Friday, December 18, 2009

And so this is Christmas

This is a picture of "Homeless Mary", a well known,"person of little means" in Chicago.
When I lived in Chicago(from age zero to thirty) I knew many "colorful characters". In my neighborhood there was "Chee Chee Anny" She mostly said "chee chee". There was the old "Prostitutes in the park" lady. She would lash about with her umbrella, railing about the "prostitutes in the park". Harry Gomala lived in an abandoned semi trailer by the tracks a block from my house. What i remember most vividly about Harry was the first time we went to roust him to buy wine for us. He was not well, he was never well, but his partner was nervous about all us kids there, so he encouraged Harry to come out. "C'mon Harry, a hammuger anna cuppa caffee would do ya good". Harry came to the edge of the trailer, swept his arm over the garbage dump that was where his traier was abandoned and said, " Behold, my vista, boys." I have never forgotten that moment.
Harry got down from the semi-trailer and we headed toward 39th street. At the curb, he stumbled and fell. I grabbed his arm and said to my friend, 'Norb, grab his arm" and my best friend, Norbie Ruczinski, said "I ain't touchin' that nasty old fucker". I helped Harry up and he got us our wine. We gave him half a buck because that's what a pint of port or muscatel cost then. For half a buck you could get a hamburger, french fries and a cup of coffee and still have a dime left over. I suspect Harry bought wine.
I suppose we went back to roust winos to make runs for us other times, but I don't remember. I only remember Harry that first time. As clear as Christmas.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Jesus bodhisattva

This was the type of Christaian I aspired to be when I was a Christian. It takes more cojones than I ever had. I don't believe in proselytising, but if you believe you have found the means of eternal joy this would be the way to share them.And to start with here is a quote from Brandt's blog, Adopt-A-Jesus
"We cant help people hoping to change them. We love people, and love brings the change, and if no change occurs (in our eyes), we love anyways."

From The Huntington Post by Tony Rutherford

Huntington, WV (HNN) – Brandt Russo, a college graduate, quit his job, sold his stuff, and began ministering to the poor and homeless from a bus run on grease. “I don’t feed the homeless,” said following a screening of “Adopt a Jesus” in Marshall University’s Smith Hall Auditorium, “I eat with them.”

Actually, Russo does more. He once prevented the killing of a homeless man by “five kids who thought it fun.” The man suffered broken bones, but survived. “I feel safer in God’s will in a ghetto with a gun point at me than in a church building,” the non-conventional minister told an audience of 75 to 100 viewers.

He carefully retorted a strictly evangelical approach to winning the homeless to Christ. Russo believes you must first show them love, meet their immediate needs, then, you have the potential for leading a soul to Jesus.

Russo, along with local filmmaker Bob Wilkinson (a WVSU alumni) and producer Charessa Wilkinson (a 2001 MU alumni) followed Russo through the south in a bus than ran on used cooking oil, often salvaged from dumpsters behind fast food restaurants. They pick up hitchhikers, listen to their stories, share food and fellowship, and in the words of Christ, love their neighbor [a stranger] as yourself.

The easy-going Russo lists Mother Teresa, St. Francis of Assisi, Gandhi , Martin Luther King Jr., and Jesus among those who have inspired him the most. “Deny yourself, take up thy cross and follow me,” the 20something man has done.

Prior to the screening his toes showed through a pair of tattered slip on sneakers. To him, they symbolized the necessity to become one of the homeless in order to minister to them.

The film resonates with a special one-of-a-kind spirit. Somehow with cameras rolling, you know that Russo’s not embellishing the portrait for viewer’s benefit or empathy.

Warned that they found most of their food for the trip in dumpsters, my stomach turned as he invaded the first unit. A sigh of relief followed when he brought out a hose to siphon grease for the bus. He did not ask permission to shuffle through the trash. He knew what the earthly answer would be. Instead, he stated, my permission comes from Jesus.

Perhaps, the most alarming and poignant scenes occur when he encounters church members. During his trip through the south, he would try parking overnight on the large lots of churches. But, in spite of his Heavenly ordained mission, his long, unkempt hair, tattoos, rings in his nose, and second-hand clothes brought shame not to him, but to so-called fine, outstanding Christians.

You see, they did not want him or his bus on their plush parking lots. Often he would be asked to leave. Some called police. He spent a night in jail. Followers from across the country arrived, however, to make his bail.

He related his experience at a large church with 40,000 members. When he entered with a backpack for the Sunday service, he was escorted out of the sanctuary by security. He was sitting too close to the front. He was within view of the television cameras. After enduring a search, he was escorted to a seat in the rear. Russo, like Jesus, wept.

Ushers understood and tried to comfort, but the experience was an indictment beyond Brandt Russo. He learned that the church removed five or six homeless looking people a week. He knew that some of them would later take their own lives. One church told him that’s why he couldn’t park on their landscaped lot; a man had taken his own life there earlier.

As Russo’s ministry spread, some of the larger churches tried to make amends. One lengthy scene has him setting up a table just on the edge of church property. He has pictures of homeless people in Houston. As the congregation files in, he asks for them to take a picture --- adopt a Jesus --- “he’s hungry and homeless wearing wet, mildewed clothes, does anyone want to feed him, give him a place to sleep?”

Tens of thousands of church members pass.. Seven stop to take a picture of one of the 3,000 on Houston’s streets. Russo views his days ministry as successful.

“Adopt a Jesus” tramples on additional sacred cows. It speaks of --- through the voices of homeless --- of how the Bible can be a beloved Holy Book or a weapon. “Don’t beat me and scare me s---less with the Bible,” an older man states. He recalls “young kids” committing suicide. “So many were beat to hell with a Bible.”

Whether moving down an interstate or a small, dusty road, Russo’s bus opens its doors to everyone. He has a network of community gardens and food kitchens on which he can count, but , the dumpsters of grocery stores often provide morsels. He wonders why boxes of unopened food were tossed due to cosmetic damage to the box?

Speaking of growing food as “part of the creation process,” Russo remarked that rescuing it from the garbage is “part of the resurrection process.”

Smiling throughout the film (and the Q and A that followed) , on film he explains to viewers preparation for a day of ministry --- handing out burritos to the hungry in Texas, goofing off, and getting to know people. The third part --- listening and befriending --- allows him to hand out a blessing, as he does not judge remarking that rich or poor everyone suffers spiritual and emotional pain.

How did “Adapt a Jesus” become a flick? Charessa Wilkinson, producer, told the audience she met Brandt on MySpace. From there on, everything that happened in her words, “it was a God thing” with the film coming together on less than a shoe string budget.

The film emphasizes that spirituality and faith does not need a glorious, massive church building for the worship of God. Be it a camp ground, a rehabilitated crack house, or space under a bridge, all these locations become “churches” to some. God speaks through those who have the courage to reach out and listen.

A photographer, Russo continues on a cross-country tour showing the film FREE where requested. The list has grown far beyond expectations. At the showing, DVD’s are for sale ($15), money from which will go towards a sequel but Russo will not return to his “feed the homeless” bus. He’s selling it to someone who wants to follow in his footsteps.

Despite humiliation, Brandt remains Christ-centered. He pondered dealing with injustices. He conjectured if someone stole his wallet, he might give them his jacket too. But what came next has a rubric of faith: Suppose someone broke into your house, he said, adding, they obviously are not ready to go to Heaven (as a Christian). But, inside, a believer exercising his gun owner rights, shoots and kills the intruder, who happened to be just a kid. And, at the thief’s home, there is a child, maybe two or three years old who now has no father.

And, like the Biblical story of a rich man asking Jesus how he can enter Heaven, Russo calmly deflects the traditional Romans road Salvation plan as the essential portion of his meeting with a stranger. He has to show love and get to know them before he can talk about Jesus.

Once, he was asked by a college student, what could she have in her car for someone homeless, poor, or hitchhiking. “What practical things can I give them?” Naturally, Brandt Russo’s response instills a bit of fear, he answered her question with a three letter word: YOU.

