Time for outrage

Mort Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of US News And World Report,  said: “…there is no doubt that President Barack Obama clearly lost the debate this week, as a matter of both substance and tone. Take your pick from the river of insults: listless, meandering, lazy, dull-brained, long-winded, languid, and flaccid were just some of the epithets from the pundits. Even the New York Times opined that ‘He lost his competitive edge.’ The worst that Mitt Romney’s relatively few critics could come up with was that his tax cut was unaffordable. All Obama could do was repeat the charge, and Romney was able to make the pledge that he would not reduce revenues through his tax cut because they would be offset by the elimination of special write-offs and loopholes…. But what is at issue isn’t debating style, questions of posture and demeanor, ‘gotcha moments,’ or ‘You’re no Jack Kennedy’ zingers. The fundamental issue for America is that we seem to have lost our way and we haven’t found it after four years of the Obama administration, thanks to a leadership so lacking that the American dream now seems to be a chimera of nostalgia. The president appears to have lost his intellectual interest.  It is all very well to raise a sword and cry “Forward!” but to what? Campaigning and barnstorming, at which Obama is very good, is no substitute for brainstorming to evolve a cohesive set of plans to deal with the current crisis.”  http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2012/10/05/mort-zuckerman-why-the-country-is-unhappy-under-obama_print.html

Tim Cavanaugh at Reason describes Obama’s “new look” after losing stature during the first presidential election debate with Mitt Romney on October 3:  http://reason.com/blog/2012/10/06/politico-obama-is-risen-truly-he-is-rise – based on a Politico article by Glen Thrush on the Obama “reset” http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=2F7BFDF4-1A05-4051-8715-EB126ED48AAD\

Cavanaugh says of the Politico article: “…the piece is one of the greatest works of unintentional (and uncomfortable) comedy since David Brooks got hot and bothered over the crease in the future president’s pants, Chris Matthews objectively felt a thrill up his leg at the 2008 Democratic candidate’s silky tones, or The New York Times tried to give an inspirational glow to President Obama’s tardy and clumsy sellout of longtime U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak….. The saddest thing is this description of how the president laid out his bold new game plan:

[Thrush writes:]” He huddled with his inner circle — David Axelrod, David Plouffe, Valerie Jarrett, Anita Dunn, Ron Klain and Jim Messina — and settled on the theme they hammered all of Thursday — a direct attack on Romney that accused him of out-and-out lying on his tax-cut claims and portrayed the former Massachusetts governor as a two-faced imposter willing to say anything to win.

“First of all, hasn’t Anita Dunn been gone from the Obama administration since, like, sometime during the Carter administration? That she’s back is almost as ominous as the continued presence of Plouffe, Jarrett and the rest. Obama’s problem is not stylistic. It’s a disastrous presidency in which all of these knuckleheads are directly implicated. This is a reset? “

And this is what Obama is doing to overcome the deficiency of his performance at the first debate? This is how he picks himself up and goes back into the fight for the leadership of the free world?

Let us, as Obama likes to say, be clear: After the Libya consulate attack September 11, on the morning after the Libyan ambassador was killed, Obama flew to Vegas for a fundraiser. After the UN opened its summit September 23 to welcome the leaders of the Mideast countries, all of whom wanted to speak to Obama, he left Hilary to handle it while he flew to California with his wife to sit on a couch with Whoopee Goldberg and be, in his own words, “eye candy”. He loses his first presidential debate of the election on substance, and his first instinct is to blame the other guy for lying about the facts, as if no one noticed that he himself had none to offer in response nor did he pinpoint a single inaccuracy during the debate.

Doesn’t anyone on the left see that maybe the rest of us have the right to be outraged that Obama is utterly derelict in his oath of office to carry out his responsibilities as President, choosing instead to stroke the egos of campaign donors and of elite overpaid women with nothing better to do than congratulate one another on how catty they can be about the decent men and women in the opposition, who are watching with the rest of their fellow citizens as the country free-falls into chaos and the global crises that require the US to mitigate them now threaten to set back peace negotiations for a generation or more?

At the 2011 UN summit, Obama met the leaders of Afghanistan, Brazil, France, Israel, Japan, Libya, the Palestinian Authority, South Sudan, Turkey and the United Kingdom as well as the UN Libya Contact Group, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and UN General Assembly president Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser.

