Member since: Sun Aug 17, 2003, 11:39 PM
Number of posts: 56,185
Member since: Sun Aug 17, 2003, 11:39 PM
Number of posts: 56,185
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BBC Breaking News @BBCBreaking 5h
Nato-led troops hand over full control of combat operations in #Afghanistan to Afghan forces http://bbc.in/18UybA6
BuzzFeed News @BuzzFeedNews 5h
BREAKING: Afghan president says his armed forces now taking the lead for security around the country, @AP reports
The Associated Press @AP 5h
BREAKING: Afghan president says his armed forces now taking the lead for security around the country.
. . . the symbolic impact is profound. For the first time since the departure of Soviet forces in 1989 and the years of civil war that followed, security across the whole of Afghanistan is now the responsibility of forces led by the Afghan government.
Posted by bigtree | Tue Jun 18, 2013, 08:02 AM (5 replies)
The New York Times @nytimes 36m
Iran’s President-Elect Says He Wants Better U.S. Ties http://nyti.ms/11tn090
"To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq," Obama said . . . regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat . . .
Posted by bigtree | Mon Jun 17, 2013, 03:00 PM (2 replies)
Looking out this year at the magnificence of my garden yard, it's tempting to take an undue share of the credit for its vigorous and unprecedented growth. It's lushness that's developed over the 13 years I've been working on it betrays very little of the trials and deaths of countless would-be companions and allies I tried to mesh with this glad and busy assortment of perennials, shrubs, trees, vines and other volunteers gathered so close together in this well-established 'woodland' habitat.
Gone forever, from the front of the house, is that marvelously perfect lawn that I had maintained with pride at the highest height that I could set my favorite lawnmower. It was a gratuitous and patronizing notice in the mail from the neighborhood association that my lawn needed cutting (my favorite lawnmower had died) which gave me the resolve to eliminate it altogether; and fill the space with anything but the short, butchered grass which so improbably makes up the vast majority of the flora which is grown on the long, sloping front yards in our nature-filled community and is polluting our signature lakes like they were farmlands- with their excesses of nitrogen, potassium, and other grass-growing chemicals.
In place of my vanquished trophy lawn is a refuge of plants of like and different varieties; daylilies; hostas; iris; campamula; black-eyed susans; Asian lilies; snakeroot; sundrops; loosestrife; euonymous; lamium; strawflower; butterfly bushes; ferns; clematis; lirope; trumpet vine; oakleaf hydrangeas; climbing hydrangeas; hydranga-hydrangeas; kerria; Japanese maple; forest-pansy redbud; witch-hazel; Harry-Lauder walking stick; diverse assortment of viburnums; astilbe; virginia creeper; phlox; poppy; ajuga; sweet flag; sunflowers; monarda; comphrey; mint; perennial geraniums; vinca; sedum; mondo grasses; other ornamental grasses of various sizes; peonies; barberry; bayberry; beautyberry; oxalis; assortment of perennial hibiscus; chinese lantern; crepe myrtle; azaleas; firebushes; goldenrod; ballonflower; hechuera; dianthus; lobelia; and the rest of my rescued annuals which were fortunate enough (or, not) to spend the winter inside - all of this suburban habitat opportunistically assembled for my big and little animal friends to congregate and propagate amongst the tangle of leaf, flower, berry, and branch.
My new neighbor asked me how much water his yard would need to grow and prosper. I told him that plants will send up new growth to match the nourishment and sustenance you're able to provide. More water and food means more growth, so, you're then obliged to continue to nurture that growth at the risk of withdrawing that support and abandoning your sprouts to the ravages of the elements.
Are we actually caretakers in this menagerie, or, are we merely antagonists bent on shuffling and scrambling nature about for our own edification? In mostly all of the natural world, we find most species adapted to an almost routine pattern of survival which advantages itself of every other instinct and expression of the environment - taking a bit of nature for themselves, here and there; giving another bit back, in return.
Does that nature manifest itself in the fox who found refuge for the majority of the day last winter (and warmth) on top of the pile of composting leaves at the back of my yard?