You see, Brandt believes that following the steps of Christ no one can hurt you. Even if they kill you, you go home to your Savior’s Heaven.

To purchase a copy of “Adopt a Jesus,” or learn more about the production:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

At Midnight By Moonshine

At Midnight By Moonshine
Originally uploaded by Dobka
I want to be a wolf
Running, hunting, free
With my pack in some great pine forest
Far, far from human predators
Far from human lights
To see the moon, the stars, the vapor of breath as we run
With farseeing, dark piercing wolf eyes
In love with the night, exulting in our song
Alive in our strength and skill
No cruelty but the cruelty of hunger.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I have been listening to different versions of Sarah McLaughlin's song "Arms of The Angel" a hauntingly beautiful tribute to a musician friend who died of a heroin overdose.

Spend all your time waiting for that second chance
For the break that will make it ok
There's always some reason to feel �not good enough�
And it's hard at the end of the day
I need some distraction, oh beautiful release
Memories seep from my veins
They may be empty and weightless, and maybe
I'll find some peace tonight

In the arms of the Angels, fly away from here
From this dark, cold hotel room, and the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage of your silent reverie
You're in the arms of an Angel; may you find some comfort here

So tired of the straight line, and everywhere you turn
There's vultures and thieves at your back
The storm keeps on twisting, you keep on building the lies
That you make up for all that you lack
It don't make no difference, escaping one last time
It's easier to believe
In this sweet madness, oh this glorious sadness
That brings me to my knees

In the arms of the Angels, far away from here
From this dark, cold hotel room, and the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage of your silent reverie
In the arms of an Angel; may you find some comfort here.

This is one of those songs I have learned to love so much that I NEVER get tired of it.

My best friend, David, died of a heroin overdose when he was 24 years old. His addiction had gotten so bad that i didn't even answer phone calls from him anymore. These came, more often than not, at two or three in the morning after he had scored and was looking for someplace to use as a shooting gallery. The last time i saw my pal Dave, the person I loved more than anybody I've ever loved outside of my family, he went into my bathroom, shot up and passed out. I went in to find him after twenty minutes or so and found him on the floor with a bloody outfit in the sink. I told his girlfriend that she had to get him up and out, because if he died there I would throw him off the back porch and leave him for the garbagemen to find. I meant it. He died a couple of months later. I talked to him once on the phone a month or so before he died and he talked about how sorry he was that he had never seen mountains. He broke my fucking heart. I told him that i would take him to the Rockies anytime he was ready to go without a needle. Of course, that couldn't work. If he had asked at that moment to trade existences, I believe I would have done so.
When Dave died, I wept. i didn't shed a few subtle, manly, tears. The floodgates of grief opened and I wept rolling on the floor. Since that day I have lost my mother, my brother, my father, but I have never grieved with the passion and ferocity that I had when David died. How to explain? It is not really possible.
I wrote a poem for David in the days following his death. I don't remember it all, but the first line was
"David died today, he bounced down the front porch steps..."
Compare this to Sarah McLaughlin's beautiful poem.
I am wondering, was i just too close to the stink of addiction, or was I just that much less loving?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Island Life

Mount Piao, 'Rainmaker' in Pago Pago Harbor, American Samoa

A cyber pal asked about my time in Samoa so I started to tell her about it. It was so much fun reminiscing that I thought I would post it here.

I went to American Samoa, which is a US territory, in 1978. We lived on Tutuilla, the largest of the US islands, which isn't saying much. It is 14 miles long and four miles wide at the widest part, or about 54 square miles. By way of comparison, the largest Samoan island is Savai'i, part of the independent nation of Samoa. Savai'i is 659 sq. miles.

We went to AS as contract educators. My title was curriculum specialist and my wife was a Special Ed teacher trainer. Because of our jobs we got to visit all the three high schools on Tutuilla, Samoana, Faga'itua and Leone. I also worked closely with the Caholic girls HS organizing a big speech festival. I visited the HS on Ta'u(pronounced Tah'oo with a glottal stop)which was great as it was much less developed than Tutuilla. When you walked through the village of Ta'u, the only one on the island, the little kids would gather to stare, point and yell, "papalagi, papalagi(pah lahngi) which means white person or off-islander. It literally means ‘white cloud’ and originally referred to the first European sails Samoans saw. Since the sailors were white, they called them palagi also.

My wife and my one year old daughter, Nelly, lived in a 'compound' for contract workers, mostly non-polynesian but some Samoans and islanders who were married to contract workers. There were also two live-in Samoan 'house girls' or nannies. I despise the term 'house girl' but it was the common parlance. Our first HG was Tongan(Tonga,by the way, is still a kingdom) and our second was Tokelauan. They were combo child care and housekeepers. Mafa(martha) our second woman treated me as a matai or clan chief. She would send us umu on Sundays sometimes. That is food cooked in an earth oven or 'umu'. They burn wood down to hot coals, put green banana leaves on the coals and put the food on the leaves. It cooks while they go to church. She would send taro root, the staple starch food, palusami which is coconut cream in young taro leaves, just delicious, and whatever meat she had fixed, usually 'pisupo' or corned beef bought in big plastic kegs. A little girl would knock on our door, hand us a basket woven of green palm fronds and say, "This is from Mafa" and leave. What a treat!
To be continued.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls
Originally uploaded by ifmuth
Claire and I went to the big city! We take in recycling only once a month, because we have to drive two hours to do so. We dropped off the recycling, donated clothes and shoes to Salvation Army, and then ate lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant. The food was fantastic! The closest Chinese place to us is 75 miles away and it is pretty mediocre. But mmmm, veggies in hot garlic sauce! Spicy sour soup! I don't remember when I have enjoyed a meal in a restaurant so much. I wouldn't drive 130 miles just for sushi or spicy garlic veggies, but it sure is nice that they are available when we go there.
Alas, the Yoga place was closed so I couldn't try out meditation cushions, but that's ok. Something to look forward to next time. We went across the street to the used book store-what a place. I love used book stores, and this is one of the better ones. We even remebered to take books in for trade-in credits. Then we went to our favorite weird general store, Zond Bros.,where I found a Christmas present for my son Nick, a great set of glow-in-the-dark zombies! Yeah, he's 28, but I know he'll love them.
So it was a beautiful drive, green and sunny. We had a terrific lunch, went to our favorite shops, got to ogle the sculptures on Phillips Street(hence the panda here) and got to do some good karma stuff. All in all, it was a good trip.
One of the things being so far away from a city has given us is the gift of deferred pleasure. We can't visit Sioux Falls every week. Well, I suppose we could, but we wouldn't burn that much fossil fuel and spew that much carbon just for a diversion. It is satisfying to have to wait to eat at a Chinese or Japanese restaurant, to go to a bookstore that stocks something besides romance and westerns. Its fun to take in all the recycling and have to make an effort to do so. For us, a trip to town has become one of life's simple pleasures.

You Ain't Just Whistlin' Dixie Buddhists, we are admonished to expunge aversion, be averse to aversion, if you will. And of course judgements are a no-no, according to some Buddhists. Jesus taught against judging as well. But when you come across rude, loudmouthed racists, I feel we ought to call a spade a spade(play on cliche intended). Ah, that proud son of the South Joe Wilson just couldn't stop himself from screaming at the n--, oops I mean president. He apologized for calling our legally elected president a liar, but no apologies for being a racist loudmouth. According to Our Campaigns.Com ,Joe has been a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, ....

"This is an organization that, as the Southern Poverty Law Center has detailed assiduously, has been taken over in the past decade by radical neo-Confederates who favor secession and defend slavery as a benign institution. Leading the takeover is a radical racist named Kirk Lyons, who's been an important legal figure on the far right for some years."(from Crooks And Liars)
Did you know Ol' Joe was less than forthcoming on his tax disclosure- he has a mountain of debt apparently that he was to embarrassed to admit to, so he, wait for it, LIED!
A few more from Joe

"That's offensive to me that they would take my heritage and make it into a Holocaust era type description." - South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson, back in November 1999, when he was still a state senator, regarding African Americans being upset that the Confederate flag was being flown over the statehouse.

