Saturday, April 23, 2005

Marla Ann Ruzicka

It’s a two and a half hour drive from San Francisco to Lakeport. You don’t come into Lakeport at 70 mph on the interstate. Passing through towns with names like Middletown, Kelseyville, and Hopland, you get there, no matter which direction you come from, on a two-lane state highway, twisting and climbing, then twisting and plunging through the mountains. In places the branches of the trees on either side of the road meet and wed over the road, blocking out the sky. The last seventeen miles of road after you leave US 101 in Hopland and before you arrive in town on State Highway 175 in Lakeport is undeveloped, with forest, streams, meadows, and scrub. Eventually, as you turn a corner or crest a hill, Clear Lake comes into view. Today, the lake’s choppy surface reflected a gray cloudy sky. Entering the town from South Main Street, you pass a tractor dealer, well and pump companies, and several car dealers, all of them with pickup trucks prominently at the front of the lot. This is a rural community, physically and socially isolated from the liberal urban bay area just to the south. This is where Marla Ruzicka grew up.

It’s a long way culturally from Lakeport to San Francisco. It’s farther still to Washington, to Kabul and Baghdad. That’s the journey Marla Ruzicka made. Today she came home. This morning and afternoon, her family, friends, colleagues, and admirers gathered at Saint Mary Immaculate Church on North Main Street in Lakeport to celebrate and say goodbye to one of the town’s daughters, a woman who in the last week, in death, became its most famous citizen. The speakers at the funeral service included one of her older sisters, a childhood friend, and some of the activists, journalists, and politicians Marla met in her wide travels during her all too brief time after leaving Lakeport. The turnout was greater than the church could hold and a couple hundred mourners gathered around speakers and television screens outside the church, remaining through brief rain showers to hear from Medea Benjamin, Representative Mike Thompson, and California’s Democratic Senator, Barbara Boxer.

Among the many things about the war in Iraq that has infuriated me was that once all the other pretexts for the war, the WMD, the threat to the US and Iraq’s neighbors, had been demonstrated to be false, all that was left was that the war was for the good of the Iraqi people. The jury is still out on that, in the long run that may prove to be so, but is patently true that a significant group of Iraqis, those killed or maimed during the war, most specifically those killed or maimed by American arms, are decidedly worse off than they would have been had the war not been waged. It has been disgraceful that our government, and most Americans, exhibited no concern for those Iraqis, those who were bearing the brunt of the human cost of the war. We have quite infamously even refused to count them. While I got mad and did nothing, though, Marla Ruzicka was moved to do something about it. Traveling to Afghanistan and Iraq, speaking only English and without a formal support network, she launched a drive to count the innocent victims of our wars and to have them compensated by our government. She learned to work with Congress and the Pentagon to get money and support. She founded her own relief agency, The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict. Through her efforts, tens of millions of dollars are now being given victims of the war in compensation and unofficial efforts are being made by the military to account for civilian casualties. As Mike Thompson said, at the beginning of this war, civilian casualties, if they were considered at all, were considered “collateral damage.” A change is coming. Slowly, due in large part to Marla’s efforts and sadly, to her death, awareness of the civilian casualties is increasing.

In addition to the fact that she walked this world spreading good cheer and unconditional love while leaving good deeds in her wake, the point that every body who spoke of her touched on, whether explicitly or implicitly, was brought home most succinctly and forcefully by Bobby Muller, Chairman of Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, when he said that Marla proved that one person’s life can make a profound difference in the world. Because of Marla’s example, none of us can complacently avoid engaging the injustices we see. With any effort we put forth, we can make a difference. If we don’t, it’s because we haven’t tried. Quill Lawrence, a BBC radio journalist, said that after knowing Marla, he can no longer pass by those who are needy or suffer without lending a hand, he can no longer shrug his shoulders and say “what can one person do?” We’ve been shown what one person can do. Probably none of us can match her, but we can try.

I’m 45 years old and it’s been a long time since I’ve looked at anybody in this world as a hero or inspiration. Marla’s my hero now. I wish I’d known of her sooner.

Marla Ann Ruzicka’s body has been returned to Lakeport. Her spirit of love and hope that inspired everybody she contacted remains loose in the world. CIVIC and the crusade she started survive her. We can honor her and our nation by contributing to the cause she gave her life for.

Update: Link to CIVIC fixed.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Why I Love Living Here - Part MCMXVI

On the way to work this morning, I got behind a truck with what I thought was a rather curious combination of back window sticker and license plate holder. I love reading bumper stickers and other little bits of information that people put on their vehicles, trying to figure out what the driver inside must be like. The sticker in question was one that a lot of Bay Area residents, especially those toward the south end of the greater Bay Area, see fairly often -- a KPIG sticker, with the familiar pig wearing a cowboy hat and sunglasses. KPIG, that eclectic station out of Freedom, CA (south of Santa Cruz and on the way to Monterey) is one of the last free-form FM stations still in existence. It leans heavily toward the alt-country and bluegrass side of modern music, but also plays plenty of rock and roll and blues and all sorts of fare that you won't find on a Clear Channel playlist. In other words, it's what radio used to be like.

The license plate holder, in contrast, read "What Would Voldemort Do?", referring, obviously, to the Harry Potter character also known as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. KPIG and Harry Potter? Okay, sir, fair enough. (What would Voldemort do, anyway?)

At that very moment, on the radio (I was listening to Morning Sedition on Air America, KQKE, 960 AM) I heard this exchange:

Caller: "What's the difference between birth control and gay sex?"

Mark Maron: "What's the- I don't know, is this a joke?"

Caller: "Of course not! I'm a Catholic!"