Or is that nature the providence of the family of rabbits who live (and, presumably, are killed) in the burrows under the bank of day lilies facing our driveway - the rabbit family that was the subject of the fox's intense hunt that I witnessed one night from an upstairs window; the garden predator weaving back and forth through the dense growth of foliage to find his innocent quarry?
Are the deer who also time-shared the same cramped but accommodating space of refuge during the winter days - who now migrate through the yard and forage on every bit of nutritious foliage and flower they can find - friends or ultimate enemies of this arranged habitat?
Is the hawk less welcome atop the heights of the dead pine in back than the chipmunks who perform their death-defying feats of seeming mischief and frivolity with little visible worry or fear of the threat from above?
Would that we could all be as enthusiastic and grateful for nature as the lowly caterpillar which has suddenly been transformed from a grub into a fluttering butterfly - able, at last, to explore and take advantage of the riches of nature from one garden to the next.
Maybe the ephemeral life of a butterfly wouldn't be such a smart trade-off. There's nothing at all which will ever completely ingratiate the former leaf-eater on a forced, slimmed-down diet with his nurtured, pollinated hosts. Yet, nature, by its own design, attracts and invites the obliging butterfly to become a vital and integral partner in the perpetuation of an important bit of what we call life on this planet.
Poet, John Ashbery ('Some Trees'), describes the accommodating mix of menagerie and flora as an arrangement of chance and opportunity:
These are amazing: each
It is hard, but, not impossible, to imagine that all of this magnificence around us would occur without some hand in singling out new sprouts and nurturing, protecting, refereeing among their neighbors, and helping them take full advantage of the light, water, and nourishment that nature obligingly provides. Caretaking and nurturing them is as intimate as we humans can be with these miracles of nature, unable as we are to just root ourselves in the dirt and prosper like they do; plant our own feet that firmly in the ground and we would surely rot away with time.
Posted by bigtree | Thu Jun 13, 2013, 02:56 PM (22 replies)
Connie Picciotto has kept vigil near the White House for 32 years. Why, and at what cost?
____ The historic vigil began officially on June 3, 1981, when Connie joined William Thomas, a protester who had positioned himself outside the White House gates with a hand-lettered sign: “Wanted — Wisdom and Honesty.”
Connie, a former embassy secretary in New York who was working as a part-time nanny for a local family, had come to Washington to plead for the government’s help with a family crisis. Thomas (he was known to everyone by his last name) was a self-described philosopher, a wanderer who had dropped out of high school, pilgrimaged overseas and held odd jobs in New York and New Jersey before winding up in Washington . . .
She sat down beside him. Within hours, they were arrested for illegally camping in Lafayette Square. When they were released, Thomas told her, “Since we are both seeking peace and justice, we should become a team.” So they did.
William Thomas in 2006. (Kevin Clark)
Connie had read about nuclear issues and had been horrified by photographs of the aftermath of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. She adopted Thomas’s message as her own: They were pro-peace, anti-nuclear proliferation and anti-government deception. They dedicated their lives to their cause, which mostly meant that they would sit across the street from one of the most powerful buildings in the free world and talk to the visitors who came by, hand out literature and display their signs. They would do this night and day, in freezing cold and scorching heat, through rains that soaked their clothes and winds that scattered their pamphlets across the pavement. They had only their flimsy umbrella-shelter for protection; actual tents had been banned in the park___
Connie and Thomas believed that changing even a handful of minds through their signs, their words was enough. Their endurance alone would be a powerful testament, an ever-present symbol of the need for change . . .
read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/feature/wp/2013/05/02/connie-picciotto-has-kept-vigil-near-the-white-house-for-32-years-why-and-at-what-cost/?tid=ts_carousel
Connie in her basement apartment at Peace House. (Bill O’Leary)
( . . . I was just a naive and idealistic teen when I first saw Connie out in front of the WH waking up protestors who, at that time, had their protest signs arranged as a lean-to shelter against the White House gates - offering them coffee and food that she had brought. I was in awe of this incredible lady then; in awe of her throughout every WH protest that I bothered to go down and attend; and very proud to see her still standing there. Thanks, Connie, for all you do!)
