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Kingston, NY, Friday, Dec. 19, 2008

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There's No Place Like Home
By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

REALITY IS back, with a bite. We've been on an eight-year holiday from same; some would say even longer. We've been journeying Over The Rainbow, in the alternative world provided for us when we so badly bumped our head on the unprecedented Supreme Court decision that installed George Bush in office. He was the perfect Man Behind the Curtain, promising much, demanding compliance and delivering little but chaos. In this amazing light show on planet Terra, there couldn't have been a more apt Wiz of a Wiz (if ever a Wiz there was.)

Our head wound put us in a coma for a long while, and in that strange, surrealistic place we inhabited up was down, right was wrong and black was white. We came to second-guess ourselves, since nothing made sense. We lowered our eyes to our feet and picked our way carefully along that twisty yellow road; finding one another, helping one another, while increasingly aware that there were Flying Monkeys to be battled along the way.

But every story has an ending, and while Obama doesn't look much like Glenda the Good Witch, he has reminded us of who we are, pointed out the Ruby Slippers that each of us wear and asked us to click them together. We've discovered that, despite the smoke and mirrors of confusing ideology and the works of oppressive government that have assaulted us on a daily basis, we have a magnificent brain, an open heart and astounding courage. And while it's great to be home again, nursing our heads and listening to soothing voices and snatches of common sense, we find ourselves standing in ruins.

I would think that Pluto in Sagittarius approved the story line for this final transformative act, starring Mrs. Bush's first born. Our long run of religious extremism and philosophical review has reduced much of what was into a pile of rubble. That's Pluto's job, after all; and the world has become a good place for a Phoenix to stir, and eventually arise. Still, as the retreating energy takes a bow for its stellar performance, we're all shaking our heads to clear the cobwebs and looking around to see where we are now.

We're not in Oz any more, that's for sure. The tone of the news has me pondering the sudden shift of collective thought; of course, it only appears to be sudden. It's been pooling for years. This was a Hundredth Monkey political/spiritual shift ... its beginnings evidenced in the 2006 elections ... that was in place months ago, and is only now making its way into headlines. These things take a while to clarify, as we all look around to see what page our neighbors are on and find, surprisingly, that we have more in common than not.

Bush's ideology, despite the rumors, was not religious -- it was corporate. We've become a failing corporatocracy; profit margins were the god worshipped. Now, by the sheer weight of their corruption, the money-changers are being thrown out of the temple and their god of greed along with them. That fresh air you feel swirling around you is our newly found ability to tell the truth.

Plain speaking has made a comeback in unexpected places. FOX News anchor, Alan Colmes, told vitriol-princess Ann Coulter who demanded an apology for being accused of hate crimes, "I think YOU are a hate crime." MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews snapped at a Neoconservative guest who continued to use the Bush talking points to justify invading Iraq that "4,000 people are dead because of the way you feel." Progressive commentator Rachel Maddow has increasingly become the people's choice for news of the day; Rachel minces no words.

Statistics that were lost in the rarified air of Oz are coming to light now, and creating a stir in the overburdened public. As Obama contemplates a stimulus package for the economy that would immediately put citizens to work on infrastructure ... "shovel ready" projects for which various states have sought funds ... it appears that we are behind in maintaining our roads and bridges to the tune of $1.6 trillion. Obama's plan to create high-speed rails and new public transportation could easily get bogged down in this sink hole of neglect; he will have to be nimble to sort out the monies necessary for the short term while keeping a vision for future projects.

Bush's appointees, again and again, have proven to be ideological implants that have taken us on this merry for-profit adventure; certainly immoral and possibly criminal. As an example, and surely not the only one, a new Inspector General's review has found that the Department of the Interior's sad performance flew in the face of the Endangered Species Act for all these long, critical years. While some of the decisions have been reversed, many others have gone unexamined.

Up to his old wizardry, even this late in the game, Bush has now banished to the waste heap 35-year-old regulations that have required an independent scientific review of ESA issues. He has given over those decisions to federal agencies poised on launching roads and drilling projects. Adios to the polar bears, caught in the crosshairs of repressive climate change policies. He's gutted the wilderness area protections established 40 years ago, to offer, as soon as this week, millions of acres of roadless forests and pristine deserts to development bids.