At the 2012 UN summit, Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, found himself struggling to explain why Obama had gone from 13 meetings last year to zero this year. He said, ‘It is a simple fact that when you’re president of the United States, your responsibility as commander-in-chief never ends and you are constantly engaged in matters of foreign affairs and national security. And that’s what this president is doing.’  Sure he is. And Whoopee Goldberg is his Henry Kissinger.

This is supposed to be the smartest president the US has ever had. Instead of seeing the debate as a wake-up call, instead of seeing that he doesn’t have the facts he needs to defend his positions and he doesn’t have a credible plan to fix the economy, that if he wants to be re-elected he has an obligation to the voters to tell them why he deserves a second term, defend his record and promise something actually doable – instead, he huddles with his advisers for a whole day and the blindingly inventive plan these erudite strategists come up with is to call his opponent a liar? That’s the best he can do? And that is supposed to convince everybody he deserves four more years to fix the mess he inherited and the accumulated debris he has piled on top of it?

This suit is empty.

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The new herd leader – me!

With the end of Carolyn Resnick’s WRIC Summer 2012 program, I can go out to the herd without feeling pressure to film something. I am enormously grateful to be so lucky as to have Carolyn’s feedback on my work with my horses! But the class did make me focus more than usual on making something happen. Today I left the camera and feed buckets at home and went out light-hearted and with a desire to do nothing more than to share space and time in the late September sun with the herd.

The minute I stepped into the high pasture, a golden blonde head came up on the far side and watched me approach over the well-cropped grass. It was Chance, usually more interested in eating than hellos, but today she crossed over the creek to wait for me and never took her eyes off me. When I reached her I was laughing with happiness to see her and with humor at seeing the mess of thistles in her forelock that made her look like a teenager from the 1950’s with her hair in curlers. Pulling out thistles has become part of the ritual of greeting my thick-maned girls this fall. Today the bond formed quickly through grooming and caresses, and when I turned to go to the herd, she walked beside me across the creek and back to what was left of the summer grass.

Chance started grazing and I stood beside her scratching her withers and looking at the rest of the herd. The horses were scattered over a fairly large area, each one grazing in solitude. Today there were seven , and I went around and said Hello to each one, something I do most days. I had never worked with the entire herd, but today I thought I would try Eye Contact with everyone. Carolyn has said that the lead horse uses eye contact to make sure that all the others keep their eye on her. It has survival value if she suddenly needs to get everyone’s attention for some reason – a predator or some other dangerous situation.

I walked toward Tigra, a large grey mare who was the farthest away from the herd and was facing away from me. I recalled a day when Carolyn was working with the haflinger mare Marilyn. The horse was eating from a hay pile with her back to Carolyn. In order to get Marilyn to move around so that she was facing her, Carolyn stood about 15 feet behind the horse and clucked. No response, so she walked a couple of steps to one side and forward, and clucked again. She continued doing this until Marilyn moved forward and then circled around and came back to the hay, but this time with her head toward Carolyn. This is what I did with Tigra, and it worked – Tigra moved forward as in Leading From Behind, and instead of following her, I stopped and waited. Tigra walked in a small circle and as soon as she looked at me, I walked away.

I went toward each horse with the same objective, that is, to cause the horse to shift position so that I could clearly see we had made eye contact. Every horse responded eventually, and the most interesting thing was that Hoss and Rhoda, the lead gelding and mare, were the quickest to respond and to “get” what I was asking. Over the next little while, I repeated the exercise, leisurely and without urgency, until every horse would move in response to my approach, and would shift its body to keep eye contact, if I walked in its direction with that intent.

As I stood at the edge of the herd looking at the horses, I began to feel a sense of protectiveness toward them, and a sense of responsibility. With it came a new confidence, and a connection to all of the horses that I had never felt before toward an entire herd of horses. The thought came into my head that I was, at that moment, the herd leader. While I was pondering this idea, Hoss walked right up to me and looked into my face. I had a sense from him that he felt relieved. It has been said that horses seek leaders, and even a lead horse will gladly turn that responsibility over to another capable leader. It may have been my imagination – but I felt as if that was happening now. I told him in my own way that I would take over for awhile.