Posted by bigtree | Sat May 4, 2013, 09:24 AM (12 replies)
Democratic principles need to dominate the political arena, not sidle up beside republicans looking for some reciprocal grope. Republicanism is not just an opposition party, it is a dangerous and destructive philosophy. Put into practice, it is naked corporatism, unquenchable militarism, unashamed discrimination, and anti-democratic tyranny. This republican class who is in power right now is the worst in my lifetime; nothing but a front for their corporate masters.
They are putting our nation at risk and threatening the health of the earth itself. This shouldn't be just a battle to just sit a couple of rungs above them. They need to be disenfranchised from successfully promoting and furthering their agenda.
"Reaching out" to them will be regarded by these thugs as acceptance and acquiescence. They need to be taken down, and their supporters need to understand we're not willing to subject the nation, any more, to the consequences of the republican party's elaborate con job masquerading as policy.
We shouldn't pretend that there aren't specific issues which form a dividing line. Most of these, on the Democratic side, are long standing efforts to provide basic needs and to uphold or establish basic rights which the republicans obstruct with whatever position or strategy suits the moment, often completely running over their previous philosophy, like their former objections to 'nation-building', or conservatives' former support of privacy rights.
What the President seems to be unaware of, is that many of the compromises he's seeking may well make sense in the political arena - like clearing some untidy backlog of unfinished business. Yet, most of those compromises threaten divide many in the country from the Democratic party which has pledged, and fought to support and defend these opportunistically-discarded initiatives in the past. That 'partisanship' was a NECESSARY response to republican obstructionism.
These days, our party doesn't have a progressive agenda; it has a timid and defensive one in the face of an extreme republican opposition, and I reject any implication that our Democratic politics has EVER been unnecessarily confrontational. These 'lifelong republicans' need to be CHALLENGED and discredited when they try and push their obstructionist, industry enabling agenda, not mollycoddled.
bigtree in 2008:
I can see the republicans standing with President Obama . . .
. . . granted, I was just supporting another insider pol (Clinton) at the time, against Barack Obama, but, she had pledged to fight republicans, if she became president. Who knows if that would have been the better political choice?
Who cares? Here we are. This President is still pledging to keep on 'reaching out' to this oblivious republican opposition; still insisting that the worst of them is, somehow, 'concerned about all people in America.'
Obama promised to continue his charm offensive aimed at Republicans
Posted by bigtree | Thu Apr 25, 2013, 09:30 AM (22 replies)
tweeted by, petesouza @petesouza (Senior WH photographer)11m
Phot of POTUS mtg w FBI Dir Mueller et al: http://bit.ly/119Paro
President Barack Obama receives an update on the explosions that occurred in Boston, in the Oval Office, April 16, 2013. Seated, from left, are: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; Tony Blinken, Deputy National Security Advisor; Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor to the Vice President; Attorney General Eric Holder; Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; and FBI Director Robert Mueller. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Posted by bigtree | Tue Apr 16, 2013, 02:27 PM (2 replies)
Is there even a remote chance that there will be some budget bill that comes out of the Senate that includes Social Security cuts for beneficiaries; much less, any other aspect of the program?
Wouldn't the President be acutely aware of that opposition? I can't see any scenario where President Obama tries to force Senate Democrats to adopt chained cpi; or any thing else that cut SS. Those types of items in the President's budget won't get past committee, and I can't see Reid allowing anything like these reported proposals of the President getting anywhere near the Senate floor for a vote.
That's why I think the discussion today is focused on whether these are serious proposals, or just a bluff in an ongoing negotiation with a functionally deaf opposition party. Hasn't the consensus been for MONTHS that chained cpi and other SS cuts were DOA in the Senate? Haven't enough Democrats signaled they were determined to block these, if they came before them?
I'm pretty sure that's the case. For me, knowing that (or believing that) would make it superfluous and a bit silly to act shocked and dismayed that he'd actually include these cuts in his budget proposal. They've been on the WH website for months now.
