Sunday, December 31, 2006

The New Year is almost here

Dorothy Day

And this seems worth pondering:

The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?

Peace on Earth

Well, we have come to the end of another year. I offer for your contemplation today something I've already posted on my other blog, Meditation Matters, but it belongs here too. I'm giving you the lyrics to a U2 song, "Peace on Earth", and a video if you'd like to hear it:

Heaven on Earth, we need it now
I'm sick of all of this hanging around
Sick of sorrow, sick of the pain
I'm sick of hearing again and again
That there's gonna be peace on Earth

Where I grew up there weren't many trees
Where there was we'd tear them down
And use them on our enemies
They say that what you mock
Will surely overtake you
And you become a monster
So the monster will not break you

And it's already gone too far
Who said that if you go in hard
You won't get hurt?

Jesus can you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth
Tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth
No whos or whys
No one cries like a mother cries
For peace on Earth
She never got to say goodbye
To see the color in his eyes
Now he's in the dirt
Peace on Earth

They're reading names out over the radio
All the folks the rest of us won't get to know
Sean and Julia, Gareth and Ann and Breda
Their lives are bigger than any big idea

Jesus can you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth
To tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth
Jesus sing a song you wrote
The words are sticking in my throat
Peace on Earth
Hear it every Christmas time
But hope and history won't rhyme
So what's it worth
This peace on Earth

Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth

May we move beyond the grief and the cynicism and the despair and do our part in making it so. Never forget that peace begins within. Our meditative practice is foundational to peace. Let us enter the New Year with renewed commitment.

Conservatives brains are different

My goodness. You're not going to believe what I've just read. It seems that the brains of conservatives are really different - or at least respond differently - from liberals. The article is by Thomas Bonsell and is entitled "Differences Between Liberal and Conservative" . Here's an excerpt:

After the contentious presidential election of 2000 a researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) pondered if there was a physical difference between liberal and conservative brains. He enlisted dozens of subjects to begin testing, and after the 9/11 attacks on America, he showed images of the victims of the attacks in their agony. Brains of the liberals (Democrats) were activated in the areas associated with concern, caring, empathy; brains of the conservative (Republicans) were unresponsive.

That conservatives are unconcerned about the suffering of others--a well-defined definition of sociopath--has been well observed over the years; this experiment indicates that to be the case and explains the evil political history of conservatism. It shows why Ronald Reagan ignored the AIDS crisis when it hit Americans during his reign and it shows why George W. Bush retards government funding of stem-cell research regardless of the potential it offers. They just don't care about others, and that appears to be a genetic defect in their moral compositions rather than conscious desires to be miserable human beings. And the research explains why right-wingers flock to careers where others' anguish are best ignored, such as the military, policing, insurance (denial of claims) banking (repossessing and foreclosing) and other businesses in which profit is more important than any other consideration. It explains why a right-wing president would start an unnecessary war dreaming of being a modern Alexander the Great only to become a neo-Caligula who would cause hundreds of thousands to die just so he wouldn't have to admit failure.

That liberals show concern for others explains why so many follow careers in which helping others is tantamount, such as education, nursing and social services and why liberal politicians would create government programs that would benefit persons other than themselves.

Yes, it does explain a lot. But this information is pretty depressing, isn't it? If there really is a physical difference then appealing to a conservative's compassion is not likely to work. Of course, there's a chicken-egg question here. Is the physical difference caused by the lack of concern or is the lack of concern caused by the physical difference? I imagine that would be very difficult to test.

The closing of EPA libraries

Frank Ford just sent me a page from the web site of the Union of Concerned Scientists. It's about Envionmental Protection Agency libraries being closed down. I believe I have blogged about this before but now we have an update. This is really very disturbing. Take a look:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains a nationwide network of 27 libraries that provide critical scientific information on human health and environmental protection, not only to EPA scientists, but also to other researchers and the general public. The EPA libraries are located in each of 10 regions of the country, at EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C. and at various EPA laboratories specializing in certain aspects of environmental protection.

In order to fulfill its mission to protect human health and the environment, the EPA must rely on accurate, up-to-date scientific information as well as the findings of earlier studies. To make the best scientific determinations, scientists need access to information regarding the health effects of toxic substances, records of environmental change over time, impacts on specific regions or communities and other issues. To this end, the libraries represent a unique and invaluable source of scientific knowledge on issues from hazardous waste to toxicology to pollution control. Additional benefit to scientific researchers is gained from the expertise of a dedicated library staff. In 2005, library staff
fielded more than 134,000 database and reference questions and distributed almost 53,000 books, journal articles, and other resources to EPA researchers and the public.

In February 2006 under the guise of cutting costs, the Bush Administration proposed cutting $2 million out of the $2.5 million library services budget for fiscal year 2007. Such a drastic cut would ensure the closing of most of the library network, but would hardly register as a cost savings against the $8 billion EPA budget.

Despite the fact that Congress has not yet passed the 2007 budget or approved these funding cuts, the EPA has already moved with astonishing speed to close down several of its libraries to both the public and EPA staff. Three regional libraries, the Headquarters Library and a specialized library for research on the effects and properties of chemicals have already been closed, and four additional regional libraries have been subjected to reduced hours and limited access. Some books, reports and other resources formerly housed at these libraries have been sent to three repositories where they remain uncatalogued and inaccessible to the scientists and others who depend upon them. Other materials have already been recycled or thrown away.

For the life of me I don't understand why "conservatives" want to destroy the environment. I don't understand the war on science either. They have to breathe the same air as the rest of us. Their grandchildren will inherit the same overheated earth as our grandchildren. I really think there's some sort of collective death wish at play. That's the only thing that explains it.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam again

Here's a very brief commentary by Robert Scheer on the execution of Saddam Hussein simply entitled "Silencing Saddam". I'm giving you most of it:

The trial should have been overseen by the World Court, in a country that could have guaranteed the safety of defense lawyers, who, in this case, were killed or otherwise intimidated.

The irony here is that the crimes for which Saddam Hussein was convicted occurred before the United States, in the form of Donald Rumsfeld, embraced him. Those crimes were well known to have occurred 15 months before Rumsfeld visited Iraq to usher in an alliance between the United States and Saddam to defeat Iran.

The fact is that Saddam Hussein knew a great deal about the United States’ role in Iraq, including deals made with Bush’s father. This rush to execute him had the feel of a gangster silencing the key witness to a crime.

It doesn't pass the smell test, does it?

UPDATE: Here are some key quotes from another article called "Bush Lies Again After Saddam Executed: Bush Doesn’t Know What a Fair Trial, or Justice, Is":

Amnesty International called the trial “deeply flawed and unfair.” It was “a shabby affair,” said Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

Amnesty International cited “the grave nature of the flaws,” which included the following:

“The court failed to take adequate measures to ensure the protection of witnesses and defense lawyers, three of whom were assassinated during the course of the trial,” it said. “Saddam Hussein was also denied access to legal counsel for the first year after his arrest, and complaints by his lawyers throughout the trial relating to the proceedings do not appear to have been adequately answered by the tribunal.”
Human Rights Watch concurred.

It called Saddam’s trial “deeply flawed,” and termed his execution “a significant step away from respect for human rights and the rule of law in Iraq.”

Among the “serious flaws” that Human Rights Watch noted: “failures to disclose key evidence to the defense, violations of the defendants’ right to question prosecution witnesses, and the presiding judge’s demonstrations of bias.”

