
It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they did. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it’s up to us to do the very same thing!
We have a duty as Americans to defend our citizens' right not only to life but also to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is therefore vital in our current circumstances that immediate steps be taken to safeguard our Constitution against the present danger posed by the intrusive overreaching on the part of the Executive branch and the President's apparent belief that he need not live under the rule of law.
I endorse the words of Bob Barr, when he said, and I quote: "The President has dared the American people to do something about it. For the sake of the Constitution, I hope they will."
A special counsel should immediately be appointed by the Attorney General to remedy the obvious conflict of interest that prevents him from investigating what many believe are serious violations of law by the President. We’ve had a fresh demonstration of how an independent investigation by a special counsel with integrity can rebuild confidence in our system of justice. Patrick Fitzgerald has, by all accounts, shown neither fear nor favor in pursuing allegations that the Executive branch has violated other laws.
Republican as well as Democratic members of Congress should support the bipartisan call of the Liberty Coalition for the appointment of this special counsel to pursue the criminal issues raised by the warrantless wiretapping of Americans by the President, and it should be a political issue in any race -- regardless of party, section of the country, house of congress for anyone who opposes the appointment of a special counsel under these dangerous circumstances when our Constitution is at risk. Secondly, new whistleblower protections should immediately be established for members of the Executive branch who report evidence of wrongdoing -- especially where it involves the abuse of authority in these sensitive areas of national security.
Third, both Houses of Congress should, of course, hold comprehensive-and not just superficial-hearings into these serious allegations of criminal behavior on the part of the President. And, they should follow the evidence wherever it leads.
Fourth, the extensive new powers requested by the Executive branch in its proposal to extend and enlarge the Patriot Act should, under no circumstances be granted, unless and until there are adequate and enforceable safeguards to protect the Constitution and the rights of the American people against the kinds of abuses that have so recently been revealed.
Fifth, any telecommunications company that has provided the government with access to private information concerning the communications of Americans without a proper warrant should immediately cease and desist their complicity in this apparently illegal invasion of the privacy of American citizens.
Freedom of communication is an essential prerequisite for the restoration of the health of our democracy.
It is particularly important that the freedom of the Internet be protected against either the encroachment of government or efforts at control by large media conglomerates. The future of our democracy depends on it.
In closing, I mentioned that along with cause for concern, there is reason for hope. As I stand here today, I am filled with optimism that America is on the eve of a golden age in which the vitality of our democracy will be re-established by the people and will flourish more vibrantly than ever. Indeed I can feel it in this hall.
As Dr. King once said, "Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us."
Thank you, very much.
Friday, January 20, 2006
“OK girls, look at my face, I’m not sure if you can see the results yet or not, but I’m exfoliating.”
Despite her name, Cat is not feline-like in any way. After surviving and recovering from not only a bout with a cancerous ovarian tumor, and the botched surgery, and less than nurturing recovery care; but also a humiliating incident of sexual harassment from her employer, this military wife, and mother of two boys, cut her hair, went from dishwater to platinum blonde, left her secretarial job, got her real estate license and the former Catherine Louise, christened herself forever after: Cat. She reinvented herself and she is fabulous!
Cat is, most succinctly put, the CATalyst in our group of seven friends. She starts sentences with “OK girls, were going to talk about…” or “I have a story we need to discuss…” She’s even been known to bring 7 copies of an agenda with bulleted topics of discussion to the table where we’ve gathered for cocktails.
I admire this woman for what she’s accomplished, and how she handles the bumps in her life. Also, as a writer, I’m fascinated by the character that is Cat. As I wallow and whine in the throes of my hormonal premenopausal roller coaster, I find myself channeling her changeling spirit.
Menopause, or The Change, after all, is pretty much your body reinventing itself from perky, energetic, child bearer to solid, steady, wisdom bearer – or at least stereotypically, that’s how it goes. But being a woman (and a writer) and needing to talk about things, and share my feelings, good, bad, awful, dreadful, hot, cold… I probably have over dramatized this natural process. We see it in nature all the time – when it grows too large, a snake simply sheds its skin. A caterpillar, preferring privacy, undergoes metamorphosis in private, full-body, custom couture.
I have learned quite a bit from my ‘sistahood.’ They have literally changed my life, and without going too far out on a limb, I can honestly say that I have changed theirs too. Whether for good or for bad, change is hard and change is exciting, but more importantly change simply is. While my ‘change’ will not be as outwardly noticeable as literally shedding skin or emerging from a cocoon, like a snake, or a butterfly – or like Cat – it will be good – eventually.