I get two impressions from the fury and gravity of the criticisms of the President since the report that his budget would include these cuts. First, there is a correct and necessary pushback from 'cpi' opponents which is well-advantaged by the spotlight the President has put on his proposals. He has to realize both the opposition and the virtual unreality of his initiatives. He's definitely hearing a boatload of criticism from supporters and detractors, alike. I don't imagine, for a minute, that he's expecting to broach that level of opposition from his own party. I could be wrong, but that would appear to be a losing battle.
Secondly, there are merely proposals. I wonder if folks realize just how many of the WH budget proposals are regularly ignored when congress fashions their legislation. I've said from the beginning of these negotiations that Congress would be the indicator on any sequester deal; not the President, no matter what he and the republican opposition agree to.
Look to the Capitol to measure the impact on seniors, etc.. Lobby Congress and the Senate to shape the outcome of any sequester compromise (if there is to be one). Focusing criticisms on the President may well be good politics, good practice, but he's not as pressed by our votes anymore; legislators are the ones in the hot seats on this. They need to hear from us. The WH, less so, imo.
On the substance . . . where do I stand?
The President has as much of a chance of getting a full compliment of what he wants from republicans as he does insisting and extracting revenue from them. He's looking to compromise to resolve 'core disputes?' That's some rookie shit there. With budgets, you either get what you want at first bite, or accept getting shafted in the future by succeeding Congresses. It's no wonder so many are using the term 'sold out.' Very few have any faith at all in Washington doing what it takes to preserve our social safety net, much less enhance it. We all know who is going to be the ultimate beneficiaries of belt-tightening; the rest of the government largess, not the poor and working class. We starve off of these compromises, while they experience a slight bit of temporary indigestion.
It's a foolish proposal, to target already vulnerable and much in-demand programs for cuts to continue to pay for the rest of the bloated, privileged mess. It's a kick in the shin, right now, when those elements (people) of our society have already sacrificed so much. In fact, in this sequester, it is that faction of Americans who are already feeling the pinch of this deliberate republican embezzlement. I don't think it's too much to ask that the president fights that battle before he comes to us with his hat in his hand.
I daresay, if he'd fight and win that battle to end the wealthy and corporate privilege gained from our hard-earned contributions to government, he wouldn't have a need to make the poor and working-class accountable for this deliberate mess Congress has engineered for decades now.
Posted by bigtree | Sat Apr 6, 2013, 10:09 AM (4 replies)
First lady Michelle Obama plants spinach as she talks with fifth grader Ariana Docanto, right, from Arthur D. Healey School in Somerville, Mass., during the spring planting of the White House garden, Thursday, April 4, 2013, at the White House in Washington. (photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
First Lady Michelle Obama was assisted by green-fingered students as she planted lettuce and other crops in the White House garden for spring.
Michelle Obama hands Bread Wheat seeds to Ariana Docanto, a 5th grader at the Arthur D. Healey School in Somerville. Associated Press photo
The first lady on Thursday planted lettuce and other crops in her garden on the South Lawn of the White House, with an assist from schoolchildren from Washington, D.C., and several school districts around the country. Two varieties of wheat were planted for the first time: club wheat and bread wheat.
First lady Michelle Obama plants spinach with Nolan Deep, left, from Milton Elementary School in Milton, Vt., and Kaila Bourne, right, from Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Technology Academy in Knoxville, Tenn., during the spring planting of the White House garden, Thursday, April 4, 2013, at the White House in Washington. (photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Michelle Obama hands Bread Wheat seeds to Ariana Docanto, a 5th grader at the Arthur D. Healey School in Somerville. Associated Press photo
Two varieties of wheat were planted for the first time: club wheat and bread wheat.
First lady Michelle Obama smoothes out the dirt as she plants wheat seedlings with fifth graders Ariana Docanto, right, from Arthur D. Healey School in Somerville, Mass., and Emilio Vega, left, from Benjamin David Gullett Elementary School in Bradenton, Fla., during the spring planting of the White House garden, Thursday, April 4, 2013, at the White House in Washington. (photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Pablo Martinez Monsivais
few more pics here: http://theobamadiary.com/2013/04/04/its-gardening-time/
Posted by bigtree | Fri Apr 5, 2013, 10:02 AM (6 replies)
tweeted by, Jason L. Sparks @sparksjls 1h
They see me rollin, they hatin. pic.twitter.com/OpjHBllol0
Posted by bigtree | Sat Mar 30, 2013, 11:22 AM (9 replies)
(This is a re-post of mine from earlier years . . . hope it's not too familiar. I crave posting it this time of year - like a drug)
I remember Easter as a child. Mom would take us to Charleston, West Virginia every year to visit my grandfather for the Spring holiday.