"With the death of Strom Thurmond, South Carolina has lost its greatest statesman of the 20th Century." - Wilson on June 27, 2003.

(quotes thanks to Rude Pundit)

Finally, the fact check services have determined that President Obama was telling the truth. So Joe was not only rude and offensive, but he was wrong.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tis A Gift To Be Spitting

I Love Watermelon-with a capital L & a capital W(and I guess that was a capital 'I' as well, but it doesn't count for this cliche'). What is there NOT to love? The watermelon is a beautiful, green, juicy fruit. The interior is a delicious pink(not my favorite color by any means, but watermelon never reminds me of Pepto-Bismo). It smells wonderful and tastes even better! It is fun to cut up, and you can play John Belushi, Samurai warrior, on the shell when you make smaller pieces for the compost heap. Oh, the seeds? You don't love the seeds? For years I would have agreed with that. Actually, I started buying seedless watermelons when my children were tiny choke machines, or at least I was afraid they were. I thought seedy watermelons should have a warning label like toys; "Warning! Small parts, not for three years and under." So when I found seedless watermelons, I knew the plant breeding goddesses had smiled upon us.
Last week i went to the farmer's market at American Creek, a stand alone simple pleasure. I went to the Hutterite ladies
and had a pleasant time chatting as my dogs sang sonorously in the car-completely within eyesight! Quite a concert!. Anyway, the Hutterite ladies had wonderful looking watermelons and I bought one. These were not the battleship sized monsters commercial growers produce but lovely round grey-green fruit with dark green stripes, sized for two or maybe three people. When I cut it open at home, it snapped! The dogs and I savored(yes, the dogs love WM too!) the pink, just-right-sweetness of the melon. But it had seeds! I had a few in my mouth, I leaned over the sink, and HOLY CRAP! I started poppin' those pips and it felt so good. I had completely forgotten what a joy spitting watrmelon seeds can be! Not any contest or competition, that's actually seperate fun, but just the slppery, slidey seed spitting was delightful! Maybe back when eating watermelon automatically meant seeds it was harder to appreciate this little bit of fun. OK seeds could be a pain in the ass, like fish bones, almost. But now that I have a choice? And I can go to the park by the creek and chat with the ladies and get very good home grown watermelon and CHOOSE to spit seeds? AH, it is an ephemeral summer time pleasure.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Snakes!(and dharma)

Prairie Rattlesnake
Originally uploaded by Sarah Hamilton

Every morning I take the dogs out to the trail that leads up to Roam Free Park a couple miles out of town. It is a steep walk, good for the aerobic conditioning and the dogs can run free. We often leave the trail and climb up through the buffalo grass and little blue stem, the prickly pear and the golden rod, the liatris and the sunflowers, well, you get the idea. It is beautiful. Much of the way there is a fantastic view of the Missouri River/ lake, the old bridges, the town. The view to the north is a vast expanse of river, hills, prairie and sky. It is one incredibly beautiful park. Yesterday after we scrabbled through the grasses and wildflowers and got over the ridge to the level part of the park where there are a few benches and some mowed area and a picnic shelter, you know, "park proper" so to speak, I encountered a newcomer to the area with his two dogs. As we chatted, he told me how the day before he was up there and a tourist was taking pictures of his two children. Suddenly they heard the rattlesnake a couple of feet behind the kids, near a bench. The man called his two children and Jim warned him that the snake was very poisonous and that he should put his kids in their vanhe took the fellow to be from another country. The snake began to head for his hole when Jim grabbed it by the tail, pulled it out and tossed it. he had meant to fling it over the ridge into the acres of wildness that makes up most of the park, but alas, aiming an angry rattlesnake isn't as easy as one might imagine! The snake landed several yards in the opposite direction. Jim, fearful of leaving a venomous serpent where folks spend a lot of time, picked up a rock and killed the poor beastie. As he told me the story he expressed genuine regret because he doesn't like killing anything.

I have to say, I like snakes. I find them fascinating and beautiful. I hate killing any animal so much that I am a vegetarian, and I love me some burgers and pork chops! In spite of this I had to say that 1) he has a lot more in the way of cojones than I do! and 2) He probably did the right thing. Remember, I HATE killing critters. But if that snake had been sunning that morning after shedding, it might very well have struck those children, or someone else, maybe me, maybe you! Ideally, Jim would have caught it and moved it, but THAT is a dangerous proposition. Of course, so is yanking deadly vipers out of a hole. He shouldn't have grabbed it in the first place, but once he did, he didn't have much choice but to dispatch it.

At first I thought, what a contrast! Such beauty and such danger! But as I walked back down(yes, through the grasses and flowers-but watchfully) I observed all the grasshopers and the leaves they chomped. I noticed the birds above that prey upon the grasshoppers. Then I watched the turkey vultures that clean up after the predators soaring on the updrafts and I realized, it is all just as it is. I regretted the death of the snake, but it is all part of the whole and it is just as it is,

Friday, September 4, 2009


I take my dogs on a steep uphill trail every morning. I can let them free from leashes, and they mostly run and sniff. I only walk and pant. By the time my panting turns to gasping, we reach a bench set in a little spot that the town keeps mowed. This park is all hills and prairie grass, Black Hills spruce and wildflowers. The bench has a view of the Missouri River,which is also a lake here, and the bench is surrounded by small wild sunflowers. It makes a beautiful place to sit until my heart and lungs stop imitating a speed freak's speech. This morning, all the sunflowers were gone! Not the stems, just the flowers. They were still in full bloom, and I was hoping someone had simply picked flowers to take home. When I sat down I looked to my left and there, strewn in the grass, ,were all the flowerheads, discarded like garbage. You may find this foolish, but I was really bothered by this pointless act of vandalism. My equanimity quickly kicked in, but it made me sad to see that someone is so thoughtless of living things, so indifferent or hostile to beauty that they would perpetrate such wanton destruction. There are jillions of wild sunflowers this year as well as skillions of other, gorgeous wildflowers thanks to our unusual rainfall throughout the summer, (mostly at night, with day after day of fantastic sunshine) so it isn't as if they are rare. But this was like a little natural garden. In the scale of mean things, this was pretty tiny, but the flowers never had a chance to go to seed and do what they are here for, to feed the birds and to plant other flowers.As you can tell, I love wildflowers, but I also love animals and children and people of all ages and the planet. This tiny destructive act seemed a microcosm for all the pointless violence, all the malicious cruelty perpetrated by people against people and animals and the whole natural world. It just made me sad for , for all of us.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

We See Your True Colors Shining Through


All Republicans aren't racist, but if you're a racist, you're probably Republican"
Bill Mahr

The Topeka Capitol-Journal reports that freshman Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) told a town hall meeting a week ago that the GOP still had to find a "great white hope."

"Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope," said Jenkins. "I suggest to any of you who are concerned about that, who are Republican, there are some great young Republican minds in Washington." As examples, Jenkins mentioned Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).

Oh yeah, her spokesperson said she just meant, fresh leadership, nothing racist about Republican Representative Jenkins, perish the thought!

There will come a time, one hopes, that the Michael Steeles of the world will open their eyes to the truth about their party of choice and get the fuck out! Not that this would displease the vast majority of Repugs, but it would be refreshing to see Michael and others stop jigging(as Field Negro would say).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

PLUS Its Good For The Environment

I stole this "Whole hog" from PETA. I love pork and would eat it frequently, BUT:see below. Oh and they don't even mention that going veg does more for the environment than swithching from a gas 'hog' to a hybrid.

Top 10 Reasons Not to Eat Pigs
Attention, shoppers: Stop picking up dead “Babes” and “Wilburs” at the grocery store! Here are our top 10 reasons to keep pork off your fork and put delicious Babe-free alternatives on your shopping list instead.