OK girls, look at me, I’m not sure if you can see the results yet or not, but I’m changing.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
For the longest time, I assumed I was a less than positive influence on my family due to what I had always thought of as a rebellious childhood. As I mentioned in the Thursday 13 below, I grew up in California, in the 70s. To clarify, let’s just say I wasn’t a stranger to the sex, drugs and rock and roll scene…OK? I shunned the more conformist people – thought myself cooler, more superior than them. Then, fate made me lie in the bed I had made, but just when I thought I was destined to become another trailer trash victim of my bad marriages and lifestyle, along came practically perfect Downtown Dad! In an effort to shorten the telling of the fairy tale romantic comedy/melodrama that ensued… suffice it to say that we swept each other off our collective feet and have managed to live relatively happily ever after. I felt at the time that I was the girl from the wrong side of the tracks faction marrying into this Cleaver-esque family. Here he was, the only one of five siblings ever to have divorced and then to be marrying ME, a now twice divorced single mom, well – what ever would this family have to endure as a result of my influence?
Well, I finally figured out that I was way off base in my perceptions of his family as well as what they would think of me. Turns out we were all closer to normal than I had originally thought. Over time, a couple of his other siblings have now divorced, and a couple who should have divorced didn’t. So here’s me, the disillusioned preacher’s kid, who likes her liquor - alot, and makes no bones about speaking her mind, the girl most likely to NOT succeed – still married after 18 years to the one kid in the family who almost went to seminary school, who thought heavy drinking was packing away two beers, who is one of the 14 people of his age group to have never tried any – ANY drugs, and who has and still does make a living as a politician.
One of the things I feared in our marriage was how our kids would turn out. I expected them to follow in my footsteps, which is to say, badly. I assumed they would hate us as parents by about 12 and start drinking or using drugs soon after, and I fully expected my daughter to be pregnant by 14 or 15. As it turns out none of that has happened or is even remotely likely. How did I luck out?!
Which brings me to the point of this post.
Downtown Dad has a younger brother Rick. Rick fell in love with a girl and subsequently married her along about the same time as Downtown Dad and I got hitched. Rick’s wife, Michelle, always struck me as a bit of a floozie, but considering my own self-perception, I never really made any mention of it. So, time went on. Owing to the fact that we lived several states apart, Rick, Michelle, Downtown Dad, and I never really were close socially, although we did talk on the phone some. Amazingly, when I finally got pregnant, so did Michelle! Sadly, I miscarried, but practically on the same day, so did Michelle! After that trauma, we both managed to get pregnant again and lo and behold, both babies were due at the end of July!
Since Downtown Dad’s mother had previously only been blessed with grand SONS, she made it quite clear that if one of these babies was a girl, that girl would certainly be the PRINCESS of that generation! This set in motion the friendly competition to see who could have a girl and have it first!
Well, on July 28th at 12:10 a.m. I gave birth to Tessie Wee – actually about a week early, but nevertheless, the clear winner in the grandprincess race. Two weeks later, Michelle had Alexis, another grandprincess, but not the first! I must give credit to our families, because as much build up as I’ve given this, no favoritism has ever been shown for one girl over the other. In fact, at family reunions or significant gatherings both girls became fast friends as well as the twin apples of their grandparents’ eyes. Photos and home videos reveal not only their closeness in age, but also their physical similarity. White blonde hair, impish good looks, and an overabundance of personality.
It was a shock then this past summer, after a 6 or 8 year lapse in visits, to arrive at grandma and grandpa’s to see the now 13-year-old Alex looking very much like Paris Hilton. Too skinny, too cocky, and too old for her years. Tessie, on the other hand, having recently blossomed into a voluptuous, if not pimpled and gangly preteen, felt quite overshadowed. As Alex and her overbearing and just as unnaturally thin mother would flit about the house, lamenting the lack of a nearby Starbucks, and smelling suspiciously, of cigarette smoke, there were many stifled comments and surreptitiously rolled eyes. A red flag that was sadly, in the patiently polite, Midwestern way, overlooked.
Turns out, we should have said or done something. We just heard last night that Alex has been using Meth, and her mother has either known or if she didn’t know, has been enabling the behavior that we saw starting last year and that has now escalated into a life threatening addiction! Rick is just devastated and has just now shared this with the family after having dealt with it since before Christmas.
How did this happen? How in a family does this kind of thing start to grow, and how do you not see it? It begs the old nature vs. nurture question. How could these two girls, so alike in so many ways from the start, with parents not all that different from one another, wind up on such different paths?
I thank whatever it is, the powers that be, our parental wisdom, or just plain luck that it’s not my daughter in that situation. I also am fighting a nagging feeling of superiority. Where did we go right, where they went wrong? Was my subculture background a factor in recognizing trouble and steering our kids a different way? Did Downtown Dad’s boy-scout-ish-ness act as a role model for our kids to make good choices? Sure, there are a lot of factors involved, and this kind of thing does not crop up overnight, but considering the fact that we are all products of our own best thinking… what kind of thinking could EVER rationalize using METH?!?
So, I guess I wasn’t the bad influence I thought I was after all. I just hope it’s not too late to save the ones who were – and their victims.