During a given grazing period, a horse herd slowly moves around the property available to it, and the timing and direction are usually determined by one of the lead horses, in this case Hoss or Rhoda. I wondered if, as the current  leader, I could influence the movement of the herd as it grazed. Most of the horses at this time were more or less facing me, so I turned around and walked forward, away from them, for about fifty paces. Hoss followed right behind me, and when I stopped, he dropped his head and began to graze. Within a minute, Rhoda joined us, and she was deliberately herding another horse ahead of her, which happened to be Chance. The only other time that Hoss has ever followed or walked with me was one other time when I took over the leadership of the herd briefly. So it was significant to me that first he, then Rhoda, followed my lead, because it indicated to me that they accepted my leadership.

Hoss came and stood with me awhile, sniffing me all over. He raised his head and sniffed my hair. He pressed his muzzle against the back of my head, and then he pulled his lips back, and I felt his teeth on my scalp. I was about to caution him not to bite, but I suddenly understood that he was asking to be groomed. I obligingly scratched his withers, the dock of his tail, and the inside of his leg. He picked up my willow reed, waved it around, and chewed off the end. We were best buddies.

For the next hour, every ten or fifteen minutes, I moved forward forty or fifty paces.  Hoss, Rhoda, and then the herd slowly followed, just as they usually follow lead horses. But I kept watch on which way most of the horses seemed to be facing as they grazed, and I moved the herd forward in that direction, because there were two things going through my mind: first, Carolyn’s rule that you must lead in the moment that the horse is inclined to follow you, and second, the words of an Indian leader who said, “I need to find out where my people want to go, so I can lead them there.” That summarizes to me the definition of leadership, as opposed to dominance, and reveals the democracy that is an inherent part of true leadership.

Usually when I leave the herd for the day, one or two of the horses may watch me go, but none of them follows me. Today, I went to each horse and connected briefly, saying goodbye in my mind, and handing responsibility back to Hoss and Rhoda. My backpack was stashed in the opposite direction to the heading of the herd and I went to it and packed up my belongings. By the time I had finished, the horses were all moving toward me. I waited for them because it was too hard to walk away in that moment. Even now, hours later, I still feel connected to them. I have to believe that they feel it too.

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The complicit, irresponsible media

It is September 18, 2012. Last week – on September 11 – a raid in Benghazi Libya killed US ambassador Chris Stevens and three others. Riots and demonstrations and embassy break-ins and US flag burnings broke out all across the Muslim world. Somehow word got out that the riots were a reaction to a vile video made in America by an Egyptian Coptic Christian that portrayed Mohammed as a child abuser and many other repugnant things. Yet the attack in Libya was not a demonstration, it was an attack on the embassy using rocket-propelled grenades and heavy weapons, it burned down the embassy, it targeted a safe house where others were killed. It was planned and it was effective.
Now the Obama administration has refused to talk about it because there is an investigation going on to answer all the questions that inevitably arise – how could this happen? – and Susan Rice, Obama’s ambassador to the UN, went to all the Sunday talk shows and claimed repeatedly that it was all spontaneous and all a response to the video – which was put up on You Tube months ago – despite the fact that rioters are chanting “Obama Obama we are all Osama” and he is being burned in effigy. And the US and 29 other nations are doing exercises in the Persian Gulf all of a sudden – and this is not covered either.
And so instead of the media asking these questions about how this could happen, or asking about how Ben Bernanke’s QE3 is going to help and was it the right thing to do and why is it another bank bailout, and hey how about this lousy economy – the media today is all over a story about something Mitt Romney said at a private fundraiser FOUR MONTHS AGO! This was indeed the lead story of the PBS Newshour tonight! MSNBC says that Romney wanted to make the election about Obama’s record, but it keeps coming back to him … yes, because that is all you folks will report about.
It is enough to make you wonder if there was this memo sent out from the White House to the media saying, “Lay off us for awhile”. And the media is so keen to see Obama re-elected, they are doing just that.
Matt Welch at Reason wonders the same thing I am glad to see: http://reason.com/blog/2012/09/18/secret-romney-tape-means-we-can-finally

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Hoss

When I go out to the herd, my two haflingers are always my greeting party. They see me right away and come to say Hello.