‘Meet Your Meat’: Pigs

Porking You Up
It’s a fact—ham, sausage, and bacon strips will go right to your hips. Eating pork products, which are loaded with artery-clogging cholesterol and saturated fat, is a good way to increase your waistline and increase your chances of developing deadly diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, asthma, and impotence. Research has shown that vegetarians are 50 percent less likely to develop heart disease, and they have 40 percent of the cancer rate of meat-eaters. Plus, meat-eaters are nine times more likely to be obese than pure vegetarians are. Every time you eat animal products, you’re also ingesting bacteria, antibiotics, dioxins, hormones, and a host of other toxins that can accumulate in your body and remain there for years. Learn more about animal products and your health.
Pigs Have Feelings Too
Ninety-seven percent of pigs in the United States today are raised in factory farms, where they will never run across sprawling pastures, bask in the sun, breathe fresh air, or do anything else that comes naturally to them. Crowded into warehouses with nothing to do and nowhere to go, they are kept on a steady diet of drugs to keep them alive and make them grow faster, but the drugs cause many of the animals to become crippled under their own bulk. Learn more about cruelty to pigs. Check out these videos from pig farms in Oklahoma, North Carolina, Nebraska, and South Dakota.
Pigs and Playstations
Think that you can outplay a pig on your Playstation? You may be surprised. According to research, pigs are much smarter than dogs, and they even do better at video games than some primates. In fact, pigs are extremely clever animals who form complex social networks and have excellent memories. Eating a pig is like eating your dog! As actor Cameron Diaz put it after hearing that pigs have the mental capacities of a 3-year-old human: "[Eating bacon is] like eating my niece!" Learn more about pigs.
Pigs Prefer Mud, Not Crud
Pigs are actually very clean animals. If they are given sufficient space, pigs are careful not to soil the areas where they sleep or eat. And forget the silly saying “sweating like a pig”—pigs can’t even sweat! That’s why they bathe in water or mud to cool off. But in factory farms, they’re forced to live in their own feces and vomit and even amid the corpses of other pigs. Conditions are so filthy that at any given time, more than one-quarter of pigs suffer from mange—think of your worst case of poison ivy, and imagine having to suffer from it for the rest of your life. Learn more about what happens to pigs in factory farms. Check out the mange-ridden pigs on these South Dakota and Nebraska pig farms.
Farming Family Values
Factory farms are pure hell for pigs and their babies. Mother pigs spend most of their lives in tiny “gestation” crates, which are so small that the animals are unable to turn around or even lie down comfortably. They are repeatedly impregnated until they are slaughtered. Piglets, who are taken away from their distraught mothers after just a few weeks, have their tails chopped off, their teeth are clipped off with pliers, and the males are castrated—all without painkillers. Learn more about cruelty to pigs.
The Manure Is Blowing in the Wind …
A pig farm with 5,000 animals produces as much fecal waste as a city of 50,000 people. In 1995, 25 million gallons of putrid hog urine and feces spilled into a North Carolina river, immediately killing between 10 and 14 million fish. To get around water pollution limits, factory farms will frequently take the tons of urine and feces that are stored in cesspools and turn them into liquid waste that they spray into the air. This manure-filled mist is carried away by the wind and inhaled by the people who live nearby. Learn more about how factory farming damages the environment.
Bacteria-Laden Bacon and Harmful Ham
Extremely crowded conditions, poor ventilation, and filth in factory farms cause such rampant disease in pigs that 70 percent of them have pneumonia by the time they’re sent to the slaughterhouse. In order to keep pigs alive in conditions that would otherwise kill them and to promote unnaturally fast growth, the industry keeps pigs on a steady diet of the antibiotics that we depend on to treat human illnesses. This overuse of antibiotics has led to the development of “superbacteria,” or antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. The ham, bacon, and sausage that you’re eating may make the drugs that your doctor prescribes the next time you get sick completely ineffective. Learn more about the effect of eating meat from sick, diseased, and drugged animals.
Hell on Wheels
More than 170,000 pigs die in transport each year, and more than 420,000 are crippled by the time they arrive at the slaughterhouse. Transport trucks, which carry pigs hundreds of miles through all weather extremes with no food or water, regularly flip over, throwing injured and dying animals onto the road. These terrified and injured animals are rarely offered veterinary care, and most languish in pain for hours; some even bleed to death on the side of the road. After an accident in April 2005, Smithfield spokesperson Jerry Hostetter told one reporter, “I hate to admit it, but it happens all the time.” Learn more about cruelty to pigs during transport.
Killing Them Without Kindness
A typical slaughterhouse kills up to 1,100 pigs every hour, which makes it impossible for them to be given humane, painless deaths. The U.S. Department of Agriculture documented 14 humane slaughter violations at one processing plant, where inspectors found hogs who “were walking and squealing after being stunned [with a stun gun] as many as four times.” Because of improper stunning methods and extremely fast line speeds, many pigs are still alive when they are dumped into scalding-hot hair-removal tanks—they literally drown in scalding-hot water. Learn more about what happens to pigs at slaughter.
Ditch the Bacon and Get Fakin’
Save pigs from hell and yourself from bad health by feasting on faux pork products instead. Stuff a sandwich full of Yves brand veggie ham slices, or throw some Lightlife Smart Bacon into a sizzling skillet—the freezer and “health food” sections of your local grocery or health food stores are packed full of these and other tasty substitutes. Check out for hundreds of recipes, product recommendations, vegan meal plans, and a shopping guide.
Think before you eat another sausage link—order a free vegetarian starter kit full of delicious recipes and celebrity features today!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Supreme Irony

The National Rifle Association, as most people know, is the radical gun rights organization which protested the outlawing of kevlar piercing Teflon bullets, which are good only for killing people wearing bullet-proof vests,such as cops. They have also famously opposed any ban on automatic wepons and assault rifles, because we all know how sacred a right we have to be able to slaughter anything that moves. The NRA is considered by many to be a conservative organization, and most politicians approved by them are fiscal and social so-called conservatives.
The NRA has come out in opposition to the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. They have threatened to punish legislators who vote in favor of this highly qualified judge.
Why has the N(utcase)R(rightwing)A(sshats) objected to Sotomayor?
"As a federal appeals court judge, Sotomayor was part of a panel that ruled this year that the Second Amendment doesn't limit state controls on guns — only federal ones. That was in keeping with a 19th Century Supreme Court precedent and subsequent appellate court rulings"
She stood up in this ruling, for state's rights based on precedent from at least a hundred years ago! How much more conservative a decision could this be? The basis of the freaking conservative movement is the limitation of strong central government, i.e. state's rights over the federal government's control.
It doesn't get more ironic than this, although for the mouth breathers who make up the bulk of the NRA membership, it is far too subtle for them to see.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Time out

I listened to part of the questioning of Judge Stomayor and just saw a post by a misguided soul who blogs as David Drake. It was a hideous photoshop of the president's beautiful children making them appear as if they were pregnant. He claims his point is to show people on the left how it feels when we say mean things about Sarah Palin. "Misguided soul" was not what I was really thinking, but I am trying to work on being compassionate toward all sentient beings. One wonders whether some people deserve the label, "sentient". but there goes my effort.
Right now what I need is to take a break and stiil the mind, breathe deeply and focus on impermanence and loving kindness. I am fond of this picture by Anahi Becanio because it takes me to a place far from the Pat Buchanans and Jeff Sessions and Sarah Palins of the world. It isn't exactly escape (except escape from anger), it is seeing what is important, what is real.

All of this has no more permanence than a fallen leaf on blue water.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Why Didn't You Just Leave?"

I worked in a domestic and sexual violence shelter in Michigan for several years. One of the things I learned is how horrifyingly obssesive abusers can be. We sheltered women who had fled from brutal, sadistic men inTexas, Georgia, Mexico, California, Mississippi and many other states. Most of the women(and children) we sheltered were local people so one of the things we spent a lot of time doing was trying to prevent their assailants from finding them. We fielded calls from assailants claiming to be police, sherrif's deputies, lawyers. We fielded calls from women working with the abusive men who claimed to be family, friends, probation officres.
The most common question asked of abused women is, "Why didn't you just leave"? Most women try. They often have no place to go, shelters are mostly severely time limited stays. They are frequently kept unemployed or totally broke by their controllers. Altogether too often they are hunted down by incredibly tenacious control freaks who believe that if the can't "have" them, no one else will. During my few years at the shelter we worked with one woman who was murdered, one who was tracked from out of state and kidnapped, raped and beaten,and many, many women who could not escape.

