Politics by Barbara_Donnelly_Lane
Thoughts about tolerance - and breastfeeding
December 12, 2013 03:30 PM | 30475 views | 0 0 comments | 1080 1080 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

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Thoughts about tolerance - and breastfeeding
by Barbara_Donnelly_Lane
December 12, 2013 03:27 PM | 760 views | 1 1 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Supermodel Gisele Bundchen has said there should be a worldwide law that forces women to breastfeed until their babies are six months old.  She more recently shared in USmagazine a somewhat immodest photo of herself with a team of people working to make her gorgeous, even as her latched-on baby continued to enjoy breakfast. 

For me, Giselle’s advocacy has prompted some thought about bigger questions of tolerance—and what that word practically means—within our society.    

First, there has been a huge movement within the United States to make breastfeeding in public more acceptable.  It's a natural thing to do.  Of course breastfeeding mothers should be accommodated in public. 

But if a man (or woman) thinks this very intimate action should be done discreetly, does that make him (or her) intolerant of breastfeeding?  Would it have been okay for that man shown curling Giselle’s hair in the US photograph—eyes directed at the back of Giselle’s head—to ask Giselle to take a moment to tend to her child before he continued his work?  

I suspect that the lactating billionaire might not have felt very sympathetic—or shown much tolerance—for the feelings behind such a request.  

Conversely, if a woman other than Giselle chooses to not breastfeed for any reason, does that make her a bad mother?  Should she be forced to make a different choice when few dispute breast milk offers massive benefits for babies? 

I think Giselle Bundchen would say women reaching for bottles are hurting their children.

Furthermore, though she has modified her public statements to no longer condemn those women who don’t breastfeed, I suspect the private Gisele still feels not only completely in the right on this issue but smugly justified when judging people with whom she disagrees. 

Remember.  She once wanted to codify her opinion!

Ultimately, whatever one thinks about her methods, Giselle has sparked an interesting and vigorous debate about breastfeeding, which is productive enough. 

But how would one feel if suddenly Giselle convinced the government to support her view and breastfeeding became a requirement of parenting? 

What do we call it when changes that challenge core beliefs about choice are foisted upon people by their own government? 

For a different example, though some people think their views are practically “medieval,” is it okay for the owners of Hobby Lobby to not pay for a morning after pill in the health insurance policies they are told they must carry for their employees?   

This calls to mind one of the most thought provoking texts I’ve encountered in graduate school.  In her book Charitable Hatred, Alexandra Walsham considers some of the religious views of people who inhabited early modern England and the implications for free thought. 

Once upon a time, people in power would burn an individual at the stake in an attempt to change his mind about the most important questions of the day, those that dealt with his salvation.  This was right versus wrong!   If a man had to go up in flames to save his soul—or to stop him from corrupting the souls of others—then so be it.

The zealous destruction of individual deviants from the monarch-endorsed opinion was completely justified—even considered a kindness—in the minds of those who stoked the flames. 

Fortunately religious (and intellectual) freedom in England evolved out of public burnings.  But becoming more "tolerant" for those early modern groups did not mean becoming more “accepting.” 

For a complex society to work and continue to expand, it was very important for people who made different judgments to show tolerance of others with whom they disagreed.  This didn’t mean that they didn’t still hate each other’s beliefs.    

Just to clarify, I’m not trying to suggest that Giselle Bundchen with her breastfeeding crusades—or healthcare mandates that have come down from on high—are equivalent to Mary Tudor ordering Hugh Latimer to be burned to death in Oxford!

I am trying to use a fairly benign example of a contemporary debate in the public square prompted by a super model to ask a few questions that have been asked for centuries. 

When do attempts at persuasion turn into impositions of opinion?  When do actions to further a political goal seen by many to undergird a moral right—i.e. the goodness of having healthy babies in a society or the goodness of having minimum standards for healthcare—turn into the practical oppression of individuals?

I don’t have the answer.  I simply feel it’s worth careful consideration. 

Those broader questions are actually more important than a celebrity’s opinions on any one issue as conveyed through an image included in a glossy magazine. 

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Lib in Cobb
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December 20, 2013
Long before we came down from the canopy, mothers have been breast feeding. We humans, as we have been known for the last 4.5 million years have been breastfeeding. Those offended by discreet, in public breast feeding should pull their heads out of their backsides and understand that this is as natural as natural gets. I have seen many mothers breast feeding in public and every one has been discreet. Why are so many upset about breast feeding? No one is putting on a T & A show.

Is Texas Disenfranchising Women?
by Barbara_Donnelly_Lane
November 12, 2013 11:22 AM | 707 views | 3 3 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Many of my liberal friends seem to feel that I have moved to a draconian state in which women, minorities, old people, and probably vegetarians are being systematically disenfranchised as part of a mean Republican plot to win elections.

Of course, it was actually Democrats who once used the law to systematically disenfranchise large swaths of Southern voters, but there is no need to muddy the waters here with the historical record. Today I am only concerned with the horrible impositions the new Texas voter ID law has thrust in 2013 onto weak and easily confused women like me.

Here I detail for you my long-suffering experience.

First, if you were unaware that last Tuesday was an election day with various issues on ballots in states across the country—or you didn’t care—you would be like more than ninety percent of all Texans… and most Georgians. Off year elections have notoriously small turnouts because the issues can seem small.

In fact, in my new district in the Lone Star State, there were only a few constitutional amendments on the ballot along with a basic housing bond, which had already been voted down once in 2012 by the good citizens of Austin.

