Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I had to wait at a couple of bus stops on my way home. It turns out it really is quite cold -- cold enough so I zipped my parka all the way up and tightened the hood around my face, till only my nose and my eyes behind glasses were exposed. That wasn't enough at the second bus stop, I had to pull a wool scarf over my nose, which meant my glasses fogged up. But I saw the bus.

This is the way Minnesota winters should be. The cities look right, the sky bright, banks of snow along the streets, people bundled up and exhaling clouds of vapor.


I held this post for a week, not being sure what exactly I wanted to say; and not liking fights. Talking about Israel is a good way to get into fights.

I am horrified by the current Israeli attack on Gaza, which was timed for just before the Israeli elections, a way for the ruling party to show they are tough on Arabs, which is the way to win elections in Israel. As you doubtless know, the Gaza Strip has been blockaded, leaving the people without adequate food, water, fuel and medical supplies. The Dignity, a ship from Cyprus carrying medical supplies and doctors to the Strip, was rammed and shot at by the Israeli navy in international waters and had to limp to safety in Tyre. I read one report that said people in Gaza are gathering grass to eat.

Journalists and outside observers have not been allowed into Gaza, presumably to keep the world from learning what is happening there.

We do know the following. The children are malnourished. Many have lost hearing due to sonic booms, as the Israeli air force flies over and over, deliberately causing the deafening noise. (Imagine living with repeated sonic booms. Loud noise can be torture.) 50% of the children see no reason to live, according to one study.

One fifth of all US foreign aid goes to Israel. Three billion dollars a year,according to a report I read yesterday. This isn't a lot of money in an era when we give tens of billions of dollars to bankrupt banks, and when we are talking about an 800 billion dollar stimulus package for the US economy. But it's more than the US is giving to any other country, including the desperately poor countries of Africa.

Most of the aid is military aid. We are paying for the weapons used against the Dignity and the children of Gaza.

Don't write comments telling me about Palestinian crimes. I'm not interested. People who are oppressed and desperate will strike back. It's human nature. When the Dakota were starving on their reservations during the Civil War -- when the agent responsible for their welfare said, "Let them eat grass" -- they rose up, and innocent people died, along with the guilty. (The Indian agent was killed and his mouth stuffed full of grass. I'd put him down as one of the guilty dead.)

What should be done?

Tell the US government we don't like the way our money is being spent. Phone or email your congresspeople. American politicians are firmly committed to Israel, but 70% of the American people think the US should not be taking sides. We need to remind the politicians over and over that they are not representing the voters on this issue.

Give to organizations that are helping the Palestinians or trying to get their story to the world. The Middle East Children's Alliance is one. The Electronic Intifada is another.

Refuse to buy anything from Israel.

Encourage the organizations to which you belong to consider divesting any investments they have in Israel and Israeli businesses.

Stand up for people who are harassed because they criticize Israel.

There are many places to go for more information. There is an essay by Richard Falk online in The Huffington Post. It's worth reading. Falk is the UN's rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Territories.

Best Wishes for the New Year

It's -7 Fahrenheit, cold enough so the snow crunches underfoot and under the wheels of cars, but not so cold that the snow squeaks.

As I have mentioned before, my mood goes down in the dark time of year; and it has done its usual descent this year. But we're past the winter solstice, and the days are beginning to lengthen.

It's been a good winter thus far, cold enough so snow stays on the ground, and enough snow so the plowed up banks are pretty high. If I'm going to have to endure short days, I want a white snow cover as well, reflecting what sunlight there is, making the short days bright.

Best wishes for the new year, which is not starting well with the attack on Gaza. But we will be rid of Bush in 20 days, and with luck and grit Obama may be able to get something useful done for the country and the planet.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


It's been snowing recently -- all day on Sunday and Monday afternoon, and the temp is cold enough so the snow has stayed on the ground. This morning I woke to the scraping and beeping of snow plows at work. It's a good, old-time, reassuring sound. Civilization continues to exist. The government is doing its work. The roads will be clear.

Lying in bed, I began to think about cold mornings when I was a kid. Our house had electric heat, and some mornings -- after storms -- the power was out. Our parents would build a fire in the living room fireplace, and we'd get dressed by firelight. I can't remember for sure, but I think we had a gas stove, so our mother could make a hot breakfast.

The way I remember those winters is -- they were much colder than now, and there was lots of snow. Of course, I was shorter, so the snow drifts looked taller.

Hard winters make you appreciate the work that governments do. When there's a snow fall, and the plows come out, three of them in an angled row like half a flying v, clearing the freeway -- you think, maybe there is something to be said for the social compact.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


We've had several days of bright, clear skies, but new weather must be moving in. Today it's partly cloudy. We have some snow, which is staying on the ground now, making the slopes along the freeway mostly white.

Patrick and I had a quiet Thanksgiving at home. The day after, we drove south along the Mississippi. We saw an adult bald eagle flying over the river in St. Paul, its white head and tail brilliant in the sunlight. Farther south, we saw a redtailed hawk hunting along the highway; and another hawk -- not a redtail -- sitting on a phone line and teetering.

We stopped in a gallery we really like in Pepin, Wisconsin, and Pat bought my Christmas present.

We've been taking a look at our next year budget at work, since the economy does not look good. My position will be cut to three days a week, which will mean more time for writing. I've done my own personal budget, and I can get by.

Other than that, I'm watching the world economy collapse. It's like a slow motion landslide or avalanche. There's a fall, then a moment or two of settling, then another slow shifting of the terrain and another slide down.

This is an amazing situation. The world has huge problems, which require the mobilizing of huge resources -- global warming, environmental degredation, the abject poverty of billions of people, the need to create a sustainable world economy... and somehow, we have managed to take the wealth of the planet and put it into mountains of bad paper, which are even now collapsing...

And we are pouring gigantic amounts of money into bankrupt banks to try and keep the mountains of bad paper standing...

I think I'm beginning to mix metaphors.