Over the past three months, since my mares have been out back with the herd, one by one I have been investigated by other herd members as I share territory. The first was Jimmy, a little grey fellow whose guiding philosophy is “I’m anybody’s!” I sometimes have to move my seat because Jimmy would like to climb into my lap. Another visitor is June, a lovely quarter horse mare with a severe parrot mouth. Then there is Cappy, the draft/paint cross whose steady personality keeps the others calm at crucial moments.

The lead mare in the herd is Rhoda, a chestnut quarter mare who has always been aloof. The lead gelding is Hoss, a drop-dead gorgeous dark bay quarter horse with a perfect star in the perfect middle of his perfect forehead. His dignified elegance makes him a standout personally too. He has always been cautious, and quick to leave at any gesture from me, even a friendly overture. Gradually he has been coming closer to me while he is grazing and staying longer as he checks me out from a distance.

One evening last week I took a friend out to the herd with me and we hand-groomed my two horses as we conversed on many deep topics. I was so involved in our discussion that I lost track of all else, including who I was grooming. I suddenly came down to earth when I discovered that for the past ten minutes, not only had Hoss come right up to me, but he had held his head down for me and allowed me to pick all the burrs out of his forelock.

Last evening I went out to the herd after several days’ absence. As I approached the herd, it was not my mares that came to greet me – it was Hoss. He came to me and looked into my face. Immediately behind him came Rhoda, who for the first time offered to say Hello. I was honored, and thrilled.

Folly came quietly to me and nickered softly, not for me but for Hoss. She is in strong heat, and she wants him. He politely stretched his nose out to her, and she arched her neck and touched nostrils – only to squeal and stamp her foot in make-believe outrage while she tossed her tail like a flag.

As I turned to walk away, Hoss followed me. We stood alone together for a time, his nose touching my arm, breathing warmth and companionship on my skin.

There has been a shift, in me and my horses, since they went out to live with the herd. They come to me readily, their eyes soft and wise. They are more relaxed in themselves, and their bodies glow with good health and happiness. I have become more serene too, and feel at times as if I am truly one with the herd. I no longer wonder what to do, whether I am doing the right thing, whether I even belong there when I come to spend time with them. I enter the herd and I am welcomed by the lead horses as an honored guest. I sit by myself and think about things, and now there are four pairs of eyes that watch me. The hours flow as a river in its ancient course, and I know that I am in the precise spot on the earth where I belong in this timeless now.

I am growing old and I have a lifetime of accomplishments behind me of which I am extremely proud. But none of them is as important to me as this one: knowing at last how to be – just be – with horses

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Who is a leader?

Last night I went out into the back 50 looking for the herd. After 2 hours walking around – no horses! They’re there, but they were deep in the woods somewhere. Last night I went out into the back 50 looking for the herd. After 2 hours walking around – no horses! They’re there, but they were deep in the woods somewhere.

Today I went out again to find them. An hour later, I returned to where I had started at the water troughs, and then I saw some horses coming up the road. But mine were not among them, and some others were missing too – where could they be?

I walked past the herd at the troughs. It was mostly mares, including Rhoda who is the main decision-maker in the herd. Her best buddy Hoss was not there either. As I walked along the road leading around the pond, I could hear a couple of riding groups nearby. Soon I came upon the rest of the herd, who had lingered in a shady spot by the roadside.
There were about six of them, including my two, and Hoss. I walked around saying Hello, but noticed that Hoss seemed preoccupied and looked a bit distracted.  He kept neighing as if calling out. I thought he might be calling to locate Rhoda and the rest of the herd….but surely he knew where they were?

Then a riding group rode by on the other side of the fence and trees, and their horses called back to Hoss. Another group of riding horses called out from far up the road away from the water troughs. And horses in an adjacent pasture called out too. Hoss became very agitated and led his small group, including my mares, up the road and through some woods, calling out as he went, and leaving me behind. In moments they came back down the road toward me, with my mares leading. When they got to me, they stopped and were wandering around. I got a feeling that they were not sure what to do next. It was odd, because I could faintly hear Rhoda calling from the direction of the water troughs.

So…I took over. I said firmly, “Come on, let’s go!” And I clucked a couple of times as I turned away and began striding quite purposefully down the road toward the water troughs. And son of a gun….they followed me! I heard the sound of a half dozen horses trotting behind me, and I kept looking back in case they decided to start running. But they followed me like good little school children.