Now, I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds here, but that last item is germane to any discussion about how political groups—in this case, liberal—often subvert the will of voters. You see powers that support a special interest—like a housing bond—often quietly overturn the will of a majority without ever using anything so publicly demonized as a Voter ID. An apathetic electorate often disenfranchises itself when voters don’t continue to show up, as would be the case in Texas in 2013.

But perhaps I digress from my real focus: the scheming plots of those on the Right who want to undermine the will of women!

On November 5, making the effort to do my civic duty, I got into a short line at the appropriate poll. I pulled out my newly acquired Texas driver’s license. A man noted that my full name was on the voters’ roll, but it was not printed the exact same way on my official government-issued ID.

Was I then thrown out of the place? Told I should drop that pesky maiden name I do so love to bandy about? Not allowed to register my opinion?

No.

I was allowed to fill out a form so that my names would match up exactly in the future. Then I signed an affidavit that said I am, indeed, me. This whole process took an extra thirty seconds of my time before I entered a voting booth.

Incidentally, the guy who was in line directly behind me hadn’t spelled his middle name out on his license either. Perhaps a political party is conducting a war on tall white men in snappy beige blazers? (Alas! He managed to sign an affidavit, too.)

But what if I had shown up with a completely different surname on my driver’s license than the one I’d used to register to vote? I would have cast a provisional ballot and been given six days to return with proof of my identity for that vote to register.

Sure, such an eventuality would have been a pain in my shapely rumpus—as is changing all forms of government documentation like one’s social security card after getting married—but I like to think I would have muddled through it because it is important.

After all, I know women once stood in front of charging horses to gain the right to participate in the political process. It seems a little anticlimactic to me to make a big deal out of having to find my marriage license so I can vote, too.

Regardless, those on the Left who care so much about my trampled-upon interests can put their minds at ease. Whew! Voter ID or not, I figured out how to cast my vote. I’ll continue to do so… even in future elections in which liberal candidates who deploy the demagogic “war on women” mantra like Wendy Davis, for instance, might prefer a politically conservative woman like me to just stay home.

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Concerned Citizen
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November 21, 2013
As always, your comments have humor and show insight about important issues. I think that you are correct in your assessment that voter apathy is more dangerous than voter ID requirements.

A New Prince, a New Law, and the Abortion Debate
by Barbara_Donnelly_Lane
July 31, 2013 03:20 PM | 923 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Like many other people around the world who have no personal connection what-so-ever to Britain’s royal family, I tuned into the “hear ye, hear ye” excitement that accompanied the birth of the new prince.  The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge seem like a fine couple, and I wish them well as they embark on the amazing adventure of raising a child. 

However, as I am spending this summer within shouting distance of the Austin capital building where new limits have just been imposed on the practice of abortion in the state of Texas, the buzz about the birth in London got me thinking. 

When people were watching Kate’s “baby bump” grow—a highly chronicled event during which a lady’s belly was scrutinized on a practically daily basis—was that bump ever considered only tissue?   When did it stop being tissue and start being a prince?  How can so many Americans greet the life of a stranger with such joy and anticipation whilst calling any move to protect legions of the more common unborn as some sort of salvo in a war on women? 

To be fair, none of these questions have easy answers.

For many people who say they support “choice,” a baby does not exist at all until a baby draws breath on his or her own.   Therefore, when measures to stop conception fail, these folks feel the woman has simply been inflicted with a biological condition that changes her body and has little to do with new life.  Choosing to return to one’s original, physical state is about as morally complicated as taking an aspirin to disperse a headache. 

However, when one takes the position that a fetus is not a baby, it seems getting excited about a wanted pregnancy—such as that of the future king of the United Kingdom—as opposed to an unwanted pregnancy—such as the more than 1,000,000,000 fetuses that have been terminated world wide in just my own lifetime—requires a certain amount of doublethink. 

When a fetus begins to move, many people suddenly want to touch a woman’s belly and see if they can feel a kick.  I can imagine this was true about the Duchess of Cambridge as well.  The flutter that is noticeable for most women by sixteen weeks is viewed as the stirrings of life when a baby’s arrival is joyfully anticipated.  It is apparently dismissed as insignificant as gas when the baby is to be discarded.   

Here can be found the main divide that exists in the abortion debate. 

Those who believe in “choice” sincerely want women to have control over their bodies and futures.  Despite rhetoric sometimes deployed against them, their primary purpose is not to kill babies.  The vast majority of these people do not think life begins at conception.    Therefore, only the woman’s future should be considered when making any decisions about termination.   Even the father isn’t a significant decision maker because no one is talking about his child.  Those kicks at 16 weeks are involuntary spasms.  This mindset should not change simply because the baby is wanted.   A fetus is not a baby.           

On the other hand, there are a great many people who think that the miracle of procreation does not involve one body or soul but two bodies, two souls.   Despite rhetoric sometimes deployed against them, there is no desire to impose a life of servitude on a woman who does not want a child or who is not ready to support a baby.  There is simply a desire to protect the two people who are most impacted by an abortion.  Life begins at conception, and those kicks at 16 weeks are clear evidence of a separate human being.    

Though there are people who fall firmly in one camp or the other—pro-choice or pro-life—there are many more who form their opinions in gray zones.  They aren’t sure when life begins, but they feel the mother’s life should have more weight than the life of an embryo smaller than a kidney bean.   For them, there is a point in which an abortion is acceptable—especially under certain circumstances—and then there is a point at which it is not.  They do not want to defend abortion at all costs, but they tolerate it as necessary. 

When looking at the Texas legislation, the idea that abortions after 20 weeks—five months—is now illegal is a cause of celebration for anyone who views a fetus as a baby.  Of course pro-life advocates want to eradicate abortion all together.  Science has made the date of viability outside the womb much younger per any reckoning, but, again, pro-lifers consider the baby a baby from the beginning.  However, no matter when the magic “switch” from “tissue” to “baby” clicks in the minds of others, those in the “gray zone” can look at an ultrasound of a 20-week-old fetus and find a face.  The debate is no longer about an abstract by then for them either. 