Yes, Saddam Hussein was a mass murderer on a colossal scale. But even he deserved a fair trial.

We have a word for trials like that. It starts with a "k" and ends with an "o".

Our inhuman "war" on drugs

Walter Conkite

Just discovered something that I think will interest you and, I suspect, appall you. This is about the injustice of the so-called "war on drugs":

Nicole Richardson was 18-years-old when her boyfriend, Jeff, sold nine grams of LSD to undercover federal agents. She had nothing to do with the sale. There was no reason to believe she was involved in drug dealing in any way.

But then an agent posing as another dealer called and asked to speak with Jeff. Nicole replied that he wasn't home, but gave the man a number where she thought Jeff could be reached.

An innocent gesture? It sounds that way to me. But to federal prosecutors, simply giving out a phone number made Nicole Richardson part of a drug dealing conspiracy. Under draconian mandatory minimum sentences, she was sent to federal prison for ten years without possibility of parole.

To pile irony on top of injustice, her boyfriend - who actually knew something about dealing drugs - was able to trade information for a reduced sentence of five years. Precisely because she knew nothing, Nicole had nothing with which to barter.

When are we going to remember what we learned about alcohol - that prohibition doesn't work?

Our hard working president

I'm sorry for that subject heading but I just cannot resist sarcasm here. Look at this from an Associated Press article entitled "Bush taking more time to craft Iraq plan":

CRAWFORD, Texas - President Bush worked nearly three hours at his Texas ranch on Thursday to design a new U.S. policy in Iraq, then emerged to say that he and his advisers need more time to craft the plan he'll announce in the new year.

Mercy! Nearly three hours. Imagine working that long!

You know, we ought to be embarrassed as a nation. I know I am as an American.

Troop surge

Good analogy here:

Well, it sounds to me like when a drunken surgeon, who is losing a patient, is asking for more scalpels. It doesn't make any sense. I mean, that guy has been clueless from day one with regard to this whole war. And, you know, the one voice that is not heard at all in the situation in Iraq, is the voice of the Iraqi people...

Tom Morello


As someone who is opposed to the death penalty, I was sorry to learn of Saddam's execution. I also think it will make matters worse. Interestingly, CNN had a QuickVote on the subject:

Will Saddam Hussein's hanging help bring stability to Iraq?

Yes - 22%

No - 78%

Here's an email that was sent to CNN about the execution:

Scott Franco of Providence, Rhode Island

Saddam's execution will stir further resentment toward the U.S. and the currently installed Iraqi government. Certainly there are many people in Iraq who were wronged by Hussein and take delight in his punishment. He managed his country through fear, but somehow the masses learned to survive under his reign. Now the situation in Iraq is impossible and degrading quickly during the U.S. occupation. We beat his army in days, but through our negligence, created an enormous humanitarian disaster that has no possibility of a good outcome. The highly publicized hearings and eventual capital punishment of Saddam symbolizes an end to a tyranny that somehow is more palatable than their current situation.

I agree.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Ellie Finlay

Massive Arctic ice shelf breaks free

Another disturbing climate change event has occurred:

TORONTO - A giant ice shelf has snapped free from an island south of the North Pole, scientists said Thursday, citing climate change as a "major" reason for the event.

The Ayles Ice Shelf — all 41 square miles of it — broke clear 16 months ago from the coast of Ellesmere Island, about 500 miles south of the North Pole in the Canadian Arctic.

Scientists discovered the event by using satellite imagery. Within one hour of breaking free, the shelf had formed as a new ice island, leaving a trail of icy boulders floating in its wake.

Warwick Vincent of Laval University, who studies Arctic conditions, traveled to the newly formed ice island and couldn't believe what he saw.

"This is a dramatic and disturbing event. It shows that we are losing remarkable features of the Canadian North that have been in place for many thousands of years," Vincent said. "We are crossing climate thresholds, and these may signal the onset of accelerated change ahead."
[Scientist Luke] Copland said the speed with which climate change has effected the ice shelves has surprised scientists.

"Even 10 years ago scientists assumed that when global warming changes occur that it would happen gradually so that perhaps we expected these ice shelves just to melt away quite slowly," he said.
A spring thaw may bring another concern: that warm temperatures will release the new ice island from its Arctic grip, making it an enormous hazard for ships.

All right, Senator "global-warming-is-a hoax" Inhofe. Explain this.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Misinformer of the year

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Well, the results are in and Media Matters has decided. The Misinformer of the Year for 2006 is ABC. No, not the Archbishop of Canterbury but the network. Here's part of the explanation:

In October 24 appearances on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity & Colmes, ABC News political director Mark Halperin claimed that the "old media" -- broadcast news outlets and major newspapers -- were "biased against conservatives; there's no doubt about it." He stated, "I think we've got a chance in these last two weeks [before the then-upcoming midterm elections] to prove to conservatives that we understand their grievances. We're going to try to do better." But if "try[ing] to do better" to not appear "biased against conservatives" meant offering viewers conservative misinformation, Halperin shouldn't have worried; a review of dozens of items by Media Matters for America identifying and correcting conservative misinformation from ABC suggests that Halperin's network was "try[ing] to do better" throughout 2006.

This year saw ABC air The Path to 9/11, a two-part miniseries that placed the blame for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the Clinton administration and whitewashed some of the Bush administration's failures leading up to the attacks. Additionally, the network's news coverage frequently reported Republican spin as fact, passed on falsehoods propagated by conservatives, and missed numerous opportunities to challenge or question the administration's actions during solo interviews with Bush and key members of his administration.

These examples, and many more, earned ABC the distinction of being named Media Matters' Misinformer of the Year for 2006. The selection of an entire network for the honor represents a change from previous years, when individual media figures -- Fox News'
Bill O'Reilly in 2004 and MSNBC's Chris Matthews in 2005 -- received the award. But a look at some of its most flagrant examples of conservative misinformation confirms that ABC won the Misinformer of the Year the old-fashioned way: The network earned it.

I really recommend that you click through and read the whole article. It's really an eye-opener. For example, look at this about Hillary Clinton:

In citing the results of an ABC News/Washington Post poll on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Tapper ignored the positive results and claimed that "a daunting 42 percent of all Americans say they will never vote for her." He added that "[s]ome think she's too liberal. Others think she's untrustworthy." Tapper did not mention the poll found that a majority of respondents said Clinton is, in fact, "honest and trustworthy" and that her views are "about right," while a minority thought she is "too liberal." [5/31/06]

That is simply not right.

The article also goes into the details of the misinformation and promotion of the film The Path to 9/11.

UPDATE: While we're on the subject, you might as well take a look at Most outrageous comments of 2006. Here's a sample:

[Michael] Savage: "I don't know why we don't use a bunker-buster bomb when he comes to the U.N. and just take [Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] out with everyone in there." [7/21/06]

Really, that sort of thing is beyond appalling.

Polar bears

You probably already heard this on the news. At least I hope you did. I hope this was considerred newsworthy enough that it was reported on mainstream radio and television. The CNN article I want to call your attention to is entitled "Official: Polar bears need protection". Here's how it gets started:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Polar bears are in jeopardy and need stronger government protection because of melting Arctic sea ice related to global warming, the Bush administration said Wednesday.

