One Bold Step

Everyone talks a great game about changing the world, or even just their lives, but courage, while free, comes with one price: action. I want to share my bold step with you, and, if you write to me with your bold step, and it's timely, I'll post it on my site every couple of weeks, if not more often.

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Location: Phoenix, Arizona, United States

Director of Research for (aka: The Foundation Foundation). Formerly with Air America Radio Phoenix ("Froggy Went A Marchin..."). Sang the National Anthem at a rally in Phoenix with Cindy Sheehan. Loves: chocolate, flowers, perfume (my grandmother), great music, politics, and a whole-hearted appreciation of the truth (Are there really "conspiracy theories" or do we need more FOIAs?). Seeker of justice and agent for change.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

On The Waterfront

Calling all boaters and fishermen on Lake Erie: Are you protected by the waters that surround you? Have you ever been so cushioned by said waters? Are you wondering why I, now living in Arizona, am asking you this? While I would like to think you could steer some of that great fresh water down to our end of the country and help ease the drought in these parts, I'm not that naive. However, this, too, is a border state.

While growing up, it was easy to forget that Ohio was, in fact, on the border with Canada. We owned the fishing rights to only one-third of the lake. In some ways, it seemed like it was more Canada's responsibility to deal with the water than ours. Now, that's a bit immature to see it that way, but it does leave that impression. Our fishermen had access to only one-third of the entire lake? Whose water was this, anyway?

However, as an adult, it becomes clear how precious that chunk of water is. Now, I'm not suggesting that southern Ontario is a threat to northern Ohio. We never had any major problems, that we knew of, while I was a kid. I suppose you could say we were relatively safe. There are several islands in Lake Erie that one could think are populated to protect the mainland. The truth, however, is that those people are no more equipped to defend this country than anyone else is on the mainland.

Therefore, if President Bush wants to say that the oceans are protecting us, he has that right under our First Amendment. The problem is that his First Amdendment rights stop where mine, and yours, begins. Thus, the real answer to his riddle is this: water is not an easy thing to conquer, but this also is not the age of Magellan and Columbus. Anyone with enough dough can buy a submarine. Do they make them for shallow water? I don't know, but there are other methods one can use to sail from The Atlantic to The Great Lakes. Given that only five percent of all of our ports' cargo gets checked these days, it seems safe to say that that other ninety-five percent could make its way to my hometown of Port Clinton, and no one in Washington, D. C., would have a clue it existed.

So, Mr. President, given that your family has a seaside retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine, do you think that maybe you could stop trying to treat me, and everyone else on our nation's bodies of water, like we're complete fools? By the way, from where I sit in Arizona, it's about a ten hour drive to Los Angeles. That's another major port of entry. How safe do our oceans make us? Hmmm? Oh, yeah, that's right. You're not necessarily in business to tell us the truth. What else is new?

Monday, March 20, 2006

In Memory Of...

This past Saturday was seven months, to the day, since my grandmother passed away. On this day, my grandfather began his final battle for life -- a battle he would lose in the early hours of yesterday morning.

I had the priviliedge of spending a portion of Saturday evening taking a break from the emotions, the machines, the monitors, and the struggles of old age via a gathering around a campfire, courtesy my Toastmasters friend, John. After eating some bratwurst, we settled around the fire and listened to stories. I started off reading Edgar Allen Poe's short story Morella. It was a haunting tale of a man that settled for a woman who haunted him throughout her life with her grim outlook, German philosophies, and gloomy disposition. She died during childbirth and left him a daughter who, through the genius of fantasy, grew terribly fast and became a spitting image of her mother, in every conceivable way, including her morose personality. The child was named, after years of searching for a name, Morella, and died thereafter, only to be entombed next to the mother. The story was fitting for a fire, and, although I nearly lost my eyesight squinting into the reflecting firelight to read it, it was worth the effort. John told a similar, if slightly more lighthearted tale, and then we evolved into trying to create our own "story-in-the-round." There were references to all sorts of silly, and serious, things: the Texas brush fires, Napoleon's second coming, the devastation of Katrina, needing to "clean up," Morella, ghostly children, and, of course, little green men (What is a good ghost story around a campfire without little green men?).

The highlight of my evening, besides the company and the stories, was an all too brief conversation with Louis Hodges, Professor Emeritus of Ethics in Journalism at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. Hodges, not only an astute journalist but also a very fine horseshoe competitor, and I discussed today's problems in journalism. Two important topics came up. The first was the idea that until the blogs, while noted, by me, that they're admirable in task, can come under an umbrella of editing by credible journalists of standing, they won't be entirely credible sources of information. The editors need to be present so that necessary fact checking can be done before information is disseminated into the mainstream of the Internet. I inferred that this goes for blogs on both sides of the political spectrum. The other issue was that too often all we get from journalists is conflict, and that politicians understand this is what drives ratings, particularly with television and radio news. As a result, journalism is often more about ratings and money than it is about presenting problems and their potential solutions, real news, to the public so that its members can make their own best choices using the given information.