Therefore, when arguing that a fetus is still just tissue and thus disposable, the pro-choice lobby seems radical to many.  It is also weak to say a woman cannot make a decision in this amount of time about how she will address her pregnancy.  The vast majority of abortions happen before 20-weeks anyway, so the desire to keep this delay legal seems to be a devaluing of life in the womb for more than just the pro-life lobby. 

Having said this, one should consider the impact of other restrictions on abortion clinics also in the Texas bill.  If abortion is regulated out of existence per lack of access, those in the “gray zone” might shift their opinion to supporting more pro-choice agencies because of an intrinsic ambivalence about when an embryo is a fetus is a baby.   For these folks, better balance between the two lobbies—pro-choice and pro-life—is the most essential outcome for the debate.

I also understand that whilst there are exceptions to the Texas bill for fetuses with severe anomalies, some medical professionals are concerned about physical issues that are not detectable for a mother until after 20 weeks that should be considered when taking into account the health of all involved and keeping options available for protecting an unborn child from what might be undue pain after birth.  Who would argue that this isn’t a legitimate problem?

Though I am personally, unapologetically and fervently pro-life, I think it’s important for reasonable people to recognize the different ground on which each side stands, the reasons why advocates feel the way that they feel and thus push with equal levels of passion for different laws.

On the left, there is primarily a hope that women can always control their own lives.  On the right, there is primarily a belief that the least of all human beings—the unwanted unborn and the handicapped—are as worthy of individual consideration as royalty.

It seems to me that both sides can be seen as springing from noble intentions.     

Regardless, when a new baby is celebrated—and a new law comes into being—there is another opportunity for Americans to think deeply about how one frames, understands, and feels about this very divisive issue.  Perhaps they can even work harder to identify points of common consensus.      

That sort of effort—to have discourse and consider all viewpoints—might be the healthiest choice of all. 

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The Kite Runner and Political Stability in Afghanistan
by Barbara_Donnelly_Lane
July 03, 2013 08:54 AM | 1587 views | 4 4 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
I recently had the pleasure of hearing Khaled Hosseini speak in Texas.   He is the author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.  His book And the Mountains Echoed was just published in 2013.  He has already sold more than thirty-eight million books worldwide.   Though a writer of fiction, he is uniquely positioned to offer keen insights into Afghanistan that should be heeded by other Americans. 

Hosseini was a doctor before he was a best selling novelist.  He was a writer in obscurity before he was a doctor.  Whilst he has lived most of his life in the United States, he was born in Afghanistan.  He was an Afghan before he was an American.Hosseini’s father was a diplomat; his mother taught Farsi, and he had a very pleasant childhood in Afghanistan.  But then there was a communist coup known as “the Saur” or “April Revolution.”  This was quickly followed by the Soviet invasion.   The occupation was a long and bloody one with Cold War implications, which attracted the attention of the United States.  

After his family was granted political asylum, a fifteen-year-old Hosseini started high school in California.  Adjusting to the culture of American dreams, he followed a traditional educational trajectory, which eventually led him to medical school. 

Somewhere along the way, drawing from the well within him, he wrote a short story called “The Kite Runner,” which he put in a yellow envelope and stored in a box in his garage.  It had been created for himself alone.  But then his wife found the envelope.  She liked the piece and encouraged revisions, so six months before 9/11 shook his adopted homeland to its core, Hosseini had begun crafting a novel set in two hemispheres. 

Khaled Hosseini’s work is vivid and powerful, but he understands his book partially struck a chord with the American public because of timing.  American sons and daughters were being deployed to Kabul as The Kite Runner was published.  Not only was it a great novel, there was a hunger to understand something more about a country so few could point to on a map.   Perhaps Afghanistan wasn’t just a harbor for hate.   Maybe there was humanity to find in the fiction. 

Hosseini continued to be a doctor for eighteen months after The Kite Runner was launched.  He did not see himself yet as the writer he clearly was even though patients started asking him for his signature during their check-ups.  Once he started seeing people reading his book on airplanes, he began to think that maybe a career in letters was possible.  Flipping channels one night, he saw his book was the answer to a question on Jeopardy.  He knew then it was time to resign from medicine.  

Hosseini’s talent has always been his own, but the opportunity to share that talent was a gift from the United States.  The stories that poured from him came from Afghanistan.  Today the writer gives back to both nations as a goodwill envoy for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Additionally, the Khaled Hosseini Foundation provides humanitarian assistance to refugees in one of the most war torn and poverty stricken countries on the face of the planet. Through his involvement, he is well positioned to have an opinion about that country’s future and American involvement within it.

First, he has always expressed a deep hatred for the Taliban and its totalitarian tactics.  He was happy when the Bush administration toppled this group from power.  However, he has been openly critical of what he felt was misguided neglect of Afghanistan after the Iraq invasion.  This criticism is fair. 

When asked about what he thinks will happen after American troops leave in 2014, he reminded the audience of which I was a part that the West has never had the power to change the Afghan people, but the exceptionally young population of Afghanistan is slowly changing itself.  The last twelve years have been very important in this process.  The Americans opened the opportunity for freedom, and this should not be overlooked or taken for granted.       

Even so, most are very frightened of the vacuum that will be left upon US withdrawal.  Afghans know the central government is weak.  Though support for foreign troops encamped on Afghan soil has eroded because of effective propaganda spread by the Taliban, collateral damage from drone strikes, and the natural eroding power of time, the Afghans themselves fear militia wars and chaos more than they fear anything else.   Yet he is certain no one wants the Taliban back in power. 