I don't know either (though I'm not a Catholic). I don't know how this all ties together, it just struck me funny at the time and made me once again appreciate how much I love living in San Francisco. Voldemort. KPIG. Birth control and gay sex. "I'm a Catholic!" Hey, there must be a joke in there somewhere!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Shorter David Brooks

Loudly, With a Big StickBadges?  We don't need no stinkin' badges!
Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges!
Now, what Brooks - and to some extent Daniel Drezner - seem to be forgetting in this little peek behind the curtain is that the constitution clearly states that a treaty which is ratified and signed by the pres has the rule of law. And while treaties cannot violate our own constitution, even our own government will undo laws and take corrective action at the consent of global organizations such as the World Trade Organization.

Now, I really can't believe that Brooks doesn't know this basic fact of constitutional law, so maybe he means something else.

If you read Drezner, he explains the Bolton Talking Pointstm by pointing out the UN can't really do jack without the United States.

To which I say "duh" and ask "is the concept of veto on the UN security council so very hard to understand?"

And I guess it kind of is, seeing as how most wing nuts simply cannot comprehend the linkage between what the UN actually does and what we - the United States - permit. The UN is certainly not our lap dog, but we clearly put a fence around it, limiting its actions significantly and in accordance to our foreign policy goals.

Part of the answer - I guess - as to why conservatives feel compelled to write about what should be obvious statements in an attempt to explain Bolton - who clearly was not trying to make a subtle point - has to do with the "social conservative" wing of the Republican party.

Now it's just a theory, but the whole One World Governmenttm paranoia is pretty strong in the particular brand of evangelical Christians the right seems to pander to. For example, you can just read the Left Behind series for a characterization of the UN which isn't that far off from how even supposedly mainstream republicans characterize the organization. Clearly just two of the rabid ideological conspiracy theories within the party as a whole that are clearly compatible and provide each other with positive feedback.

In any event, if you take the crazy LGF, wing nut, and Birchers out of the equation, you're left with the defense of Bolton either being a trivial point of constitutional law and observation of international politics or another one of David Brook's wild Tiffin phantasms.

Clearly - if we survive the coming decades as a species - our nation will grow ever more intertwined with other nations. If nothing else, the forces of globalization of trade (which Drezner seems to know a thing or two about) will ensure this. Already we have seen the United States leave the court of the WTO, hat in hand, and change laws in response to rulings in that World Governing Bodytm - pretty much the exact thing that Brooks says the United States would never do.

devil-in-a-blue-dress.jpgWhich I must say that I find pretty hilarious, considering the rabid right wing Christians and other UN hating cohorts.

World government isn't going to come from the UN. It's going to come from the WTO.


Nasty Hobbiteses

Here is an interesting reaction on the Terri Schiavo hoopla. I found this site through my refferal logsw and think it came from a 'Next Blog" click through.
Elfstone's Blog: Anger or pity??

Every one is so angry at Mr. Schiavo right now. Our country seems to be tearing apart over this. I really don't know what to say about it. I see the injustice and the heartlessness of it all like everyone else, but for some reason, I don't have real anger or hate towards Mr. Schiavo. Because I know that without the grace and mercy of God, I could be just as heartless as Mr. Schiavo. And I pray that this willl haunt him for the rest of his llife. That it will somhow drive him to his knees, in despair over what he has done. Otherwise he will spend eternity in hell, forever tortured by the inncoent death of a beautiful girl. God only knows what lies in store for him. And I think that his life will be unhappy, however short or long it is. Some belive that it will be short. That someone will kill him for what he has done.
Indeed, it is Mr. Schiavo and not Terri that deserves death. Yet remember what Gandalf said to Frodo in Moria when they were discussing Gollum:
"Many that live deserve death, and some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them...? Do not be so eager to deal out death and judgement."

It's rather odd for a hobbit to have such evil thoughts.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Parable of the Potato

Scamboogah manages to describe the wonderment I feel about some "religious people," only, you know, coherently.

Friday, April 08, 2005

We Need a T-Shirt Model

I just saw funny t-shirt that says in Latin May barbarians invade your personal space

What would 'Bloggers' be in Latin?

The Smear That Backfired

Here's a story that needs to get out beyond just the blogosphere and the orbit of the political cognoscenti: Media Matters has the scoop on the Republican talking points memo discussing Terri Schiavo and how to best exploit her case to their benefit. After the memo was issued from an aide to Senator Mel Martinez (R-Election Debacle State 2000), the VRWC ganged up and began accusing Democrats of having written it and circulated it in an attempt to smear the Repubs. It's just the kind of circular dirty trick that operatives like Karl Rove and Tom DeLay are known for -- or would be, if only the media would report items like this one. Check out the timeline and the rabid quotes from such stellar lights of the right as Michelle Malkin, John Hinderaker and Rush Limbaugh.

Think any of them will bother with retractions or apologies, now that their story has been revealed to be false? If you do, I have a very nice bridge with a view and a full set of tollbooths and metering lights I can let you have, cheap.

Friday, April 01, 2005


Man drives wrong way on Bay Bridge, crashes into Lake Merritt

Did someone here have too much to drink?

Has a Founding Barbarian Gone Over to the Dark Side?

Brad over at Sadly, No! has found a mysterious nutter and asks I Repeat: Who Is "Mr. Smith?"
Like I've said, I think this guy is too wingnutty to be believable.

OK, "Mr. Smith," c'mon. You don't have to tell me who you are, but drop some hint about your identity in your next column. I'm onto you, buddy...

(Incidentally, I noticed that "Mr. Smith" started writing for The Rant around the same time Pete from the Dark Window stopped blogging. Hmmmmm...)

I hope we can get Pete out to our drinkfest so we can ask him...