The New York Times reports that the Obama administration has proposed new rules that may provide asylum for women from other countries who have a serious history of domestic abuse. The Bush administration refused to allow that these women are"not part of any persecuted group under American law. " While this is indeed good news, and people who have worked for justice for abused women for years feel this is a real breakthrough, ' “This really opens the door to the protection of women who have suffered these kinds of violations,” said Karen Musalo, a professor who is director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. Professor Musalo has represented other abused women seeking asylum...'
the women still bear an onerous burden of proof. What I saw were many women who fled their homes with just the clothes on their backs. If they were lucky, they were able to bring some documents and identification. The government wants women fleeing abusive men to be able to prove "In addition to meeting other strict conditions for asylum,--- that they are treated by their abuser as subordinates and little better than property, according to an immigration court filing by the administration, and that domestic abuse is widely tolerated in their country. They must show that they could not find protection from institutions at home or by moving to another place within their own country. "
As anyone who knows anything about domestic violence, this is nearly impossible without either carting a satchel of documents with them or obtaining first rate legal assistance in the U.S.

While this is better than it was, this is far from a compassionate policy and offers only the bare bones possibility of help for women.
It seems to me that victims of brutal and cruel domestic partners more than fit the category of the desperate souls described on the Statue of Liberty.

If you are interested Amnesty International is working for the women of the world suffering domestic violence.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Dew soaked spiders web
Originally uploaded by MimaD
Tsu yu no yo wa
tsu yu no nagara
sari nagara

This world of dew
is a world of dew,
and yet, and yet.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Originally uploaded by TechnoMeister

Thought it was a relic from the 50's, eh? Guess again my friend. Here is a repulsively current example from Alternet:Rights and Liberties.

Here's a charming summer story out of Philadelphia: A private swim club kicked out some 60 summer camp kids out of their pool on the grounds that they were Black.

NBC reports: "The Creative Steps Day Camp paid more than $1900 to The Valley Swim Club. The Valley Swim Club is a private club that advertises open membership. But the campers' first visit to the pool suggested otherwise."

"When the minority children got in the pool all of the Caucasian children immediately exited the pool," Horace Gibson, parent of a day camp child, wrote in an email. "The pool attendants came and told the black children that they did not allow minorities in the club and needed the children to leave immediately."

One camper named Dymire Baylor told NBC: "I heard this lady, she was like, 'Uh, what are all these black kids doing here?' She's like, 'I'm scared they might do something to my child.'"

The most incredible part? The Valley Swim Club's defense: "There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club," John Duesler, President of The Valley Swim Club said in a statement.

As if it needs saying, it is dumbfounding that in the Obama era such blatant bigotry continues to persist in this country. Sobering, outrageous, and sad.

Thanks for reading,

Liliana Segura,

Editor, Rights & Liberties Special Coverage

Monday, July 6, 2009

Palin's Intimidation

Originally uploaded by federico.bebber
The soon to be former governor of Alask is blowing hot. She is really pissed that, in light of garbled resignation address and tissue thin reasons for abandoning her post half way through the first term, people have the audacity to speculate that there are darker motives than simply that people are picking on her. Her lawyer has issued a statement threatening lawsuits agains a blogger and the NY Times and The Washington post for even suggesting that there are rumors! This is a person who claims to stand for the Constitution. This is a person who called a candidte for president, 'someone who pals around with terrorists'. This is a pathetic and deluded creature who can dish but not take and who believes in the right to bear arms, but not freedom of speech.
Someone needs to remind Sarah that she isn't REALLY a barracuda.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

God Grinds Her Teeth Every Fourth of July

Saturday, we celebrate Independence Day, the 4th of July. We do this with parades, picnics, shooting off millions of dollars worth of fireworks and fly lots of flags(or maybe paint them on). In thousands of churches across our fair land, sermons will be preached extolling the foundation of a Christian nation, the nobility of the "Founding Fathers" and their commitment to freedom and Christian beliefs. The more fundamental the church, the more prominent the flag in front and the louder the bleating about freedom, 'Christian nation' etc.
Don't get me wrong. Living in the USA is lots better than living in North Korea, The Congo and many other places, as near as I can tell.
But I do object to the sermons. Even the more moderate sermons that extol the revolution are full of shit for one important reason, and here it is:

Obey the king's command, I say, because you took an oath before God. 3 Do not be in a hurry to leave the king's presence. Do not stand up for a bad cause, for he will do whatever he pleases. 4 Since a king's word is supreme, who can say to him, "What are you doing?" Ecclesiastes 8

And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's Mark 12

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, Titus:3

And the coup de grace, the word of Paul, which fundamentalists pay far more attention to then the reputed words of Jesus.

3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.Romans 13

There you have it boys and girls, moms and dads, ladies and gents, the very WORD OF GOD, according to the fundies, "God-Breathed" and in -freakin' -fallible! But do they acknowledge these passages on the 4th of July? You can bet your leather bound, words- of -Jesus- in- red, King James study Bible that they do not. And why not? Because it contradicts all their blather about Christian nation, founded on the Bible, horse muck.

Notice, please, these are not some ambiguous proof texts taken from one book of the Hebrew Bible such as they dredge up to condemn abortion. These are references from both the titular head of the church, Jesus, and the fundamentalist's true source of instruction(when it suits them) , the Apostle Paul. Plus, I cited a tiny selection representative of a huge number of teachings saying this same thing throughout the Hebrew and Christian writings, namely, be obedient to the king, the rulers, the magistrates, the authorities, etc.
Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, et al, flat out went against the so-called word of god at the cost of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives, causing death and destruction to those who were obedient to the "word of god" , those who remained loyal to the king.
If these hypocritical, blowhard bible-thumpers were really "Bible believing" they would preach the truly relevant texts on the 4th of July and either condemn the rebellion as sinful, or call for a return to obedience to Britain and the Crown. After all, they have no problem calling for overturning laws giving women reproductive rights and LGBT folk the rights to equality in marriage. They are proud to call themselves conservative and claim obedience to the teachings of the Book. Why not in this matter?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Stealing People's Futures

Originally uploaded by eggstudio
At first I was very pleased to hear that Bernie Madoff received a 150 year sentence. For the crimes he committed, essentially stealing the future of thousands of people, this is most appropriate for him to serve the rest of his life in prison contemplating greed and what he has done. Then I thought, hell, he doesn't have to worry about having a roof over his head or where his next meal is coming from. Basically he is getting three hots and a cot for the rest of his life in a minimum security prison. I have spent time visiting and counseling in a minimum security federal prison and it was NOT a country club, but it sure wasn't like hard time. It won't be a lotta fun, he'll be bored and the lifestyle will be a touch more austere than his accustomed opulence, but he has security! And that is exactly what he stole from worthwhile non-profits, elderly retirees and so many others. I was thinking, a better lesson for him might be to toss him out and let him live out his life broke and homeless. He should know what its like to have to stand in line for a bed or a meal at a homeless shelter,or to have to worry that winter is coming and he has to figure out how to put on enough socks and coats to sleep on the street without freezing to death. Ah, but he would be free, and he is slick. He has favors to call in from somewhere, he has family. There is no way for him to really feel what he has actually stolen from so many. May his future be one of reflection and remorse.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Guns, God, Grub and Grog