Hosseini did not address what he thought about the Obama administration including this group in negotiations, but he told the New York Times in May that “it’s really important that we don’t rush toward a resolution for the sake of having a resolution…”

I hope someone in the White House is at least considering what Hosseini is saying. 

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anonymous
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June 15, 2014
DUMMIES GUIDE TO ISLAM:

The average Westerner has virtually no idea of what Islam is about or how it works. You can probably get through life without extensive reading on the subject is you just remember that about 85% of Muslims are Sunni and 15% are Shia (Shii).

The Sunni view the Shia like the Indian Caste system regards 'untouchables', that is they have no use for them and except for a very few countries (Iran and Iraq being the main ones), they are marginalized, have poor employment prospects and are looked down on as being Muslim pretenders.

This dates back to the death of the Last Prophet and Messenger Muhammad in 862 when those now known as Sunni decided that the Caliphate to succeed as head of the Islamic religion would be the best and most knowledgeable of their faith and those now known as Shia wanted the Islamic leader to be a direct descendant of Muhammad.

This latter idea was complicated as Muhammad had no surviving sons, only a daughter and her husband who was also a cousin of Muhammad so the Shia's have recognized decedents from that linage. From here things got complicated but keep in mind that for over 1100 years each side has hated the other and this isn't about to change.

=============================================

Political Organizer Obama does one thing very well and that is he is able to 'do nothing' with the best of them. This Iraq dust up between Sunni and Shia is time for him to excell and again DO NOTHING. No, seriously, he should do NOTHING, take no side, bomb no one.

Just sit idly by and watch a bunch of idiots kill themselves. We have even thoughtfully provided nearly a Trillion bucks worth of arms, ammunition and vehicles so the Arabs and Persians can now gleefully play in their sand box and blow each other to whereever it is they go to when dead.



Look how successful we have been in both Libya and Syria with our 'do nothing' foreign policy. I admit that it is really just an accidental foreign policy, Obama is totally clueless on what to do, but that oddly has worked out pretty well in that there are now over 100,000 dead Arabs just in Syria and who knows how many in Libya and Iraq.

So Obama's unintended foreign policy of 'doing nothing' has actually born fruit for the West.

Libya and Syria have reduced themselves to rubble, Iraq is going that way and if we manage to keep our little pointy noses out of it they can kill each other for many more years to come.

A Grad Student in Cuba
by Barbara_Donnelly_Lane
June 13, 2013 01:24 PM | 1071 views | 2 2 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Cuba is a beautiful, crumbling country. Havana is lined with cars from a different era. Billboards proclaim the power of the Revolution, an ongoing struggle of more than fifty years that is to be protected and perpetuated rather than viewed as a settled conflict.

A ubiquitous Che Guevera in his one-starred beret stares down from the countless walls on which he’s been painted. He serves as an “ejemplo” for the common Cuban. He is the ideal, this guerrilla soldier who once earned the nickname “Butcher of La Cabana” in the “service” of his adopted people.

Lining political enemies up for execution, this hero of the Left once famously declared, “To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary. These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail.”

There is such irony in the t-shirts plastered with his face—this man mired in Marxist ideology—that are peddled today on ever corner of Havana. Then again, perhaps it’s a fitting legacy for this leader of the proletariat who died in Bolivia wearing a Rolex.

Regardless, after time in Cuba as part of a study abroad program, I feel as if I have witnessed some of the inarguable failings of Che’s vision.

Whilst fire trees flame Cuban streets with brilliant color, and there is a constitutional “right” in this worker’s paradise to healthcare and housing, poverty is gut wrenching and glaring. Buildings in which people live are literally falling down, as many as two a day in the capital city. Starving dogs roam the neighborhoods. Old people beg for soap from park benches.

Whose fault is this misery?

Our guide blamed the United States and the Cuban exile community in Miami for his country’s financial distresses. Of course, he also blamed the Bay of Pigs on Dwight Eisenhower and said the Cuban government never expropriated private property from any citizens unless they had chosen of their own free will to leave the island.

That’s a perspective, I guess.

Yet I concede it is true the long American embargo supported by many Cuban exiles has never fulfilled its purpose of removing the Castro brothers from power. In fact, in some ways, American policies have kept them breathing--sucking all the freedom off the island—because they can point to the “imperialists” up north who are perpetually blamed for policy failings.

For this reason alone it is worthwhile to pragmatically debate whether or not economic sanctions against Cuba should be maintained. But it’s also worthwhile to have a long, hard think on exactly what Cubans themselves have fostered without American intervention since the moment Castro’s 26th of July Movement was proclaimed victorious.

Here I would point to a striking mural painted behind a university that shows the “ninety-nine percent” pulling down a giant monster whose various parts are tattooed with the stock prices of the world’s most important companies.

When I saw this image so graphically proclaiming the anti-capitalism principles of this tiny nation, I immediately thought it would please Che Guevara. It would certainly inspire those Occupy Wall Street folks who once took over American parks to promote the same leveling tenants of Marxism that were the hallmark of Che’s Cuban Revolution… the message his face still carries when plastered onto billboards and clothing.

The problem is that once the “monster” has been pulled down—as happened in a very real way in Cuba—prosperity doesn’t rise up to replace it. Rather, there is simply a country of “equals” milling about in the rubble of glories past. And then there are the new monsters that lurk in the economically egalitarian shadows, the gnashing teeth of real repression that devour dissidents.