Pollution and overhunting also threaten their existence. Greenland and Norway have the most polar bears, while a quarter of them live mainly in Alaska and travel to Canada and Russia. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne on Wednesday proposed listing polar bears as a "threatened" species on the government list of imperiled species.

The "endangered" category is reserved for species more likely to become extinct.

"Polar bears are one of nature's ultimate survivors, able to live and thrive in one of the world's harshest environments," Kempthorne said. "But we are concerned the polar bear's habitat may literally be melting."

A final decision on whether to add the polar bears to the list is a year away, after the government finishes more studies.

Such a decision would require all federal agencies to ensure that anything they authorize that might affect polar bears will not jeopardize their survival or the sea ice where they live. That could include oil and gas exploration, commercial shipping or even releases of toxic contaminants or climate-affecting pollution.

Why do we need more studies? The polar bears are drowning due to the scarcity of ice floes. Their weight is dropping to to lack of food. And it's their thick layer of fat that keeps them warm.

But all in all, I think this is good news. Finally the Bush administration is acknowledging the effects of global warming. That's going to set a precedent and make it harder for them to engage in denial in the future.

You can learn more about the polar bear here.

The opposite of selfishness

Jean Vanier

When I was in the convent I was very much influenced by the writings of Jean Vanier, particularly his book, Community and Growth. Vanier is the founder of the L'Arche communities - places where people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them live and create community together. Here's something Vanier said:

When we begin to believe that there is greater joy in working with and for others, rather than just for ourselves, then our society will truly become a place of celebration.

We need antidotes to the culture of selfishness that has taken over our society. For the life of me, I don't see how people who exalt Christianity also exalt self-centeredness. That is completely contrary to everything Jesus actually taught. But members of the religious right are not really interested in the teachings of Jesus. They are interested in exploiting religion in order to control the masses.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Freedom is always in danger

This is thought-provoking and unsettling:

Freedom is always in danger, and the majority of mankind will always acquiesce in its loss, unless a minority is willing to challenge the privileges of its few and the apathy of the masses.

~ R.H.S. Crossman

Moderate Muslims and the Dalai Lama

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I want to call you attention to an article that dates back to April but I just now discovered it. It's called "Moderate Muslims Seek Help From the Dalai Lama" Here's how it gets started:

San Francisco, USA, 16 April 2006 (By Louis Sahugan, L.A. Times) – Prominent Muslim dignitaries on Saturday met for the first time with the world's most influential Buddhist, the Dalai Lama, enlisting his help in quelling fanatical ideologies within Islamic communities and improving the faith's declining image in the West.

The summit was a measure of the desperate concern among moderate Muslim leaders and scholars about religious extremism and increasingly negative views of their faith arising from Western concerns about terrorism. Indeed, Islam traditionally has not recognized Buddhism.

"The main issue of this conference is to provide a platform to teach that there is no room today to say or invest in anything but love," said Imam Mehdi Khorasani of Marin County, who had extended the invitation to the Dalai Lama. "We are happy and grateful for His Holiness' decision to lend his energy to this cause."

Appearing comfortable and jovial in his maroon and saffron robe before a crowd of about 600, the Dalai Lama, 71, was true to his image as one of the world's most avid advocates for peace.

"Some people have an impression that Islam is militant," he said, seated in lotus position on a center-stage baronial chair at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins hotel. "I think that is totally wrong. Islam is one of the world's great religions and it carries, basically, a message of love and compassion." He pointed to his homeland of Tibet as an example of a place where Buddhists and Muslims have existed together in peace for centuries.

In an interview earlier, the Nobel laureate and religious leader of Tibetan Buddhism said, "Promoting the genuine message of Islam and the proper impression of the Muslim world — that is my hope.

I get Islamophobic emails from conservative friends from time to time that really unnerve me. I'm glad the Dalai Lama took this stand. I hope his words have far-reaching influence.

Conservatives and Hollywood

Barbara Sanitee of Tulsa Interfaith Alliance sent out an Alternet article entitled For Religion or Money: Jesus on the Big Screen which, needless to say, is about religious movies. But it was one little paragraph at the end that I particularly wanted you to see:

But a recent study indicated that those with strict religious beliefs enjoy violent and sexually explicit movies as much as any other person. In 2005, a study of 1,000 Americans sponsored by MarketCast and Variety found that those who were the most conservative in their religious beliefs were actually more likely to see films rated R for violence than those who consider themselves more liberal in their religious beliefs.

And the question, of course, is, "What would Jesus watch?"

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Global warming and rising seas

I found an article from The Independent entitled Disappearing world: Global warming claims tropical island on AMERICAblog:

Rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara island, in India's part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists has started coming true.

As the seas continue to swell, they will swallow whole island nations, from the Maldives to the Marshall Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from Bangladesh to Egypt, and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities.

Eight years ago, as exclusively reported in The Independent on Sunday, the first uninhabited islands - in the Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati - vanished beneath the waves. The people of low-lying islands in Vanuatu, also in the Pacific, have been evacuated as a precaution, but the land still juts above the sea. The disappearance of Lohachara, once home to 10,000 people, is unprecedented.

It's started.

Why didn't we listen to our scientists? Are we going to listen now?

About racism today

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John Robbins

I want to call your attention to an article by someone I admire very much - John Robbins. This one is on the continued racism in our country. It's entitled "Is Racism Real?"

It is painful for anyone who appreciates the goals of the civil rights struggles of the 1960s to see that racial disparities still affects the lives of people of color in this country. When you have been taught to believe this nation promises "liberty and justice for all," when you want to see this become a land of equal opportunity, it can be hard to grasp how unfairly people of color in this country are still treated. But despite the efforts and prayers of many people to remedy the injustices, it remains the case that the vast majority of people of color endure not only unequal treatment before the law today, but many other forms of discrimination and injustice, including greatly diminished job opportunities, and far deeper and more intractable levels of poverty.
- Today, the median annual family income for whites is approximately $47,000, while for African-Americans it's $26,000.
- Black-owned small businesses are more than three times as likely as white-owned firms to have loan applications turned down, despite the same creditworthiness.
- Hispanics are rejected for home mortgages twice as often as whites, regardless of income.
- The poverty rate for Hispanics is 2.5 times greater than than for whites.
- Less than half the households on U.S. Indian reservations have phone service.

Racism is "the elephant in the living room" in our country. We don't like to talk about it. But it's there.

You can read about John Robbins here. Take a look at part of that page:

Considered to be one of the most eloquent and powerful spokespersons in the world for a sane, ethical and sustainable future, John has been a featured and keynote speaker at major conferences sponsored by Physicians for Social Responsibility, Beyond War, Oxfam, the Sierra Club, the Humane Society of the United States, the United Nations Environmental Program, UNICEF, and many other organizations dedicated to creating a healthy, just, and sustainable way of life. He is the recipient of the Rachel Carson Award, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, and the Peace Abbey's Courage of Conscience Award. The widespread media attention he has received has included numerous appearances on national shows including Oprah, Donahue and Geraldo. When John spoke at the United Nations, he received a standing ovation.

His writings influenced me hugely in my decision to become a vegetarian.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Charles Dickens

A reminder:

But I am sure that I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round... as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely.

-- Charles Dickens

Remember that today is just the first day of Christmas. We have twelve in all! Don't stop celebrating Christmas until January 6! But wouldn't it be wonderful if we decided to keep our hearts open all year?