Granddad lived in a huge two story house off of Main Street, and there, he rented out the upstairs to a few folks that I never really saw much, and a room off of his kitchen where a dapper garbage man slept. Granddad was a short, strong man, dark as night, with a hearing aid for his deafness that happened when he worked in the glass factory after WWI. He'd turn it down when my mom would lecture him about something or another, and whenever he fell asleep in his red reclining chair with the red duct tape covering the cracks, while he watched the baseball game turned up way loud. He'd wake up every now and then to spit his tobacco in his brown ceramic spittoon and record the score on his TV guide.
Bobo, his faithful mixed border collie who would bark whenever the phone rang or the door chimed, laid and slept by his side as he slept. Bobo would never fail to bite me almost every visit, sending me three times to the doctor for stitches, the last time after taking the other half of a cookie I gave him from my hand. Besides that, nothing much at all happened in that town for us young ones. The biggest thing was when the huge car carrier pulled up on the other side of the street. My sister and I would run outside on the porch and sit on that rough painted metal rocking chair and bench and watch as the man unloaded the new cars one by one until the very last.
Charleston was like a large retirement community to me, with a Dairy Queen where I sometimes got to go to by myself to get mom her butter almond, and an sweltering, all night laundromat where we sometimes went after dark to wash our clothes and beg Mom for one of the prizes in the bubble gum machine; or, maybe a handful of stale peanuts for a nickle from the other dispenser.
There were a bevy of old relatives who Mom would take us to visit - walking for endless miles through town, in the heat, in our new spring wear. There was a lady with who had been stuck in bed for years (I never saw her get up) who was always in her nightgown and robe. Mom said she tried to get up one morning and found she couldn't walk. She was a kind woman with several pictures of Jesus on the wall. There was a lady who took care of her who had a huge goiter on her neck. The bedridden lady always gave my sister and I some change before we left.
Then, there was Mrs. Gilmore (a recognized civil rights leader) who lived in a huge brownstone with a funeral parlor in the basement that her husband had left her. Everyone in town brought her their business when someone passed away. She had a wide painted smile with her hair pulled back so tight that it seemed stuck on. She had long fingers with the longest nails I had ever seen and she would gesture when she spoke with the extra long cigarette holder she had delicately wedged between two of them. Mom would take us to visit and I'd fiddle with a crystal ball she had brought back from a visit to Russia to try and conjure up the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz in the translucent glass. Years after she died the National Park Service made her spooky home a landmark because of her work as an activist in Charleston and elsewhere.
There was Annie Joe, my mom's best friend who would do her hair with the hot combs heated on the kitchen stove, and her mom, Cousin Gussy and Uncle Moore who lived across the Kanawha bridge in one of a suite of plaster houses with sunken floors. They had two trees with white washed trunks and red mites that crawled up and down. We'd salt the slugs on the walkway for fun and climb the trees to wait for them to shrivel. The railroad tracks were just a few feet from the house and the train would barrel by occasionally. We'd leave pennies on the track and collect them flattened when the train rolled over them. Gussy would cook up a Sunday meal that I'll never forget with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and greens that would melt in your mouth while Mr. Moore watched the ball game.
Bobo, in Granddad's living room
Easter Sunday was a great pain for a small kid like me. Mom was a terror as she got us ready for church. She'd scrub me, brush my hair raw, and dress me in this powder blue, Lord Fauntleroy suit with shorts and a beanie cap. She'd hustle us outside as Granddad carefully backed his gold Oldsmobile out of the garage with the shed on the side which had a ton of pipe parts, motor parts, nuts and bolts and everything wonderful. There was a shack in the back and a couple of run-down homes surrounding his three floor boarding house where poor folks improbably survived on next to nothing.