Richest—and most ironic of all, of course—is the fact that Raul Castro is now cautiously looking to markets, private property, and future corporate development to sustain Cuba’s future. He is widening the harbor with hopes of welcoming American cruise ships.

Perhaps this version of perestroika in the Caribbean will result in something better for those Cuban people who yearn for something more, who wouldn’t wear the Che t-shirt even if they had the money to buy it.

I truly hope so.

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Concerned Citizen
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June 14, 2013
What a wonderful opportunity you had to see what Cuba is like today. Thank you for sharing your viewpoint and experience in such a thoughtful way.

The Boston Marathon: What it Means to This Runner and How You Can Help
by Barbara_Donnelly_Lane
April 19, 2013 01:14 PM | 1340 views | 1 1 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
I started running in elementary school.  I was a severe asthmatic who spent much of my early life in emergency rooms or eating that horrible green Jell-O they serve you when you’re hospitalized.  This was the seventies, early eighties.  Each time I was released, doctors told my parents that I should just sit still and avoid playing outside if I wanted to stay healthy.  

Fortunately my parents were not good listeners.  

When I was nine or ten, they started signing the whole family up for fun runs.  My father and brother would race up front.  My mother and I would go a bit slower.  I always carried an inhaler.  We earned the t-shirts we’d wear the rest of the day after we crossed each finish line.   

It is hard to verbalize exactly what these runs meant for that child version of me, but for the first time in my life, I understood I wasn’t weak.       

Never a speed demon, I ended up on my cross-country team in high school.  When I went to Georgia Southern University as an undergraduate, I regularly pounded out an almost ritualized route that started every other day in Sweetheart Circle.  

No matter what was happening at any point in my life—like so many millions of others who have discovered the empowering nature of this sport—running has given me a sense of direction.  

My brother, a much more gifted athlete than I am, was the first to run a marathon.   He wore a hospital bracelet around for months so people would ask him about his health.  It was the opening he needed to explain that he was fine, but the kids for whom he was raising money weren’t.  He raised thousands of dollars for leukemia research and set an example for his little sister.  

Even so, I was married with a son before I started training for that kind of distance.  It takes an incredible amount of time, dedication and energy to get one’s body into the condition it needs to be to keep moving for twenty-six-point-two miles.  

On the big day, my whole family had traveled there to support me.  They moved to different places along the route in Virginia Beach to wave and yell and clap.  

When I was in the home stretch—when my legs felt like concrete and all I really wanted to do was lie down on the street and go to sleep—my brother was magically running beside me, encouraging me, telling me to find what I needed to finish my race, to prove to me that I could do whatever I wanted.  

It is hard to verbalize exactly what that first marathon meant for that young woman version of me, but for the first time in my life, I understood I was strong.    

So when terrorists—men who appear to have been radicalized Islamic fundamentalists engaged in sick and malicious jihad—attacked the Boston Marathon on Monday, I felt personally connected to the resulting misery.  I understood exactly what those runners were doing, how those people on the sidelines were lifting them up, how murderers were trying to rent the fabric of a loving, healthy community by instilling fear.   

Before the damage was even understood—while the crowd was still in chaos—I cried for the strangers I knew without knowing a single one of their names.  

And I got angry.

On April 16th, when a good friend who felt helpless in the face of such hate suggested we as a group do what we know how to do best—lace up our shoes and pound the pavement—go outside and log some miles to help “finish” the race for those whose marathons were cut short—for those who won’t be able to race again—the enthusiasm was instant.  

Neighbors posted their miles on Facebook.  My son went running on that same university campus in Statesboro where I ran so many years ago.  I had friends as far away as England who participated.  Perhaps it was only a symbolic gesture, but running itself is symbolic for runners: this sport that is so much about life endurance.  

So I ran as fast as I could for those who had to stop running, and I prayed.    

However, the story has not ended.  Nor will it ever end for those whose bodies were needlessly mangled by evil intent: those who were lost forever, and those who are left behind in pain.  

Sadly, I even discovered another kind of personal connection to this tragedy.  

You see, that brother I told you about is now an owner of the Charlotte Athletic Club.    As a result, he knows Michael and Nicole Gross well.  Michael is that club’s general manager, and Nicole—one of the country’s top tri-athletes—has worked at that club to help others meet their fitness goals.

Unfortunately, having traveled from North Carolina, they were standing with Nicole’s sister, Erika Brannock, a preschool teacher, waiting for Nicole and Erika’s mother to cross the finish line when they were caught in the first bomb blast.   Nicole and Erika were seriously injured, have already endured multiple surgeries, and will face a long recovery more challenging than any race they’ve ever run.  

Helping them in that recovery is more than symbolic.

If you can, please join the Charlotte Athletic Club team in support of the Gross and Brannock families.  One hundred percent of all money raised will go to their medical, physical and emotional support.  You can send checks made out to “Be Strong Stay Strong” to:

Be Strong Stay Strong

101 S Tryon St. #200

Charlotte, NC  28280

Then keep running because one thing is for certain.

We as a community—runners, Americans—are not weak.  We are strong.  And we will always endure.   

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Concerned Citizen
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April 20, 2013
Stay strong and continue running the good race. We all pray that those horribly injured in Boston will be able to run again. I have always been in awe of those soldiers who have lost limbs and who have continued running and setting the example for all of us.

Flipping the Coin on Benghazi: A Tragedy Under Bush
by Barbara_Donnelly_Lane
February 01, 2013 03:19 PM | 1744 views | 4 4 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

This scenario starts with George W. Bush running for his second term as president of the United States.  

After clear overtures of violence in an unstable region, an embassy is not fortified in any extra way on a date widely celebrated as a sacred moment of victory by a multitude of radical jihadists who harbor a death wish for the United States.