I'll note here that I would like to have taken the time to get into a more in depth interview, however, given the circumstances, it was quite an opportunity. Noteworthy from our discussion was one more point: that anyone can be a journalist. If you can develop a sense of ethical conduct and stick to it while being sensitive to the people whom you interview, you can be a journalist. Writing well helps, but it's not the key, here.

I will leave you with these thoughts as I prepare for my grandfather's funeral on Wednesday. With the reminder that life does not last forever, and is precious, comes the idea of what is worth fighting for while we're on this earth. I hope that we can all find a new reserve and strength to keep soldiering on into that good night.

With love to my grandfather... "The Jokemaster of Sun City"...
May heaven smile upon your presence and the spirits laugh with you forever.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Counting Hillary Out Too Early?

Normally, I would not blog about Senator Clinton. There are plenty of people doing that already. Journalists are reviewing her Wal-Mart record relentlessly now, and Chris Matthews seems almost infatuated with her as he glorifies in picking apart any possibility she has of a presidential run in 2008. I stand firmly with those, including the Senator, herself, who see 2006 as a much bigger, more immediate conundrum. For readers who have missed it, while I disagree with her stances on Iraq, "flag burning," and at least the language she uses now on abortion, she has -- publicly and privately -- expressed anger at the lack of cohesion of her own party in standing up to President Bush and the rest of the Republican three-ring circus. If it wasn't for Iraq, the issue of where to draw the line with freedom of speech, and the notion that I don't want the government in my personal business, I would be behind her 100%.

But this is the problem for Hillary. We're forgetting that this nation has yet to elect a woman as president. And I really do mean forgetting. Here's the list of countries that have already had women in key positions of top leadership, whether prime ministerial or presidential, that come immediately to my mind: Israel, Ireland, Canada, Finland (with thanks to Conan O'Brien for the second term), Liberia, and now Chile. Two of them -- Liberia and Chile -- have done us the honors of placing women in these positions just in the last few months, alone. We are sorely lacking.

France has now adopted an equal pay law. France's women didn't get the right to vote until after ours did, but that nation has the equivalent of one of the tenants of the Equal Rights Amendment, and we don't. According to a recent Mother Jones Magazine article, women still make only $o.56 on every male dollar, unless we're raising children, in which case the number goes up to $0.80 (Can I hear the collective frustrated sigh of single women everywhere?). In another issue, they discuss the status of fighting domestic violence in this country, and the statistics are startling. The United States of America hasn't even ratified CEDAW. "The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, is often described as an international bill of rights for women. Consisting of a preamble and 30 articles, it defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination." One hundred eighty-two other nations have done so. Yes, that's right: 182. Our status on this list is embarrassing, and it should be.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is in a very difficult position: she has to prove herself on issues of foreign policy to people who wouldn't even follow a woman into battle, and she has to keep her head on straight, and I'm not talking about just appealing to the Democratic Party's base. Any woman considering running for our nation's highest office has quite an act to create. Make no mistake: I'm not condoning her positions on Iraq, flag burning, abortion, nor even a degree of her own silence in the face of some of the current administration's huge disasters, but I am calling this country on the carpet. We need only three states to pass the Equal Rights Amendment to get this ratified as an official amendment to The Constitution. There is precedent, via the 27th, for such a move, and I'm sitting in one of the states that ought to do it: Arizona (Governor Napolitano... post-re-election agenda priority number one). What the hell is it with this country that our women don't have this amendment as our foundation for freedom? Where's our light to shine to the rest of the world? Pardon my bluntness, hell... my boldness, but this is ridiculous. If Betty Ford, my favorite Republican ever, could back this amendment, and her husband could, too, what's stopping this country from adopting these two major bills into law, here, let alone electing a woman to our nation's highest office? This question is rhetorical. I don't expect an answer. I want you to think about it. Seriously. Even if you're a "feminist." I know from entrenched power structures in some of the most "liberal" places in the nation, personally. So, when my own interactions are sometimes questionable, it leaves a lot on the table to be desired.

It may well take a good November Congress cleaning in order for Hillary to feel that she has enough public support to say what she really thinks now. Can we blame her for this? I don't like it any more than anyone else, and I wonder if by speaking out now she would do more good than she perceives, including on issues like Iraq. We all know she's been walking the line with it for some time now.

Frankly, people who aren't "ready" to see a woman as president of this nation ought to be ashamed of themselves. This isn't a question of readiness. It's a question of faith, and I don't mean the Dobson kind. It's the type that requires us, individually, to revolutionize this nation; the sort of decision that could open way more doors for people than we think. For people, women, especially, who can't see themselves as part of a political movement (I Corinthians comes to mind, here), voting a woman into office is exactly the sort of individual act that could validate them, too, not just those of us who are "activists."

If we need Biblical precedent, then maybe Deborah should be given a second look. She wasn't just a "judge," she was that time's equivalent of a political leader. For all of my own complaints about religion, this is one story any religion has right. Can I get a few million: "Amen" and some votes? It's time to make a leap of faith, and, while we're at it, time to rethink just where we stand with Hillary. She's not perfect, but she is brilliant, and she has a cadre of the best political advisors in the nation at her side, including, yes, her husband. I'm keeping my eyes on 2006, but I have to admit that, with stakes this high, I just can't count Senator Clinton out this early for 2008.