Originally uploaded by Chad Johnson
I am not anti-guns. People have the right to own them, hunt with them, protect their homes with them(even though, statistically that doesn't work out so well) collect, target shoot and masturbate with them. Whatever. But I am pro-common sense, something the morons who run Tennessee seem to be damn short on. The legislature in Tennessee managed to come together in the noble cause of overriding the governor's veto and made it legal to carry guns, concealed I presume, in restaurants AND saloons in the Volunteer state. They just "volunteered" the opportunity for people, such as the charming Nazi pictured in the photo, to carry their weapon into a bar, get sloshed and take deadly action against any slight, real or imagined.
Recently, the president signed legislation allowing guns in National Parks! Have you ever been out in the country during deer season? If not, don't go. If you must, wear LOTS of orange. Boys and their toys outdoors are a fucking menace to unwary bystanders. Now, to avoid slighting the responsible hunters out there, most deer are ambushed while the hunter hides up in a tree-pretty sporting, eh? But at least those people are shooting down, and even if they miss they won't plug some poor slob half a mile away working in his garden. But some fool with a semi-automatic assault rifle who decides to target practice in Yellowstone? Bad plan. Or, Joe Nazi featured above and his pals can now go to our national parks for some military maneuvers. What a comfort. Pity the poor park rangers.
Then there is good ol' boy, Pastor Ken Pagano of Louisville, Kaintuck.
He is in the news for promoting a carry your gun to church day, comin' right up this Saturday night to, “celebrate our rights as Americans!” as a promotional flier for the “open carry celebration” puts it. This celebration will include a raffle for a gun and a picnic. Guns, God and grub-does it get any better?-HOOO-DOAGIES! These are Assembly of God folk, Pentecostals who believe they speak in unknown tongues bringing messages straight from JEEE-hovah while they wriggle about in religious ecstacy. Who knows what smiting the Lord might require of those worthies? I think I'll skip that celebration and avoid the bars and liquor serving restaurants in Tennesee, thank you very much.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Got Any Spare Change?

Any one who walks in big cities has been asked this question by grizzled alcoholics, homeless wanderers, would-be hippies and other urban shnorrers. In the parable of the widow's mite from Mark 12 and Luke 20 Jesus compares what the rich folks give to the Temple offering to what we would call,"spare change". They didn't need it to live on, to buy food or pay rent or buy a pack of smokes. The widow is praised for giving two small copper coins, one to fulfill her obligation and one out of love or devotion to her faith. He says she gave everything.

When Barrack Obama promised us, "Change we can believe in", it didn't sound as if he was talking about 'spare change'. He wasn't promising change that would be easy or politically profitable-at least that was what it sounded like to me and millions of others. Oh, I know he's a politician, and inflated rhetoric is their stock and trade, and he is only human so you expect some pragmatism as well. But when the man goes back on a specific promise to work to rectify injustice to an oppressed group, he is offering them spare change, change that won't cost him any political capital.

In his campaign, Obama promised to work to overturn the odious Defense of Marriage Act that allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal. This legal bigotry also denies federal benefits such as survivor's Social Security benefits to same-sex partners. In spite of his promise, the DOJ filed a brief in a California lawsuit challenging this unjust law supporting the Defense of Marriage Act as reasonable.
At this point witth Obama fighting for HealthCare reform and struggling against a vicious Right-wing campaign, it may be politically expedient to take this route rather than further alienate social conservatives. But than he is offering only spare change to the millions of LGBT folks who campaigned for him, voted for him, and believed in his promis of change. Not even spare change- he has given them chump change.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Economics of Fear

Forest Butoh crawl
Originally uploaded by image-MILL
The NRA had a little gathering of some 50,000 members. They also had three acres of gun stuff, from videos and books to bullets and semi automatic weapons. The thrust of the piece I listened to on NPR was that in a time of economic hardship, guns are a boom industry. One speaker gave credit to President Obama for the increase in gun and ammo sales. Why? Why all of the gun sales, why credit Obama? In a word, fear.
Many gun owners are hunters and whatever one may feel about hunting, a person who goes out and kills for food and pleasure is using a gun for one of its legitimate, practical purposes. Lots of gun owners enjoy shooting at targets and developing the skill required to hit increasingly challenging points with a bullet. This seems to me to be a legitimate use, it is even an olympic sport-add skis and you have a wiggy winter olympic sport.
Still other people feel the need to have the deadly force of firearms to protect themselves, their homes and families. I can't quibble with that. Many parts of the U.S. are as dangerous as any place on earth.
And lots of folks just love the look and feel and power of guns so they collect them and admire them. You may not, but I think it is as reasonable as collecting rocks or thimbles or ancient steam engines. But what do most of these people have in common besides gun ownership? Paranoia about government taking the guns away. This is no great revelation, of course. It just struck me as so very sad as I listened to the story, that all these macho men and women(can you be a macho woman?) who think of themselves as tough, independent, stalwart, live in a neurotic cloud of fear so potent that it can fuel an industry. It must be a hell of a way to live.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Deportaion of Jan Demjanjuk

Barack H. Obama, April 16, 2009 --“In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution.”

"Superior Orders is, in essence, the plea that a soldier not be held guilty for crimes committed during the course of war due to the orders of a superior officer. One of the most noted uses of this defense was by the accused in the Nuremberg Trials, such that it is also called the Nuremberg Defense. It was during these trials that the defense was no longer considered enough to escape punishment; merely enough to lessen punishment.[4]"
Nuremberg Principles
Principle I
Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefore and liable to punishment.

Principle III
The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law.

Principle IV
The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him. "I was following orders", is not an excuse.
Principle VI
b) War Crimes:
Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, .... murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war ...
Demjanjuk is accused of being a guard, a military underling, at Sobibor prison. Those thugs conducting torture in OUR NAME were highly paid agents of the CIA. They were not under military orders. They did not face imprisonment or execution for refusing to torture, they merely had to quit theur lucrative jobs. They tortured for MONEY! The legal minds who justified torture faced no legal penalties for refusing to write the opinions, they only stood to lose their posh political careers. They justified torture for MONEY and CAREER advancement.
The ONLY people prosecuted for torture have been low-level military personnel. Like Demjanjuk.

Demjanjuk faced a firing squad for refusing to carry out orders, but we deported him. Demjanjuk and the rest of the guards and torturers and murderers who were cogs in the wheels of the shoa were following orders in good faith, no? Again, its a matter of scale. Our minions only tortured and killed a few hundred, but they ALL deserve to be tried-top to bottom.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Matter of Scale

Jan Demjanjuk has been deported to Germany to stand trial for war crimes, crimes against humanity. Specifically,he is being charged as an accessory to the murder of 29,000 people; Jews, Slavs, Romany, people with retardation and so on. The ones who didn't fit in the plan of the master race. Maybe he's guilty, maybe he's not. The fact is, the US government allowed a sick, feeble 89 year old man to be shipped to Germany to stand trial for alleged war crimes as a guard at Sobibor. Note that, a guard! He didn't write policy, he didn't give orders, he was about 22 years old. If he had refused to follow orders, at the very least, he would have been imprisoned, at worst, executed. Is he innocent because of these factors? No. Should he stand trial? Yes. Is he guilty? The trial will determine that.
The incredible hypocrisy of the United States of America has rarely been more evident than in this case. Demjanjuk is denying his role as a guard at Sobibor, where at the very worst, he was a low-level scum bag. Dick Cheney has been traveling the country BOASTING about the torture and war crimes he and his vile crew committed in OUR FUCKING NAME! And he, Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, et al, have been assured by Obama and company that, yea though they wallowed in the valley of evil, they need fear no repercussion. What a country. Vote for change, vote for America the phony.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Grease Virgin

I was reading about a supposed likeness in a grease stain of the Virgin of Guadalupe icon over at which "appeared" on a griddle in CA. The piece includes a great photo of two Mexican wrestlers in masks and costumes studying the griddle. A couple of other bloggers have written about it with many scathing comments being proferred by readers. I was pretty amused, but I really try to with hold judgement on such matters. Then I read some commentary on hate crimes over at The Field Negro and Field included extensive quotes in opposition to hatecrimes legislation from, yep, you guessed it, so-called Christian writers. Finally, I came across a poll that finds that young Americans who claim Christianity as their faith has declined substantially in the past twenty years.