Nothing is unusual at that embassy until the night erupts with organized waves of men attacking a building that has not been adequately secured.  They flood into the compound with military precision and military grade weapons. 

An information management officer dies in a burning building.  An ambassador’s whereabouts are lost.  Staff from the embassy are removed to a CIA annex and eventually evacuated to undisclosed locations where even sitting senators will never be granted access to them again. 

In the early stages of the attack, President Bush meets with Donald Rumsfeld, but it is unclear how engaged he remains with the event as it unfolds.

The multi-location attack eventually spans the time it takes an average commercial flight to go from Atlanta to Europe—not from Europe to Africa—and only stops when the weak home government’s militia finally reinforces American defenders.

By then, two more Americans have been murdered.

The death of the ambassador is finally confirmed.

President Bush holds a conference in the Rose Garden.  After promising to bring the responsible killers to justice, he says, “We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification for this type of senseless violence.”  

These remarks tie the embassy attack with a badly produced YouTube video the administration has already identified via outlets like Fox News as shamefully denigrating Islam and causing protests in the Middle East. 

President Bush skips a daily intelligence briefing and flies to a fundraiser in Las Vegas. 

UN Ambassador John Bolton appears on the Sunday talk shows to state plainly that the video was the cause of the embassy attack.

The president of the country in which the attacked embassy was located refutes Bolton’s entire story as implausible and illogical.

President Bush and Condoleeza Rice meet four caskets flown home. Rice promises the families that the maker of the YouTube video will be arrested.

The filmmaker is, in fact, arrested and put in a jail cell where he remains.

CNN reveals its representatives—not American intelligence—retrieved the dead ambassador’s diary from the destroyed embassy. 

In a speech to the United Nations, President Bush says, “There should be no doubt that we will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice.”  After a tribute to Ambassador Chris Stevens, he talks about how a “crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world,” which perpetuates the connection between the embassy attack and YouTube.  

In a national debate, Bill O’Reilly bolsters President Bush’s statements on the embassy.

Bush is reelected.

The Pentagon and the CIA release conflicting timelines for how special operations forces were deployed during the incident.

The head of the CIA resigns over a sex scandal that generates more front-page copy at the Wall Street Journal than the discrepancies in details about the embassy attack.

Donald Rumsfeld blames the “fog of war.”

Under oath, a diplomatic security official confirms the violence unfolded in real time in Washington.  Security personnel give a scathing rebuke of the Bush appointment bureaucracy’s mishandling of security requests at the embassy.  

The Accountability Review Board (ARB) appointed by (and thus working for) the Bush administration releases the non-classified section of their report, which generates more questions from Senator Diane Feinstein, Senator Chuck Schumer, and Senator Dick Durbin. 

The Secretary of State responds, “What difference does it make at this point?”  She takes “responsibility” for the attack, but there are no real consequences in the Bush State Department.  No American arrests apart from the filmmaker are ever been made public.  No American actions are taken against even the terrorist group that claimed responsibility the very night the attack took place.

Of course, we know President Bush left office in 2008, and all of these events transpired under a different administration. 

But I ask, if the coin was flipped and George W. Bush had played a part in this tragedy, would Benghazi finally matter to Democrats?

Getting clarity on Benghazi—four dead Americans, the tragedy’s implications to national security, the failures of current foreign policy—should be important to all Americans no matter who is president.

Some issues just aren’t partisan. 

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Laura Armstrong
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February 04, 2013
Excellent work, Barbara. But I disagree with your last sentence. For liberals and Democrat party members, EVERYTHING is partisan. And people are to be used and excuses like, "What does it matter?" even though children were left fatherless, don't register in their cold, conniving brains. IT's all about political survival for a party of hypocrits that can't win on logic or facts.

Preble’s Pivot on Foreign Policy
by Barbara_Donnelly_Lane
January 25, 2013 03:19 PM | 1866 views | 1 1 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Chris Preble is a smart guy.  He is number eighty-two on the “Defense News” list of the one hundred most influential people dealing with defense in 2013.  Speaking in Atlanta on January 15, he shared his ideas about the military challenges of a second Obama term.

As the Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, Dr. Preble espouses a classic libertarian perspective that seeks to avoid foreign entanglements.  This stands in stark contrast to the neoconservative position that dominated the Bush years and advocates the American projection of power to shape global affairs. 

Therefore, Dr. Preble approves of the controversial nomination of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. For him, this appointment signals a wanted shift in the president’s approach to foreign policy, which will result in a further withdrawal of the United States from the role of global peacekeeper.  His hope is that other countries will tend more to the expense of their own security when the world’s superpower does not act as an “indispensible nation.” 

When rejecting American exceptionalism, Dr. Preble is in opposition to even mainstream Republicans.  However, when he echoes the Weinberger/Powell Doctrine that once guided the Reagan administration and asserts that the government should only engage troops in missions that relate directly to American national security interests, he finds more common ground with conservative thinkers. 

Furthermore, his belief that it is essential to define attainable foreign policy objectives with viable exit strategies before committing soldiers to war are parameters that American citizens in general embrace as common sense.

But as the French are discovering in Mali, even a simply stated goal—to dislodge terrorists—can become much more complex once a military engagement begins.

Let’s look back for a moment to 2001. 

Dr. Preble says the American invasion of Afghanistan should have had three main objectives: to degrade Al Qaeda’s ability to commit violence, to dislodge the Taliban, and to telegraph a message to rogue governments to not support terrorists. 

All of this was accomplished in a matter of months, so why didn’t troops leave?  Instead, American commanders chose to launch counterinsurgency operations, which mired forces in the tribal mishmash of an impoverished nation for more than a decade.