As we fret about the wisdom of bailing out the Big Three with 14 billion of the taxpayers' dollars, we might take a look at what's currently being funded for similar amounts. A brontosaurus of a project called the National Polar-Orbiting Environmental Satellite System, a civil/military weather station collaboration begun in 1995, now eats up $12.5 billion a year and has yet to prove functional. The Inspector General's office tells us not to hold our breath on this one -- it gobbles money like a gas tank, and seems no closer to completion than when it began.

I'm thinking such vast amounts of money could be put to better use, in this challenging economy that sees many of us hungry and evicted. And while we're on the hunt for funds, we might ask a few questions about the $100 billion lost every year to corporate offshore tax shelters. Obviously, there are many ways to skin this SNAFU of a funding cat, and I hope Obama finds them all.

As heinous a record of money wrenched out of the public good, is that of systems gone ignored and underfunded. The Bushies inability to govern efficiently have given us a backlog of 760,000 Social Security disability claims, and 806,000 Veterans Affairs disability claims. On local levels, the massive job loss in the last months has turned the agencies responsible for Unemployment Insurance sluggish and unresponsive; and if you need to sign up, you'd better hurry -- states are running out of funds for this crucial safety net.

The Center for Public Integrity has issued a full report on our broken government. You might want to pour yourself a stiff drink and take a peek.

As dismal as all this sounds, it's not the End of Days, as some would have it -- but it certainly appears to be the End of the Old Days, as we welcome in Pluto in Capricorn as the director of this next act in our planetary production. We have all seen and felt Pluto's signature as the purifier, sifting the valuable from the frivolous and leaving us with a nugget of wisdom with which to move forward.

As Sagittarius prepared to hand off the business of transformation to Capricorn, we've all gotten a good look at our, and the world's, belief systems; Capricorn's job will be to begin a rebuild from a changed and sobered blueprint. Structure, authority, governance and responsibility will come under the watchful eye of the Goat. What is old and outdated will break down; what it worthwhile will be separated out and streamlined. This will not be fun but it is oh-so-necessary.

It was a tornado that got Dorothy, at the beginning; she awoke to the aftermath and that was a part of the story we never saw. Aunty Em's house seemed to remain standing when we last left our heroine, but who knows -- the barn could have been reduced to splinters, the chickens nesting in what remained of the family kitchen; the crops might have been devastated and the country littered with debris for miles. After seeing what twisters do here in the Midwest, I'd think that likely.

Some would say a twister is an act of God. It's one of those unexpected things that occur, arriving like a Uranus transit, picking you up somewhere and dropping you somewhere else. The Wizard of Oz, like most children's classics, is a metaphysical primer -- I think of it as Plutonian in nature. When we are faced with destruction, doors slam in our face but windows open everywhere; the choice of which we climb through marks our passage. We shift perspective because we have to; we're forced into responsibility and necessary risk. We develop skills we didn't know we had. It's the self-discovery that is valuable in transformational circumstances; that's the very energy that prepares the Phoenix to rise.

At the end of Dorothy's journey, she knew a good deal more about herself than when she began. So, may it be said, do we, here at this turning point in history. As we look around at the destruction these hard years have given us, we can take some comfort in the new sense of clarity around us. Lies are dissolving, facts are emerging and reality is imposing itself over the surrealism of the past. The air is humming with change; we're part of it.

Lost in the smoke of the last decade, we couldn't get our arms around fear of the unknown; when the brisk wind of truth blows the smoke away, fear of the known is easier to deal with. As we look around us, what is practical and useful will take priority. We will put one foot in front of the other, leaning on one another when it's necessary and offering our assistance where we can.

The president-elect is calling for a Day of National Service to coincide with Martin Luther King Day; it's a simple concept, giving, but it has benefits that echo around the world as energy is expended for the commonwealth. On such a day, everybody pitches in, meeting their neighbors and working toward the common good. It's what we do here in the Patch, after a twister touches down. It carries a tone of confidence with it, a signature of can-do'ism that is uniquely American. It's what we've always done in this nation -- when nobody shows up to save us, we rescue ourselves.

We've learned the hard way; for what comes next, we've got the smarts, the heart, the courage. We're armed with hope and gratitude, and sparked by determination. Welcome home, reality, we missed you -- and we're ready to go to work.

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