Desmond Tutu's Christmas message

Desmond Tutu

As I was driving home from Midnight Mass last night, I heard Desmond Tutu's Christmas message to the BBC on my car radio. He used that occasion to call attention to the plight of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who, by rights, should be the prime minister of Burma but who is under house arrest as a prisoner of conscience. Here's a taste of what he said: Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma...That military regime is dead scared of you - and let me tell you somthing: they have already lost...

Here's something else he said about her at another time:

In physical stature she is petite and elegant, but in moral stature she is a giant. Big men are scared of her. Armed to the teeth and they still run scared.

Please click on the BBC World Service Christmas Greetings page and scroll down to listen to the whole message. It is inspiring. Archbishop Desmond always is.

Here's something Aung San Suu Kyi has said:

It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.

And something else on the same subject:

The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.

Please read the Wikipedia article about her. She is clearly a remarkable woman.

Aung San Suu Kyi is a serious meditator. Let that be an inspiration to us all.

May all who are living under oppression this Christmas be sustained by courage and the knowledge that many throughout the world are in solidarity with them - sending them thoughts and the assurance of prayers. Let us do what we can and, wherever we are in the world, let us never be the instruments of our own oppression.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

By Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay

This is my favorite Christmas poem:

To Jesus on His Birthday

For this your mother sweated in the cold,
For this you bled upon the bitter tree:
A yard of tinsel ribbon bought and sold;
A paper wreath; a day at home for me.
The merry bells ring out, the people kneel;
Up goes the man of God before the crowd;
With voice of honey and with eyes of steel
He drones your humble gospel to the proud.
Nobody listens. Less than the wind that blows
Are all your words to us you died to save.
O Prince of Peace! O Sharon's dewy Rose!
How mute you lie within your vaulted grave.
The stone the angel rolled away with tears
Is back upon your mouth these thousand years.

Let's roll that stone away again, shall we? Let's listen to the real message of the Way-show-er and not what the fundamentalist bigots have proclaimed in his name.

Holiday Manifesto

I go this from Clyde who got it from David:

Stay away from malls
Gather around a table
Re-discover family tradition
Re-live fond memories
Forget bad ones
Play with a toy
Play chess with a friend
Just play
Spike the Eggnog
Think of someone in need
Do something about it
Eat snow
Not the yellow kind
Wear silly hats
Get carried away
Order in
Watch a classic
Send your cards out late
Get up early
Sleep in
Take naps
Make a wish
Have hope
Start your blog
Read a book
Write yours
Talk to a stranger
Slow down
Don't make promises
Give something away
Receive with grace
Watch home movies
Make one
Share it
Take pictures
Share them too
Say goodbye to the past
Say hello to a new year
Smile if it feels right
Find a quiet place
Look out for mistletoe
Don't fake cheer
Be yourself

And I would add: Spend quality time with your animals.

I like the one about sending your cards out late because that's what I'm doing!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

We are all the same.

Wesley Clark

I hope he runs again. Can you imagine a Republican saying something like this?

The final frontier is perhaps the most difficult, but it's also the most important — and that's the frontier of the human spirit. For too long, people have allowed differences on the surface — differences of color, ethnicity, and gender — to tear apart the common bonds they share. And the human spirit suffers as a result.

Imagine a world in which we saw beyond the lines that divide us, and celebrated our differences, instead of hiding from them. Imagine a world in which we finally recognized that, fundamentally, we are all the same. And imagine if we allowed that new understanding to build relations between people and between nations.

-- Wesley Clark

About fascism in the U.S.

Henry A. Wallace

Written in 1944 in the New York Times:

With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.

If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States.

-- Henry A. Wallace

How problems "disappear"

I just read an article by Rosa Brooks in the L.A. Times about how Bush makes problems disappear. Take a look:

For instance, there was this. Problem: In 2005, a congressionally mandated annual State Department report on international terrorism showed that terrorism worldwide was on the rise. Solution: The administration announced that future editions of the report no longer would include statistics on international terrorism. See? Presto! Just like that, the problem went away.

And then there was this. Problem: In 2004, data released by the Department of Education showed that public charter schools, promoted by the administration as a solution to public school woes, were lagging regular public schools in performance. Solution: The administration decided to stop collecting data on charter school performance.

And this. Problem: Environmentalists complained that administration land-use plans for our national parks and forests could have long-term negative effects on the environment. Solution: The administration decided it no longer would conduct environmental impact studies to assess the potential consequences of its land-use plans.

Purely sickening.

Brooks has these recommendations:

Problem: Iraq is patently not yet an oasis of stability on the Middle East map. Solution: Erase the word "Iraq" from all maps in the White House. Write in "Oasis of Stability."
Problem: The troops in Iraq are causing trouble, complaining about a lack of strategy, lack of equipment, lack of clue as to what they're doing there and what they're dying for. Solution: Make our troops disappear from Iraq — by bringing them home.

When it comes to solving the president's problems, that last trick might actually work.

Yes, it just might. Will it be tried, however?

Paying attention

I just came across these wonderful words on prayer:

Pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

-- Mary Oliver

Friday, December 22, 2006

Let's pay attention

I've blogged on these issues before but here I want to give two summaries from under-reported stories in 2006.

Here's the first:

Siberia's permafrost is melting: Why is this an important story? Because Arctic permafrost, which in Siberia covers endless miles, contains massive amounts of methane. The melting soil releases the methane into the air, where it is now expected to massively and irrevocably accelerate global warming. It's a process that has already begun, but just. This massive climate bomb literally has the potential to end civilization. Its discovery should have not only been the year's top story, but an impetus for all humanity to unite in a common struggle for survival. Maybe in 2007. Or 2009, when someone who believes in science occupies the White House.

By all rights, humanity as a whole should be panicking. But we're just trucking along as if nothing were happening.

And here's the second:

[S]ince when did torture, suspension of habeas corpus, and domestic warrantless spying become America's status quo? Since 2006, that's when. Three terrifying, textbook examples of how, in short progression, the unthinkable becomes the hotly debated becomes The Way We Do Things. As we enter 2007, all the elements for a fully "constitutional" dictatorship have quietly fallen into place. All it now takes is someone smarter or more ruthless than George Bush to exploit them.

And, by all rights, Americans ought to be panicking. But we're not. History (if there is one) will condemn us.

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Global warming and insurance risk

Okay, global-warming-denier Senator Inhofe. Listen up already. Do you think insurance companies are just making this stuff up?

Allstate Corp., one of Maryland's largest insurers, will stop writing homeowners' policies in coastal areas of the state, citing warnings by scientists that a warmer Atlantic Ocean will lead to more strong hurricanes hitting the Northeast.

The company will no longer offer new property insurance beginning in February in all or part of 11 counties mostly along the
Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Existing customers won't be affected; a spokeswoman said Allstate intends to renew those policies even in coastal areas. It will continue to write new policies in Baltimore and Baltimore County.

"We have been looking at hurricane and storm projections, and we're going to see a lot more severe storms further north on the coastline," said Allstate spokeswoman Debbie Pickford. "We are working to minimize our risk."

This is the market at work - you know, the free market that the conservatives worship. How are they going to explain this away?

Virgil Goode's bigotry

Just in case you're not familiar with what he said, take a look:

[I]f American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran ... I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.

Just try substituting the word "Jews" for "Muslims" and see if you think this kind of bigotry is acceptable in America. It's beyond outrageous.