Even so, from the audience, a veteran Navy Corpsman who served with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines stood to express his view that many other important objectives were also made and met in Afghanistan despite the focus put on Iraq, which meant the first war did not really get its due attention until as late as 2008. 

Now he is concerned that too rapid a drawdown per President Obama’s plan will mean that many Americans he personally knew lost their lives in vain. 

Acknowledging that members of the military cannot be faulted when given unachievable missions, Dr. Preble carefully answered that President Obama should never have supported a troop surge in Afghanistan, which only prolonged matters. 

In other words, Dr. Preble thinks the Navy Corpsman’s fears were realized years before he was even deployed, and his mates’ deaths have indeed been for no good reason in the grand scheme. 

This is a position that should be seriously reconsidered.

Dr. Preble’s idea that a quick exit would have achieved a better result in Afghanistan is academic.  The future is always a murky thing to predict, but the impact of an action not taken is also a matter of mere speculation. After all, the last time the United States left this hellacious outcrop of war-torn rocks to its fate, a threat still gathered in its crevices. 

So as Dr. Preble ponders a pivot in American foreign policy to create a smaller military footprint in future, one should not forget troops are still on the ground right now.

To concede defeat before an exit has been properly negotiated—to leave forces in a vulnerable position with numbers well below what generals want—is to break faith with American troops who are not pawns in a senseless chess game.  It also breaks faith with those Afghanis who chose to ally with the United States.  And an exit robbed of honor or any sense of success will never close a door on future problems.   

Smart men like Dr. Preble know Al Qaeda is resurgent, so as he helps shape the debate on how to best approach a rapidly destabilizing Middle East and Africa, he should push for the United States to secure a positive legacy for the sake of national security.  

No matter what, it is reasonable to want President Obama—regardless of who becomes his Secretary of Defense—to clearly identify attainable objectives in Afghanistan that will secure hard won military gains if the desired outcome is indeed long-term peace.

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Concerned Citizen
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January 28, 2013
I don't have the knowledge or the wisdom to know exactly what our actions should be in various parts of the world. I pray that our leaders do, but I fear that too often Americans who are dear to their families do risk and give their lives like pawns in a chess game. With all the opinions that are given about U.S. policy, I hope that those in charge are making the right decisions, but I have very little confidence in our current leaders based on recent events.

Nothing to Toast in 2013 Politics
by Barbara_Donnelly_Lane
January 03, 2013 01:29 PM | 1709 views | 2 2 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

On New Year’s Eve, I cared nothing about Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin in Times Square.  I did not let off fireworks.  I did not watch the peach drop.  I did not even have champagne at midnight.  Rather, I instructed the kid to avoid the perils of revelers on the road—stay in one place to sing Auld Lang Syne—and put my 2012 to bed at an early hour. 

You see, when it comes to New Year’s, one can rightly call me a fuddy-duddy.  I have always found this shift to “new beginnings” painfully artificial and mostly irrelevant.  Real change has never been about a new date on a calendar or blowing horns in a crowd or getting a good luck kiss.  Such rituals might be entertaining, but they amount to empty noise in the grand scheme. 

In fact, it seems appropriate New Year’s Eve was the setting for a bit of political theater with which to close a tired year.  After all, on New Year’s Day, I awoke to find the fiscal cliff magically averted by senators whose sole function lately seems to me to be to make me feel more cynical about my government. 

Whilst understanding that a reasonable approach to macroeconomics can never be a matter of austerity alone, I concede little credit now to politicians from either party for averting a politically created crisis at the eleventh hour. 

Was there not time to get an appropriate act together before the lame duck session?  What ever happened to that Simpson-Bowles plan? 

Regardless, the House has now also compromised with the president on tax hikes, and the result is that our glorious leaders in Washington have created what any intellectually honest person can see is the fiscal equivalent to pasting half a band-aid on a giant gash that is gushing streams of green.  

However, as one of those taxpayers who knows I’m just expected to hear this miraculous fix, throw confetti and drink some more bubbly, this latest debt deal just sounds like more of those endless resolutions people make to little effect. 

Of course some of this lack of change in the state of the nation is as predictable as a failed diet. 

There will soon be a second inauguration for the exact same man currently on vacation in Hawaii, and the overall balance of power has never really shifted. 

I’m even feeling a bit of déjà vu when it comes to snarky partisanship from the president.  

On December 31, he made sure to reach across the aisle to announce with a smirk that those on the right had finally put aside deeply held ideological beliefs about raising taxes.   He then added, “Now, if Republicans think that I will finish the job of deficit reduction through spending cuts alone -- and you hear that sometimes coming from them, that … [they’re] just going to… shove spending cuts at us... then they’ve another thing coming….” 

It seems our fearless leader has decided to continue with his heart-felt efforts to unite his fellow Americans, which have long made him look to me like Moses pulling together the Red Sea.  

Of course it’s true that President Obama’s gotten his tax hikes on the wealthy. This was the price Democrats set to stop the sunset of the Bush tax cuts on the vast majority of Americans they are always saying they are so interested in protecting. 

Still, I’m not quite sure I’d want to tout this point too much. 

When one understands that by compromising on top rates as they did—no small thing when having to answer to the voters they represent in their districts—Republicans have made permanent the middle class tax cuts that would never have even existed if Democrats had gotten their way when George W. Bush was in office. 

Additionally, the “deal” negotiated at the last second on the clock of the time bomb that the White House itself started ticking actually increases spending by more than three hundred billion dollars over the next decade.

Even so, by agreeing to these terms, Republicans cannot now be painted as obstructionists. By not shielding top earners, Republicans have openly acknowledged that the president indeed won the election.  Yet in a very challenging political climate, they have done their best to avert as much economic blowback as possible. 