After several moments, Rhoda and the rest of the herd came trotting up the road, and I sensed relief as the herd was once again united. They calmed down and began looking for something to eat in the surrounding forest.

I never expected to be able to influence the herd like that. I always thought of it as a long term stable entity that had its own internal guiding wisdom, and all I have ever done is come and visit and not disturb the harmony.  But it made me look at leadership in a horse herd differently. Perhaps truly any horse can guide the herd, if at a certain moment that horse alone knows what to do and acts purposefully. In that case, Carolyn is right when she says that every horse in a herd has a job, and a contribution to make for the good of the herd.

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One with the Herd

Yesterday  I went up to the high pasture but the horses were not there, so I followed the road to the meadow. There they were, grazing where the breeze was strongest to keep the bugs away. I hung my backpack in a tree and walked around saying Hello to everyone. The herd was slowly moving back toward the road to the high pasture, and I followed when the last horse left.

Instead of going straight down the road to the other pasture, the herd took a side path through the woods, into an area of wetland I had never explored before. The ground was soft but dry and the grasses were tall and succulent. I looked all around me and noticed with great interest what a huge variety of forages there were that grew in this space. I do not know what they all were but the horses obviously liked this area since there were trails all through it.

They slowly moved deeper into the wetland as they grazed, and they seemed to be heading somewhere specific, although in a leisurely manner. I gradually worked my way in front of them and walked ahead, across a flattened area, to a small hill where I could overlook the herd grazing in the tall grass. Soon they were all gathered near the little hill where the grass was flattened, and —- they all laid down and rolled! There was obviously something specific about this area that made it a good spot to scratch themselves by rolling.

As I rejoined them on their slow trek across the wetland, I had an intimate feeling that I was sharing something secret about their lives. I always thought of horses as creatures of the open plains, which of course they are, but they can make good use of many kinds of terrain where they find a larger diversity of food than pasture alone. They keenly enjoy eating the leaves of trees and shrubs around them, and sometimes I see them gnawing at the bark of a particular tree. I thought about how, for so many years, I have kept my horses in paddocks or small fields where most of their diet had to be hay – good hay but how very dull compared to the rich buffet of food they now have in this wild space, and I felt glad that I can give them this rich and complex environment where they can reveal much more of their natural repertoire of wild behavior and inherited knowledge.

It was nearing the time I had to leave, and so I began walking through the grass toward the edge. To my surprise, the herd seemed to be following me, and I felt that I belonged, in a way I had never felt before. In the hours we had spent together that day, it was as if they had accepted me into their herd, and every so often one or two of them had come up to say Hello. What I felt with them that afternoon was timelessness and serenity. I thought if I had my way, I would simply go on living with them. Nothing else existed except this time and this space and this Now, and if along the way some day somewhere I felt my body lay down on the giving land and I died, it would be an unexceptional but natural part of this slow journey across the earth in the company of horses.

I finally had to leave the main track to get to the gate, and the herd drifted off. Soon I heard thunder and I looked across the grass and saw them suddenly running – running toward the pasture and probably to the water troughs, since they would be thirsty by now. I took a short cut and joined them, and as I approached, I saw my two golden girls standing off to the side, looking straight at me. Watching the herd, I noticed that the pecking order was being played out before me, with the higher status horses drinking first and chasing off the others – which included mine! Rightly or wrongly, I slowly drifted in and shooed the others away to allow my two horses to drink in peace. The others stood around like naughty schoolchildren, watching as the “good girls” got to drink. When they had finished, I moved away and said my goodbyes. And I watched them walk in single file over the hill, already thinking about the shade and the cool breeze under the trees.

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What happened to Liberalism?

As a result of Obama’s election strategy and the reflective and predictably sycophantic media panting along beside him, the left has become as bad a caricature of itself as it accuses the right of having become, and a far cry from what authentic Liberalism should and can be. It is reduced to a single wailing monotone of attack on any semblance of wealth or success, with the participants competing to top each other on who’s had the poorest upbringing as a way of distinguishing themselves from “the rich”. It reminds me of a Monty Python sketch on a similar topic, everyone vying to claim the mantle of having the most poverty-stricken childhood:  “Oh yeah? Well we lived in a shoebox in the middle of a highway!”  ” You had a shoebox?? LUXURY!”

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