The Israeli apartheid

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The Nation has published an article entitled Get Carter and it underscores the cowardice of the American press. Take a look:

Jimmy Carter, by publishing his book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, walked straight into the buzz saw that is the Israel lobby. Among the vitriolic attacks on the former President was the claim by Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, that Carter is "outrageous" and "bigoted" and that his book raises "the old canard and conspiracy theory of Jewish control of the media, Congress, and the U.S. government." Many Democratic Party leaders, anxious to keep the Israel lobby's money and support, have hotfooted it out the door, with incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing that Carter "does not speak for the Democratic Party on Israel."

Carter's book exposes little about Israel. The enforced segregation, abject humiliation and spiraling Israeli violence against Palestinians have been detailed in the Israeli and European press and, with remarkable consistency, by all the major human rights organizations. The assault against Carter, rather, says more about the failings of the American media--which have largely let Israel hawks heap calumny on Carter's book. It exposes the indifference of the Bush Administration and the Democratic leadership to the rule of law and basic human rights, the timidity of our intellectual class and the moral bankruptcy of institutions that claim to speak for American Jews and the Jewish state.

The bleakness of life for Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip, is a mystery only to us. In the current Israeli campaign in Gaza, now sealed off from the outside world, almost 500 Palestinians, most unarmed, have been killed. Sanctions, demanded by Israel and imposed by the international community after the Hamas victory last January in what were universally acknowledged to be free and fair elections, have led to the collapse of civil society in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as widespread malnutrition. And Palestinians in the West Bank are being encased, in open violation of international law, in a series of podlike militarized ghettos with Israel's massive $2 billion project to build a "security barrier." This barrier will gobble up at least 10 percent of the West Bank, including most of the precious aquifers and at least 40,000 acres of Palestinian farmland. The project is being financed in large part through $9 billion in American loan guarantees...

We have a lot to answer for. The treatment of the Palestinians is beyond reprehensible. But the American popular press won't cover it. Thank goodness Jimmy Carter is at least trying.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bears in Spain

This is worrying:

Bears have stopped hibernating in the mountains of northern Spain, scientists revealed yesterday, in what may be one of the strongest signals yet of how much climate change is affecting the natural world.

In a December in which bumblebees, butterflies and even swallows have been on the wing in Britain, European brown bears have been lumbering through the forests of Spain's Cantabrian mountains, when normally they would already be in their long, annual sleep.
The behaviour change suggests that global warming is responsible for this revolution in ursine behaviour, says Juan Carlos García Cordón, a professor of geography at Santander's Cantabria University, and a climatology specialist.

You might like to click through to the article to read about other seasonal freaks.

The right kind of resistance


While I'm tapping into Starhawk's wisdom, I want to bring you this as well:

On some deep cosmic level, we are all one, and within us we each contain the potential for good and for destruction, for compassion and hate, for generosity and greed. But even if I acknowledge the full range of impulses within myself, that doesn't erase the differences between a person acting from compassion and love, and another choosing to act from hate and greed. Moreover, it doesn't erase my responsibility to challenge a system which furthers hate and greed. If I don't resist such a system, I am complicit in what it does. I join the perpetrators in oppressing the victims.

Let us continue to challenge the system which furthers hate and greed.

Winter Solstice

May the day be meaningful to you:

This is the stillness behind motion, when time itself stops;
the center is also the circumference of all.
We are awake in the night.
We turn the Wheel to bring the light.
We call the sun from the womb of night.
Blessed Be!

-- Starhawk

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

"...the values upon which our system is built."

Remarks in the Senate, June 29, 1961:

It is not our affluence, or our plumbing, or our clogged freeways that grip the imagination of others. Rather, it is the values upon which our system is built. These values imply our adherence not only to liberty and individual freedom, but also to international peace, law and order, and constructive social purpose. When we depart from these values, we do so at our peril.

-- James William Fulbright (1905–95)

Sadly we have already departed from these values and our peril is, indeed, upon us.

Things just aren't right

With the weather, I mean. Here in Tulsa we had a few days of cold and snow and then the weather turned balmy. A few days ago, I saw people out with tank tops on. It certainly doesn't feel like Christmas as warm as it's been. Well, the Washington Post has published an article about this phenomenon in Europe:

MOSCOW, Dec. 19 -- Scattered flurries teased Moscow on Tuesday afternoon with the promise of a real winter, the birthright of a city whose people take pride in trudging through snow and in ice fishing and cross-country skiing in white countryside beyond the outer beltway.

The winter of 2006 has yet to arrive, however, and Muscovites are deeply discombobulated. "I want snow. I want the New Year's feeling," said Viktoria Makhovskaya, a street vendor who sells gloves and mittens. "This is a disgusting winter. I don't like it at all."

Moscow is not alone in the unexpected warmth -- it stretches across the continent.

Preliminary data from the Met Office, Britain's national weather service, and the University of East Anglia indicate that 2006 has been the warmest year in Britain since record-keeping concerning weather conditions began in central England in 1659.

Trees are sprouting leaves in Switzerland. And low-altitude ski resorts across the Alps look more like springtime meadows. "We are currently experiencing the warmest period in the Alpine region in 1,300 years," Reinhard Boehm, a climatologist at Austria's Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics, told the Associated Press in Vienna.
The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warns in a report this month "that climate change poses serious risks to the snow reliability of Alpine ski areas, and consequently to the regional economies that depend upon winter tourism."

Up to 80 million people visit Alpine resorts each year, and they are a key contributor to the local economies, the report says.

I wonder if Senator Inhofe reads newspapers. I would like to confront him with this information and then let him try to tell me that global warming is a hoax.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bush's dreams?

I thought the first rule of war was "Know your enemy." Well, if you are part of the Bush administration, you can't be bothered. I want to call your attention to an article called "Bush Madness Becomes Apparent" and, among other things, it's about willful ignorance. Take a look:

Jonathan Alter of "Newsweek" magazine reminds us that that a section of the Iraq Study Group Report explains our diplomatic efforts have a serious handicap because, as the study notes, "our embassy of 1,000 has 33 Arabic speakers, just six of whom are the level of fluency. In a conflict that demands effective and efficient communications with Iraqis, we are often at a disadvantage."

And look at this ignorance about terrorism and as well as Islam:

Dale Watson, the FBI's top counter-terrorism official before and after 9/11, now retired, was asked..., "Do you know who Osama bin Laden's spiritual leader was?"

Watson: "Can't recall."

Lawyer: "And do you know the difference in the religion between Shiite and Sunni Muslims?"

Watson: "Not technically, no."

The same question was posed to John Lewis, who until recently was the FBI's assistant director of counter-terrorism.

Lewis: "You know generally. Not very well."

Lawyer: "Was there any relationship between the first World Trade Center bombing and the 9/11 attacks?"

Lewis: "I'm aware of no immediate relationship other than all emanates out of the Middle East, al-Qaeda linkage, I believe. Not something I've studied recently that I'm conversant with."

Don't bother studying anything important. Be like Bush -- run with your gut, lump everything in the Middle East together and brand it as terror. The FBI director is tolerating this inexcusable ignorance and he should be held accountable for it.

And, sadly, here's a Democrat who's not any better:

Lawmakers responsible for overseeing U.S. intelligence are not much better. "Congressional Quarterly's" National Security Editor Jeff Stein asked the man incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tapped to chair the Intelligence Committee what branch of Islam al-Qaeda is linked to.

Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, answered, "They are probably both." Then he said, "Predominantly probably Shiite." Nice try. He had a 50-50 chance and was flat wrong.

You know, this is really scary when you think about it. This contempt for the responsibility of informing oneself is truly unsettling. Are we, as Americans, so arrogant that we think our ignorance will have no consequences?

Top Ten Ways to Change the World in 2007

By Micky Z.

1. Wear a "Free Tibet" t-shirt
2. Switch to recycled toilet paper
3. Watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert
4. Adopt a Third World orphan
5. Start a discussion about Africa
6. Eat free range chicken
7. Drive a hybrid SUV
8. Subscribe to The Nation
9. Chant for peace in your yoga class
10. Vote Democrat

I would add:

11. Use compact florescent light bulbs
12. Use recycled paper towels and napkins
13. Buy fair trade coffee
14. Give to the ACLU
15. Meditate

Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at

The racist message of Apocalypto

First of all, let me say that I have no intention of seeing Apocalypto for two reasons: the violence, and Mel Gibson's drunken anti-Semitism. But I'm very interested in the reviews. I want to call your attention to one that points out the inherent racisim in Gibson's approach. Here are a couple of excerpts from the article entitled "The Sober Racism of Mel Gibson's Apocalypto":

As a cultural anthropologist who has worked for thirteen years among different Maya peoples of Mesoamerica and who speaks the Q'eqchi' Maya language fluently, I found Apocalypto to be deeply racist. The Maya in the film bore no resemblance to the hardworking farmers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, businessmen and women of Maya descent that I know personally and consider among my closest friends.

I fear the repercussions Apocalypto will have on contemporary Maya people who continue to struggle for survival and political governments under discriminatory governments that consider them stupid, backward, and uncivilized for wanting to maintain their customs and language. Gibson's slanderous film reinforces the same stereotypes that have facilitated the genocide of Maya peoples and the plunder of their lands starting with the Spanish invasion of 1492 and continuing through the Guatemalan civil war to the present.
While keeping some of the archaeological details accurate for "authenticity," Gibson then jumbles together mass Aztec sacrifices with Maya rituals, as if they were the same. Certainly at the height of classic Maya civilization, the ruling classes made occasional human sacrifices to their gods, but nothing on the Holocaust-level scale that Gibson portrays in Apocalypto with fields of rotting, decapitated corpses that his hero, Jaguar Paw stumbles across as he attempts to escape his own execution in the city. With the advice of archaeologist Richard Hansen, Gibson seems to have researched anything the Maya might have done badly over a thousand year history and crammed it all into a few horrific days. How would the gringos look if we made a film that lumped together within one week the torture at the Abu Ghraib and Guatanamo prisons, the Tuskegee experiments, KKK lynchings, the battle at Wounded Knee, Japanese internment camps, the Trail of Tears, the Salem witch hunts, Texas death row executions, the Rodney King police beatings, the slaughter upon the Gettysburg battlefield, and the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki - and made this look like a definitive statement on U.S. culture?

You know, when I was a young person in the 60s, I thought that certainly by 2006 racism would have been erradicated in this country or at least so socially unacceptable that no one would publicly reveal it. Sad to have been so very wrong.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Preaching in the classroom

Dan Nerren sent me a New York Times article that has disturbed me greatly. It's called "Talk in Class Turns to God, Setting Off Public Debate on Rights". Take a look:

KEARNY, N.J. — Before David Paszkiewicz got to teach his accelerated 11th-grade history class about the United States Constitution this fall, he was accused of violating it.

Shortly after school began in September, the teacher told his sixth-period students at Kearny High School that evolution and the Big Bang were not scientific, that dinosaurs were aboard Noah’s ark, and that only Christians had a place in heaven, according to audio recordings made by a student whose family is now considering a lawsuit claiming Mr. Paszkiewicz broke the church-state boundary.

“If you reject his gift of salvation, then you know where you belong,” Mr. Paszkiewicz was recorded saying of Jesus. “He did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sins on his own body, suffered your pains for you, and he’s saying, ‘Please, accept me, believe.’ If you reject that, you belong in hell.”

The student, Matthew LaClair, said that he felt uncomfortable with Mr. Paszkiewicz’s statements in the first week, and taped eight classes starting Sept. 13 out of fear that officials would not believe the teacher had made the comments.

Since Matthew’s complaint, administrators have said they have taken “corrective action” against Mr. Paszkiewicz, 38, who has taught in the district for 14 years and is also a youth pastor at Kearny Baptist Church. However, they declined to say what the action was, saying it was a personnel matter.

In this tale of the teacher who preached in class and the pupil he offended, students and the larger community have mostly lined up with Mr. Paszkiewicz, not with Matthew, who has received a death threat handled by the police, as well as critical comments from classmates.
On the sidewalks outside the high school, which has 1,750 students, many agreed with 15-year-old Kyle Durkin, who said, “I’m on the teacher’s side all the way.”

What really bothers me here is the support for the teacher. The fundamentalists, of course, claim that freedom of religion entitles them to proselytize in class. Here's what I want to know. Would they like it if a Muslim teacher tried to convert students to Islam as part of a history lesson? Would they then say that Muslims shouldn't be hired as teachers? How is that not violating the establishment clause of the Constitution?

Sunday, December 17, 2006


From a CNN article:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sen. Tim Johnson has shown significant improvement after brain surgery and doctors say "everything is going to be just fine," Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said Sunday.

Remember, if Johnson had died or resigned due to incapcitation, the Republicans would have regained power in the Senate.

Sunday prayer blogging

I first because acquainted with this prayer many years ago when I found it printed in a yoga book. I loved it then and am glad to have come across it again:

Salutation to the Dawn

Look to this day!
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence:
The bliss of growth;
The glory of action;
The splendor of achievement;
For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision;
But today, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness,
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.

- Attributed to Kalidasa

Attacking soy

All right. Have you heard that the right wingers are now saying that eating soy products makes you gay? Yeah, I'm serious. Pathetic isn't it? I really want to steer you toward an article refuting a piece that's been floating around the internet on this subject. It's called That's Soy Gay! There's really no way to give you excerpts that will summarize this so please click through and read it all.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The other Rocky

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I've blogged about the mayor of Salt Lake City before and today I want to recommend that you click through and read the entire article I'm calling to your attention about Rocky Anderson. What grieves me about this talented and conscientious man is that he's essentially unelectable when it comes to national office:

Standing at the top of the imposing stone staircase leading up to the entrance to City Hall on a blustery late August day, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson finishes his speech denouncing George W. Bush, a man he calls "the most dangerous President the country's ever had," a leader he believes has precipitated an "incredible moral crisis" for America.
"You should run for President," people keep telling him, as they mill around in front of the heavily guarded federal building. Mindful that this is his last year in office, Anderson doesn't pooh-pooh the sentiment or issue exaggerated disclaimers. Instead he answers, carefully, that you need money to run, that you need a state machine backing you--which, in a place as virulently conservative as Utah, known until fairly recently as "the Mississippi of the West," is not going to happen for Anderson--that you need to know when to shut up and not speak your mind. Successful national politicians listen to handlers and spin doctors, and that's something he won't do.
Anderson has restructured the city's criminal justice system and, suspicious of the tenets of the war on drugs, thrown the Just Say No DARE program out of the city's schools. Instead of pushing for more and more low-end offenders to be sent to jail or prison, he has built one of the country's most innovative restorative justice programs, for which he was nominated for a second World Leadership Award--in December the judges in London announced that Stuttgart, Germany, had edged Anderson's city for the prize. Mental health courts now channel mentally ill criminals into mandatory treatment programs rather than dumping them behind bars; a misdemeanor drug court similarly replaces punishment with treatment; and the city now has one of the most active victim-offender reconciliation programs in America. People arrested for driving under the influence or soliciting prostitutes are sent through a comprehensive course of counseling rather than automatically being handed criminal records.
More than thirty years ago, as an undergraduate at the University of Utah, Anderson studied political philosophy, religious philosophy and ethics. He read books by Sartre and other existentialists, and, he remembers, he had a "powerful epiphany. We can't escape responsibility, there's no sitting out moral decisions, and whenever we refuse to stand up against wrongdoing we're actually supporting the status quo."