People who find icons in cheese sandwiches are an easy target for mockery, bigots spewing in the name of religion make it easy to villify faith of that sort, and of course the history of religious wars, persecutions and the viciousness of theocracies makes it imperative that reasonable people remain wary of fanaticism. But in an era of wild-eyed fundamentalists, murderous jihadists, and all stripe of immoderate, reason-mangling, hate mongering, harbingers of apocalyptic hate, isn't it time for charity, kindness and even sympathy (if you can't work up a little empathy) for those poor folk who desperately seek hope, even if grease stain madonnas are not to our spirtual taste?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Speakin' of Death and Fairness

What with the growing concern over oinker influenza, I was thinking last night about something my dad said as he was succumbing to his mortal illness. Dad was 87 when he was diagnosed with lymphoma in November 2007. His sister, who was 90 at the time, had been dealing with lymphoma for a couple of years and was holding her own, so dad figured he likely had a couple of years yet. As it turned out, he had a lymphoma which attacked his central nervous system, according to the oncologist. This is a fairly rare form and it is aggressive as hell, deadly and debilitating. Dad had been strong independent and pretty healthy all his life. He was still working part time and had an active social life up until he got sick. He lived on his own and enjoyed several hobbies, including gardening, which he was looking forward to doing on a more limited basis the following spring.

I loved and admired my father. He had survived the Depression, active combat in WW II, over fifty years of marriage to my mother( the war paled in comparison) and a ne'er do well brood of screw ups that would have sent a weaker man to an early grave. He was relatively stoic man, so I was taken aback by his comment and actually disappointed when he said to me, "This isn't fair".
Jeez, I thought, babies dying of AIDS isn't fair, Tibetan nuns rotting in prison isn't fair, young Mexican adults dying of swine flu isn't fair. Getting sick and dying after a long and healthy life, that's the way it works if you're lucky! I could undestand saying "this sucks", "I feel shitty" , "dying of this stuff blows". All of that was true. But lamenting that it wasn't fair?
Of course I didn't say that, and I quickly regained compassion. He was suffering with a miserable, terminal ilness after all, and he felt like crap almost all the time. I guess a person's entitled to express a dab of self pity. And even if he had pissed and moaned all the way to bardo, I still loved him. But he didn't, and that was the only really self-pitying thing he said during the two months we cared for him as he died. I was reflecting on all this last night and reflecting on my own preparedness for death(one never knows how prepared one is until the knock comes at the door, nicht wahr?). And then this was in my e-mail this morning, and it was good.
Tricycle's Daily Dharma
Healing and Curing
Healing does not mean curing, although the two words are often used interchangeably. While it may not be possible for us to cure ourselves or to find someone who can, it is always possible for us to heal ourselves. Healing implies the possibility for us to relate differently to illness, disability, even death, as we learn to see with eyes of wholeness. Healing is coming to terms with things as they are.
–Jon Kabat-Zinn, from Letting Everything Become Your Teacher (Delta Trade Paperbacks)

I pray that we may all be healed.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Being Wrong Is Ok Sometimes

Last night we talked to the girls and learned that pretty much all of the girls we work with will have an Ishna Ta Awi Cha Lowan( Becoming A Woman) ceremony in the Lakota way. So much for all my pissing and moaning in the last post! Maybe I should stick to things I know instead of things I'm ignorant about.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Search

Last Sunday we watched a group of Lakota children receive baptism, confirmation and first communion thereby becoming full members or "communicants" in the Roman Catholic Church. I was raised Catholic and I have studied a fair bit of theology, so I understood a lot of the symbols and beliefs of these religious acts the RC.s call 'sacraments'. I know from experience the emotional power these rituals can have, and I know from experience how utterly empty they can feel. Theoogically speaking, the feelings are unimportant, but we are what we are and feelings always matter. One of the recipients of all three sacraments was a high school student I work with and with whom I have a reasonably honest relationship. When I first met her she was adamant in declaring her faith as 'Native religion'. When I talked to her about her decision to be baptized Catholic, she told me frankly that she was only doing it for her grandmother. For a 14 year old, that is not the worst reason in the world to do this; it is an act of love and respect. But it is not what she would have chosen for herself at this time in her life. She is a bright and reflective person and I can't help but wonder if she will pursue any spiritual path when she is able to choose for herself. I hope she will find a way to pursue her people's faith and practices in the Lakota traditions but I have no way to help her with this, and I find that frustrating. I know her family loves her deeply, and I know they respect the old ways, so perhaps she will find the path, the "good red road".

Still, how much more meaningful would it be for her, and for the other children, to be nurtured in the ancient faith of their people, the Lakota; to be given her rite of passage as a Lakota girl into womanhood, the Ishna TA Awi Cha Lowan. How much more worthwhile as a part of the people would the the boys feel if they were able to do the Hanblecheyapi, the crying for a vision?
In all fairness, the mass included an honor song performed in Lakota by a drum group from the school. The drum is sacred and the incorporation of this into the Catholic service was a mark of respect which the priest shows in all the ways he can. He incorporates Lakota into the mass by saying the ancient Christian prayer, "Lord Have Mercy, Christ Have Mercy" in Lakota. His vestments were adorned with the Morning Star on the back and the medicine circle complete with the sacred colors on the front of his chasuble. And he is a man who seems to genuinely love and respect the Lakota children he serves. Certainly the children show love and respect for him. It is about as good a situation of this sort as one could hope for, short of a priest who was Indian, fluent in the language and raised in the native culture on the rez. But that aint likely. And that is the crux of my quandary, if this is actually important to the People, where are the Lakota nuns, priests and bishops? You can find Lakota holy men and women around. A couple of the girls claim to have grandpas and uncles who are Lakota 'medicine men'(the term they use). But the people of the First Nations do not seek religious orders. Of course this is the plight of the Catholic Church in America. They are unable to fill the needs for priests and other religious leaders, so perhaps this is not a question of the faith failing to be meaningful so much as it is failing to make the celibate religious life, divorced from family and community meaningful.
I believe that a person's spritual path is one of, if not the most important aspect of human life. I wish I could see these children have the chance to be led in ways that truly belong to them, and in which they would find true belonging.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Indra's net of jewels

Indra's net of jewels
Originally uploaded by Onkel Ulle
I am reprinting a small portion of a wonderful article found in the Spring 2009 issue of Tricycle Magazine. The piece is entitled 'Son of A Gun' and it has to do with a young man's crisis of conscience and a turning point as a result of that crisis. The author is writing under a nom de plume, Shozan Jack Haubner. If you are not familiar with Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, you can explore it online at www.

"I thought of Indra’s net, the metaphor Buddhism uses to explain our oneness. The universe is a web of interconnectedness, everything in it a diamond, each reflecting and reflected in all the others. Instead of gems, I imagined bombs, one going off, setting off the rest.

In the Buddhist view, I depend on you for my existence. All things depend on each other, equally. Welcome to the doctrine of dependent origination. It’s teeter-totter metaphysics—I arise, you arise; you arise, I arise. Forget about our presumed Maker, the divine machinist in the sky. Take a look at this moment right now. You are you because you are not something else; therefore, what you are not—the chair beneath you, the air in your lungs, these words—births you through an infinity of opposites. It’s like the ultimate Dr. Seuss riddle: Without all the things that are not you, who would you be you to? There’s no Higher Power in this system to grab onto for support; we are all already supporting each other. Pull a person or people the wrong way, and you immediately redefine yourself in light of what you’ve done to your neighbor."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Treaties, self sufficiency and hemp

See these guys? They are drug war enforcers, government bullies who break into people's homes and destroy things like medical marijuana and cart people off to jail for such heinous offenses as relieving pain and nausea from chemotherapy. In this particular picture they are trespasing on Lakota land on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, specifically a farm belonging to Alex White Plume. Are they after such horrifying stuff as medical marijuana? NO. In this instance the thugs are there to rip up a crop of industrial hemp, stuff that has so little THC(the stuff that gets you buzzed) you couldn't ingest enough to get high! Why, you might ask, was White Plume foolish enough to even try such a thing as planting a wonderfully useful crop that poses no danger to anyone(not that fully active marijuana is dangerous, but it does get you high and according to the puritans running the government, that job is best left to addictive, organ destroying alcohol)?
Well Alex White Plume was acting in response to an initiative passed by the Oglala Lakota tribal government . The Oglala Sioux Tribe passed a hemp legalization ordinance in 1998 to encourage agricultural economic development on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The White Plume family planted its first hemp crop in 2000 hoping to establish a business that also would help the environment. The DEA destroyed the crops on Oglala land as part of its "war on drugs." Yhis land was designated "... set apart for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation of the Indians..." by this exact wording of the Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1868. They went in with machine guns and air support. Our tax dollars at work.