Yet I still must note after making no real attempt to deal with the deficit—only another speech on January 1 that calls for more “investment,” i.e. spending, and more revenues from the “wealthiest corporations and individuals” in future—I am left to wonder what exactly is the president “shoving” in Republicans’ direction?

I guess we’ll find out in two months when this drama resumes. 

With the champagne corks and party hats in the trashcan, when it comes to Washington, 2013 looks exactly like 2012. 

With no joy left for politics, I can only say, “Cheers!”

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CobbCoGuy
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January 04, 2013
The United States can survive Obama. I'm not sure the same can be said of the media and voters who put him in office.

A Fiscal Cliff and Treble Clefs: Surviving the Stalemates in Washington
by Barbara_Donnelly_Lane
December 14, 2012 10:10 AM | 1802 views | 3 3 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

More than a month after the election, I am not feeling any better about the state of affairs in my country. The public debate about the “fiscal cliff” has been myopic, focused solely on the matter of raising tax rates on a small group of people, which is an action that does little to solve any long-term fiscal problems.

While the two sides do not see eye-to-eye on the best ways to raise revenues, even the British publication the Economist notes, “any fiscal deal must reform Social Security (pensions), Medicare (for the old) and Medicaid (for the poor). Mr. Obama… needs to increase [entitlement cuts] to entice the Republicans into a deal and because it is the right thing to do.”

This seems overtly obvious to me, but I am just a simple woman. I do not understand the political opera President Obama is orchestrating. His proposals spend as stimulus most of the new revenues he wishes to commandeer from America’s top wage earners when ending the Bush tax cuts, and Democrats like Nancy Pelosi have thrown down a gauntlet on making changes to entitlements.

Conversely, even as a Republican, I understand government revenues must be increased as part of any fiscal compromise, but I cannot fathom how Congressman Boehner will be able to sell tax hikes to other representatives in his party who are very much accountable to their own conservative constituents unless the House Speaker gains something substantial to address debt.

We will just have to wait and see if the United States will have a Thelma and Louise moment of jumping off the cliff, or if good sense will point our politicians to jerk the wheel in another direction.

Until then, for my own peace of mind, I am embarking on a journey that distracts me from those things I cannot control. I am seeking more activities that have the power to unite me with my fellow citizens—whatever their politics—rather than twisting my stomach into knots when debating the nightly news.

Happily, this commitment has already led me to see more live music around Atlanta. Surely we can all agree that music soothes the savage beast, and local musicians in Georgia rock, right?

One place that we’ve discovered to take in some tunes isn’t in the city but in the suburbs. Ragamuffin Music Hall on Roswell’s historic square is a venue that hosts a variety of local talent, and we were recently drawn there by a husband and wife folk-duo who are based in Marietta and who command quite a following from others living in and around Cobb.

Tortoise & Hair regularly perform live across the Southeast, and their third album, The Sunny Side, was recently launched at Steve’s Live Music in Sandy Springs on September 1. We were happy to have the opportunity to hear them again so close to home.

Once inside Ragamuffin Music Hall—sheltered from all the cacophonous noise of the outside world—we found an intimate setting in which to hear the concert. Oriental rugs are strewn across the stage. Twinkling stars hang with a crystal chandelier from the black ceiling, and records, banjos and guitars decorate the walls. A cello and baby grand wait to be played. All feels cozy and warm.

Of course, this should be expected as Ragamuffin has always been owned and operated by musicians. Ashley Harris, an accomplished singer with music that has climbed to the top of the World Indie Record Report, took over from Jackie Whittaker in May 2011. Having recorded her last album with Fine Line Records in Nashville, one feels a country influence in Ms. Harris’ own work, but she continues to have a big interest in connecting others to as much of the vibrant music scene in the Atlanta metropolitan area as possible.

After the opening act finished in Ragamuffin, Tortoise & Hair began to play and only added to my own feeling of internal Zen. Adrienne Cottrell, the “Hair” of the group with long tresses flowing down her back, filled the room with her hauntingly angelic voice as she sang her “Traveling Song,” which was a finalist entry in the 2010 Indie Girl song writing competition and has drawn international attention with its strong Celtic vibe.

After adding a drummer to the group for the next number, Dustin Cottrell in his tortoise shell glasses joked good-naturedly about the couple’s “multi-aluminum” hit “Faultline 09,” which has had plenty of radio playtime and offers a harder, driving beat that skirts closer to Southern rock than much of the T & H repertoire rooted more in folk.

By the time the perfectly in-sync couple got to “Watching the World Fall Apart,” which the Tortoise explained was about the financial meltdown of 2008 from their second album Front Row Seat, I had managed to forget all about President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner.

In fact, looking around the room at all the people enjoying their bowls of ice cream from the Ragamuffin ice cream parlor, sipping their cups of coffee, and tapping their feet, it struck me that I had no idea if any of them—or Tortoise & Hair, for that matter—thought much about the political discord that’s been clogging up my emotional airwaves lately. Nor did I want to know.

There is going to be a day on which American voters of all political stripes will have to face the music. It was nice for an evening to just sit back, relax, and listen to it.

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Concerned Citizen
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December 15, 2012
Very cleverly written and so true to the sentiments many of us are feeling after the election results! I, too, have been watching less of the news. It is very depressing. I, too, have been trying to listen to more music to uplift my spirits. It sounds as if Tortoise and Hair are doing a good job. I wish them much success.

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Barbara Donnelly Lane is a writer in east Cobb. She holds a Master's Degree in English Education from Georgia State University and has written commentaries for the Marietta Daily Journal, the BBC and other media outlets.

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