I smoked my first cigarette in that shed one Sunday before church, one of Granddad's Pall Malls without a filter . . .
Granddad would stop and open the wide gate he had built at the end of the long driveway (with pipe parts) which had a pulley and a rope with a brick tied on that slowly shut the gate by itself until it clicked surely into its handmade latch. The front gate also closed by itself, but with an entirely different pulley and weight arrangement he had designed. I'd always look back out of the window of the Olds to see whether that would be the day that it failed to close. It always clicked shut, though.
We'd arrive early at the First Baptist Church and sit in the pew as the parishioners would stream in. First Baptist was a huge church with a wall of stained glass windows on both sides and a pulpit that towered above us all with room for its large choir. The church on Easter Sunday was always packed full and humming from the rich, sickly perfume of the women there. The smell was unbelievable. And the hats . . . wide brimmed monstrosities with feathers and such, atop processes and wigs.
There was this one large lady who owned and lived in a dubious consignment shop along Main Street with a few dust-covered ceramic figurines and plastic flowers on the window shelf who would always arrive at the last minute. She'd saunter down the aisle with her silver tipped cane, and her hat was always the largest, most outlandish one there, with fake birds, fruits or something amazing on top. She'd make her way down to her reserved seat in the front row. She was the only holy roller I think that was allowed in First Baptist. I understood that she had been informed that she'd have to tone down her shouts of praise to the Lord which, nonetheless, still echoed through the hall at several key points in the service.
Granddad always left us to take his place up front. He was a longtime deacon who would fully memorize the passage he would get to read before the congregation. I'd be stuck on that hard bench for the full 3 hours that the service ran on Easter Sunday. Mom would do her best to keep me still and quiet throughout the service with gum, or some starlight mints and butterscotch candies. A few of the stained glass windows swung open to let in whatever breeze could be had, but it was always sweltering hot. Almost everyone (but me) had a hand fan with a wooden handle and a picture of Jesus and a lamb on the front and a picture of the church on back. You could hear the fwap, fwap of the parishioners waving them back and forth in vain attempts to ward off the heat. I always fell asleep several times throughout, taking advantage of Mom's arm, probably the only time that she didn't terrify me.
The First Baptist Church was led by the Reverend Moses Newsome, a towering, light-skinned black man with a deep baritone and kind eyes. He would lead the congregation through prayers, through acknowledgments and death and sick mentions. He would stop in between and sit as the choir belted out some rollicking gospel tune, rocking, bobbing, and clapping their hands in unison as they rocked the house. They had an unbelievable sound. And folks would rock along with them. There was nothing subtle about the choir. They were loud and righteous. Whew! The one holy-roller up front would be on her feet, shouting out, " Praise glory!" she would cry. "Thank you Jesus!"
Then came the sermon. One hour long. An eternity. I'd have a sore butt by then and the candy just wouldn't cut it anymore. Reverend Newsome would speak in a low, measured tone as he counseled the congregation on the vestiges of evil and the virtues of good. His long arms reached out from under his flowing robe and he firmly grasped the lectern on both ends as he glared down on the flock. Sweat poured off of his freckled brow while he cautioned us about the Devil and warned us to look everywhere for Christ's coming.
Somewhere near the end, you would get a whiff of the food cooking in the church kitchen for after the service. The smell of fried chicken and gravy, beans, cornbread, and greens wafted uncontrolled into the great hall. Folks got restless, but they were mostly patient and still until, at once, the Reverend's voice would rise to a fevered timbre as he brought on the end of his sermon. Folks would shift in their seats and sit upright again as the Reverend boomed out his ending.
Then came the benediction, that wonderful benediction that signaled the end of the service. And then it was over. There were Easter baskets full of jellybeans and chocolate waiting at home, and the sun was shining full outside as we filed past Reverend Newsome and he grasped my small hand with his giant, coffee-colored, soft ones.
"You be good now, you hear?" the Reverend would say. "I'll be good sir." I'd answer, as I pushed out into the Spring air to soak up another Easter in Charleston.
Posted by bigtree | Sat Mar 30, 2013, 09:10 AM (18 replies)