For many practical benefits of industrial hemp, see

A Dance of Deception
(Original article here:

A leading Native American scholar and educator says the federal raid on Alex White Plume's hemp crop is yet another manifestation of the US government's two-faced policy toward Indians. by Don Trent Jacobs Feb. 20, 2001

"Make the most you can of the Indian Hemp seed and sow it everywhere." -- George Washington, 1794

The US government's raid on Alex White Plume's industrial hemp crop on the PineRidge Oglala Lakota Sioux Reservation is merely the latest chapter in a long legacy of genocide that has been practiced on the American continent 500 years.Alex White Plume and his tiyospaye (extended family) planted their hemp inaccordance with tribal ordinances. It was the beginning of hope and a way to emerge from poverty. On Aug. 24, 2000, federal agents robbed them of that hope.If White Plume or any of the other Lakota individuals had resisted, they might have been shot or imprisoned, and who knows for how long. Consider White Plume'snephew who is serving his third year in jail for having broken out the windows ofa car. Then there is Leonard Peltier, another Lakota from Pine Ridge, now listedby Amnesty International as one of the top 10 political prisoners in the world.Alex's wife, Debra, a strong, beautiful woman, has fought relentlessly andarticulately to implement traditional Lakota values for many years. A month afterthe raid, she appeared more ready than ever to continue the good fight. "In theold days," she said, "they could not tell the difference between good Indians andbad ones so they killed us all. Now they do not know the difference between hempand marijuana so they kill all of it."The worldview of Lakota people demands economic projects on the reservation thatare friendly to the earth and beneficial to all. Hemp is one of the few productsthat fulfills this vision. It is a very earth-compatible, pesticide-free crop.Just ask Ralph Nader, who made hemp production a campaign issue and who probablyknows that major chemical, paper, and timber industries have much more to do withmaking hemp illegal in the US than any concern about drugs.The contradictions surrounding this issue are just part of the endless dance of deception the US government does with American Indians. For example, the PineRidge Indian Reservation was designated a federal empowerment zone in 1998 inorder to "help individuals and communities achieve self actualization and fullcitizenship." This goal aligns well with official federal Indian policy aimed atself-determination and viable economic independence.One cannot imagine an industry more appropriate to the empowerment zone goal than hemp production. The White Plumes currently make $450 dollars a year by renting their 160 acres to a white cattle rancher for grazing -- which can do untold damage to the fragile ecology. The seized hemp from the acre and a half they planted was estimated to have been worth between $12,000 and $20,000.After two years, however, the $20 million empowerment-zone allocation has been no more fulfilling than other half-hearted and bureaucratically stifled gestures. As has been the case for the past 100 years, they are just enough to keep the reservations dependent upon and at the mercy of the feds.Consider that the US government sanctions environmentally disastrous pig farmsand the extraction of minerals on tribal lands while denying a right to tribal nations that it gives to many other nations. Recent trade agreements such as GATTand NAFTA have allowed countries such as Canada to grow and export hemp products grown on their sovereign land to the US. The sovereign rights of the Lakota nation as spelled out in the Ft. Laramie Treaty of 1868 and numerous Supreme Court cases should give the Lakota nation similar trading rights.But Indian sovereignty has never been a goal of the US government. Consider theIndian Reorganization Act of 1934, a statute that robbed what was left of traditional indigenous sovereignty by setting up highly corruptible tribal councils whose main function was to sign off on federal development programs on the reservations. Reservation resources, had they not been co-opted by the US government with the help of these corrupt tribal councils, might have made PineRidge one of the the wealthiest regions in the country, rather than the poorest. The US government's treatment of American Indian sovereignty is, for all of us,of great significance. If American Indian sovereignty is under siege, so is American sovereignty. If US wealth is dependent upon impoverishment of its Indian peoples, we are all impoverished.In their 1998 book "Sovereignty under Siege: A Study of Federal Seizure of Indian Jurisdiction," Robert L. Pirtle and M. Frances Ayer say the Supreme Court has, in past decisions regarding American Indians, rewritten the Constitution like so:"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men except Indians are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator except in the case of Indians with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit ofhappiness except in the case of Indians ... to secure these rights, governments are institued among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed unless they are Indians."This Anglo folly has finally caught up with us in our polluted environments. At least Indians, refusing to blend into the dominant culture, continue to live insocieties that are more personal and more humane. They continue to fight for ecological sustainable products like hemp houses and clothes. They continue to honor the universal values of courage, humility, honesty, fortitude, and patience.This is not just about giving American Indian people back their dignity by allowing them to prosper economically through ecologically sound, spiritually based farming of hemp. It is more than an issue of justice, sovereignty or constitutional revision and interpretation. Nor is it merely about an out-of-control Drug Enforcement Administration or the negative influences of multinational corporations. Ultimately, this issue is about saving a world viewthat recognizes that we are all shaped and formed by our relationship to the earth. Mitakuye Oyasin. We are all related.

Don Jacobs, Ph.D., Ed.D., is chair of education at Oglala Lakota College on thePine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Monday, April 6, 2009

You Are Where You Need To Be

Keeping An Eye On Time
Originally uploaded by badboy69

“‘Time passes by!’ we say. Time does not exist; only we move.” Talmud

While reading Lasting Echoes by Joseph Bruchac , I came across the very choicest word for clocks I have ever seen, papeezokwazik. Not only is it a beautiful word, but it means "that thing which makes much noise and does nothing useful" in the Abenaki language.
Bruchac goes on to quote an Arapahoe gent named Carl Sweezy, "White people...thought we were all lazy. That was because we took a different attitude toward time than theirs. We enjoyed time, they measured it."

Of course, due to the way we live and work, I use clocks to get to work, meetings, appointments, movies, "on time". I loathe being late and find myself growing anxious if the clock is ordering me to be someplace and I can't respond for whatever reason. This is particularly true when I am trying to herd our girls off somewhere such as church and I feel that their tardiness will reflect badly upon us as houseparents, tsk tsk. But I do see being late when others are waiting as disrespectful, and so, I use clocks, and I do find them necessary and useful. But oh, how we do obssess.

I lived in Samoa for a couple of years and I was regularly frustrated to nearly frenzy level by the islander's indifference to time. " Ye gods and little fishes!" I would scream in my head as I stood in line at the bank or post office or wherever in Tafuna or Pago Pago, "don't these people have ANY bloody sense of time!??" And they certainly did, but it was quite different from our need for speed and precision. They would bring mats and food and relax in the shade of the post office waiting for mail to come in. They napped and chatted and never seemed to be concerned about time. I appreciated that but I had so succumbed to our western culture, that I had difficulty experiencing it then.
Years earlier, when I was in college, I carried a pocket watch so I wouldn't have the shackle of time on my wrist. As soon as school was out for any break, I left the watch in a drawer in my apartment. I symbolically cast off enslavement to time.
After a lot of years, I no longer wear a watch. There are clocks everywhere and I have few appointments to keep. I watch the clocks so I can get the kids I work with to school and other places on time, but I am detaching from time as the years go by. I love having no place to be at any given time, and the experience of that can almost be tasted. It is sweet and warm. I have no desire to measure time, I want to enjoy it.

"Many of us think that happiness is not possible in the present moment. Most of us believe that there are a few more conditions that need to be met before we can be happy. This is why we are sucked into the future and are not capable of being present in the here and now. This is why we step over many of the wonders of life."

–Thich Nhat Hanh, from Be Where You Are