We need a system in this country to make people like Anderson electable. It is an indictment on our system of government that someone like George Bush can get elected and someone like Rocky Anderson can't.

Separation of church and state

The point has been made that although the actual phrase "separation of church and state" is not found in the Constitution, the principle is there and the phrase itself was in wide use by the founding fathers.

To the right wingers today who say that the United States is "a Christian nation", look at this:

Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?

--James Madison

Friday, December 15, 2006

About reality

This deserved to be passed on:

The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist fears that this may be true.

-- James Branch Cabell

So Bush sleeps well

But at least he acknowledges that there's a reason people would think he couldn't sleep nights:

I must tell you, I'm sleeping a lot better than people would assume.

- George W. Bush

Jesus and the Board of Education

My friend, Brad Griffith, sent me the following:

Ellie- This story was reported on the St. Louis NPR station yesterday. I did not know that a personal relationship with Jesus was a qualification for appointment. It's interesting that I have not seen this comment in any of the print media reports...

Blunt names another school voucher supporter to board - Frank Morris, KCUR

KANSAS CITY, MO (2006-12-14) Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt has appointed another supporter of school vouchers to the State Board of Education.

Rev. Stanley Archie is pastor at a small store-front church in Mid-town Kansas City, and president of the Kansas City Leadership Federation, and sits on the board of a charter school.

Blunt spokesman Brian Hauswirth says Archie is well qualified for the 8-year appointment: "He's a Democrat, he's willing to ask tough questions, impeccable integrity - He's accepted Jesus Christ as his lord and savior, and he's very, very, very committed to his relationship with Jesus."

Hauswirth says Archie is open to idea of school vouchers, though he insists Governor Blunt does not support them.

Last month, Blunt appointed another voucher advocate to the board - Donayle E. Whitmore-Smith, of St. Louis. Both appointments are subject to Missouri Senate approval.

A religious test for office is blatanly unconstitutional. Calling a "personal relationship with Jesus" a qualification for office is very troubling. And, of course, the support for vouchers is about undermining and eventually destroying the public school system.

Iraq and the press

Here's a comment I found on AMERICAblog today:

If you get a chance watch DemocracyNow today. Dennis Kucinich held a conference on Iraqi civilian deaths yesterday, hosting Juan Cole and other experts.


1. Extreme under reporting of Iraqi civilian deaths in the western press.
2. 80%+ of civilian deaths reported in the western press is in and around Baghdad, though the violence is wide spread throughout the country.
3. Estimates are that on any given day when 50 civilian deaths are reported in the press that up to 500 have died throughout the country.
4. By academic definition Iraq is not only in a civil war but a civil war times ten - i.e., no question here.
5. All of Kucinich's experts agreed that the 600,000+ Iraqi civilian deaths is an accurate number - and that the western press has been down playing and not reporting these high numbers...

Lots of other facts - well worth the watch. Thanks Ohio, for giving us Kucinich - he is one of the few great Americans in politics today.

I agree with the writer's assessment of Kucinich. He would make a great president. It's a real pity he is unelectable.

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Isn't Cynthia an incredible photographer? I love this picture!

Senator Johnson

By now you all know the following:

South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson, reportedly recovering after brain surgery Wednesday, reminds Americans of one of the most troublingly undemocratic aspects of this country's uneven and often dysfunctional political process.

If Johnson is incapacitated, the decision about how to fill his seat will not be made by the voters of South Dakota but by one man: the state's Republican governor. And if, as is expected, that governor were to appoint a fellow Republican, control of the upper chamber of the Congress would turn on his whim.

The writer of this article, published in The Nation, concludes in the following way:

Though senators must be elected by the people in all states, when they are incapacitated during their terms they can be replaced in a variety of manners. Some states, such as Texas and Wisconsin, hold special elections to fill open seats -- thus keeping decisions about who sits in the Senate with the people. Other states, such as South Dakota, allow a gubernatorial designation that is roughly akin to a royal appointment.

The United States should have a uniform system for replacing senators. The system should be democratic, placing authority in the hands of the electorate rather than a single man or woman. Instead, we have a lingering remnant of royalism -- gubernatorial appointment -- that could in this rare circumstance upset the will not just of the people of one state but of the United States.

Everybody pray for Senator Johnson or send good thoughts or do whatever you do to support his getting better. It would really be horrible if we lost control of the Senate.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Global warming and Santa's traditional home

This is very distressing. It's an article from The Independent entitled "Lapland can only dream of white Christmas". Here's how it gets started:

It should be a winter wonderland; instead, it's just piles of slush. British holidaymakers travelling to Lapland for a pre-Christmas holiday got a shock when they arrived in Santa's traditional home this week: no snow.

Rovaniemi, a town on the Arctic Circle in northern Finland which is the Lapp capital, is normally covered in deep drifts at this time of the year, with accompanying temperatures going down to -20C.

But this week it has been completely snow-free and temperatures have been up to three degrees above freezing. As a result, disappointed families hoping to go on husky and reindeer sleigh rides, as part of increasingly-popular Father Christmas package tours, have found excursions cancelled, and they have had to make do with slush at best.

A spokesman for First Choice holidays, the British tour operator that takes thousands of Britons to Lapland, said yesterday that the conditions were "incredibly unusual". However, they have occurred in the week that US scientists warned that the Arctic region is now warming so fast that all the ice in the Arctic ocean, which covers the North Pole, could melt away in as little as 35 years - meaning extinction for polar bears, which depend on the floating ice to hunt.

Ever since I first learned of what is happening to the polar bears, I experienced enormous pain about that reality. It grieves me to think of them drowning and starving because there are no ice floes. They must be so confused on top of the obvious suffering. Their plight is simply heart-breaking.

About peace

When will the world learn this?

There can be no peace as long as there is grinding poverty, social injustice, inequality, oppression, environmental degradation, and as long as the weak and small continue to be trodden by the mighty and powerful.

-- The Dalai Lama

That "war on Christmas" again

Yes, it was going on last year and apparently the right-wingers are at it again - playing the martyr when people say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas". There's an RJ Eskow article about that entitled "A St. Francis Prayer in Reverse For the 'War On Christmas' Whiners". It's worth a read for the diabolical prayer but what I want to show you is the part where Eskow addresses the aggrieved Christianists:

Tell me: How is this"Happy Holidays" business making you suffer, exactly? Do you depend on the greeters at Wal-Mart for your theological guidance? Does the absence of the Savior's name in the Sears catalog leave you spiritually adrift in a hostile cosmos?

Nah. You're just falling back on the worst kind of Me-Generation, touchy-feely, self-pitying behavior. You're complaining because it makes you uncomfortable. It's Christian Dominionism for the "feel good" crowd.

Whatever happened to good old-fashioned stoicism?
St. Peter was crucified upside down, and Polycarp was stabbed to death. You didn't hear them complaining. But you guys live in wealth and privilege under the most powerful nation in history, and yet with all your political influence you can't stop mewling like kittens.
And you guys are bitching because the Christmas Tree some condo association put up doesn't have a cross on it this year. What a bunch of whiners.

Or is your faith in your own religion so weak that you think it will collapse if it doesn't have the official endorsement of the Pine Hill Homeowners Cooperative?

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

That "family values" crowd again

And not only "family values" but "personal responsibility". Take a look:

'Mallard Fillmore' creator arrested for DUI

Hoosier Edward Bruce Tinsley, creator of the conservative comic strip Mallard Fillmore, was arrested in Columbus Dec. 4 and charged with operating a vehicle under the influence -- his second alcohol-related arrest in less that four months, according to the Bartholomew County Sheriff's Department.

Tinsley, 48, who lives in Columbus, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.14 -- almost twice the level at which an Indiana driver is considered intoxicated. He posted $755 bond.

On Aug. 26, Tinsley was arrested for public intoxication, according to the sheriff's department. Mallard Fillmore, about a conservative duck, appears in almost 400 newspapers nationwide, including The Indianapolis Star.

Do liberals get arrested for drunk driving too? Of course they do. That's not my point. The issue is conservative hypocrisy. The conservatives inflict their self-righteous, moralistic judgment on the rest of us and then expect a pass when they're the ones caught being irresponsible.

Native American wisdom

Frank Ford sent me this meditation:

In our language there is no word to say inferior or superiority or equality because we are equal; it's a known fact. But life has become very complicated since the newcomers came here. And how does your spirit react to it? It's painful. You have to be strong to walk through the storm. I know I'm a bridge between two worlds. All I ask is for people to wash their feet before they try to walk on me.

--Alanis Obomsawin, ABENAKI

Wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone considered it a "known fact" that we all are equal?

The so-called "war on drugs"

It's labeled "The Other War We Can't Win" by Neal Peirce. Here's how his article gets started:

Pick your week or month, the evidence keeps rolling in to show this country's vaunted "war on drugs" is as destructively misguided as our cataclysmic error in invading Iraq.

There are 2.2 million Americans behind bars, another 5 million on probation or parole, the Justice Department reported on Nov. 30. We exceed Russia and Cuba in incarcerations per 100,000 people; in fact, no other nation comes close. The biggest single reason for the expanding numbers? Our war on drugs — a quarter of all sentences are for drug offenses, mostly nonviolent.

So has the "war" worked? Has drug use or addiction declined? Clearly not. Hard street drugs are reportedly cheaper and purer, and as easy to get, as when President Richard Nixon declared substance abuse a "national emergency."

The article goes on to describe our efforts to erradicate drug use through prohibition and through unsavory relations with other countries who supply our drugs. Then this point is made:

We'd be incredibly better off if we had treated drugs as a public-health issue instead of a criminal issue — as the celebrated Nobel Prize-winning economist, Milton Friedman, in fact advised us. Friedman, who died last month at 94, witnessed America's misadventure into alcohol prohibition in his youth. "We had this spectacle of Al Capone, of the hijackings, the gang wars," wrote Friedman. He decried turning users into criminals: "Prohibition is an attempted cure that makes matters worse — for both the addict and the rest of us."

And in one of his last interviews, Friedman asked the relevant questions: "Should we allow the killing to go on in the ghettos? 10,000 additional murders a year? ... Should we continue to destroy Colombia and Afghanistan?"

The ironic truth is that humans have used drugs — psychoactive substances ranging from opium and coca to alcohol, hemp, tobacco and coffee — since the dawn of history. Problems get triggered when substances are associated with despised or feared subgroups, according to a careful study by the King County, Wash., Bar Association.

It's time to end prohibition. Prohibition doesn't help. It makes things worse.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

“A Way Forward?” To Where, Exactly?

How's this for a limerick?

Iraq’s current state is abysmal,
With its prospects of peace rather dismal.
Dubya started this war,
Yielding blood, sweat and gore,
And success odds quite infinitesimal.

By Madeleine Begun Kane

And this happened to an American citizen

The article I want you to see is called "Routine and Systematic Torture Is at the Heart of America's War on Terror" and it's by George Monbiot. Here's the subtitle:

In the fight against cruelty, barbarism and extremism, America has embraced the very evils it claims to confront.

Oh, it has. Yes it has.

Read on:

After thousands of years of practice, you might have imagined that every possible means of inflicting pain had already been devised. But you should never underestimate the human capacity for invention. United States interrogators, we now discover, have found a new way of destroying a human being.

Last week, defence lawyers acting for José Padilla, a US citizen detained as an "enemy combatant", released a video showing a mission fraught with deadly risk - taking him to the prison dentist. A group of masked guards in riot gear shackled his legs and hands, blindfolded him with black-out goggles and shut off his hearing with headphones, then marched him down the prison corridor.

Is Padilla really that dangerous? Far from it: his warders describe him as so docile and inactive that he could be mistaken for "a piece of furniture". The purpose of these measures appeared to be to sustain the regime under which he had lived for more than three years: total sensory deprivation. He had been kept in a blacked-out cell, unable to see or hear anything beyond it. Most importantly, he had had no human contact, except for being bounced off the walls from time to time by his interrogators. As a result, he appears to have lost his mind. I don't mean this metaphorically. I mean that his mind is no longer there.

The forensic psychiatrist who examined him says that he "does not appreciate the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, is unable to render assistance to counsel, and has impairments in reasoning as the result of a mental illness, ie, post-traumatic stress disorder, complicated by the neuropsychiatric effects of prolonged isolation". José Padilla appears to have been lobotomised: not medically, but socially.

I suggest you read the rest of the article. It grieves me that we have sunk to this incredible low. But also remember this: it happened to a U.S. citizen. The constitution no longer protects us.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Israel blocks Tutu

Take a look:

GENEVA - South African Nobel prize winner Desmond Tutu said on Monday he was distressed that Israel had blocked his planned mission to Gaza to investigate last month's killing of 19 Palestinian civilians by Israeli shells.

The former archbishop of Cape Town and peace laureate was due to lead a team asked by the United Nations' Human Rights Council to investigate the incident at
Beit Hanoun in Gaza on November 8.

But after waiting in Geneva for the green light from Israel, Tutu and his fellow team member British law professor Christine Chinkin said they no longer had time to complete the visit by the end of the week as planned.

"We find the lack of cooperation by the Israeli government very distressing," they said in a joint statement.

In the meantime, Jimmy Carter is being villified for his new book that calls the situation between Israel and the Palestinians an "apartheid".

Smoking addiction

Here's some information I just stumbled upon:

More than a third of smokers who had surgery to remove early stage lung cancer were smoking again within a year, a new study finds.

The study involved patients who were forced to quit smoking for surgery. Many were puffing away within two months of the surgery, and nearly half eventually resumed the habit.

Unbelievable. Just unbelievable.