Tuesday, December 30, 2014

FINDING ROOM TO BE IN THE MAYBES

Another Wendell Berry Sabbath poem as we wind down the year. Look at the pluses and minuses and wonder.

At the end of a long time
the book keeper sits down with his book.
He enters all that he has learned
of suffering, grief and ugliness,
of cruelty, waste and loss,
stupidity, meanness, falsehood,
selfishness, loneliness, and greed.
He reckons all of these as a weight
he has no way of weighing.
He enters then all he has learned
of joy, goodness, beauty, love,
of generosity, grace and laughter,
good sense, honesty, compassion,
mercy and forgiveness.
And these also weigh an unweighable
weight that registers only
on his heart, He cannot at last
complete and close his book.
He cannot say of evil and good
which outweighs the other,
though he feels his time's rage
for quantification, and he would
like to know. He can only suppose
the things of goodness, the most
momentary, are in themselves
so whole, so bright as to redeem
the darkness and so trouble the world
though we set it all afire.
"Maybe" the book keeper says. "Maybe."
For all he knows that in a time
gone mad for certainty, "maybe"
gives time to live and move and be.

From This Day by Wendell Berry 2012.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

RELEARNING OUR PLACE

Wendell Berry doesn't title most of his poems. I'm not sure what you'd call this only that as I was reading this out loud to mom I started to puddle up at about the point of there being a new world once we've been forced to come to our senses. Of every MBA graduate disappeared tomorrow who would really notice. But try and get along without the small farmers, mechanics, cooks and craftsmen. Good luck with that nightmare.

As if suddenly, little towns
where people once lived all
their lives in the same houses
now fill with strangers who
don't bother to speak or wave.
Life is a lonely business.
Gloss it how you will,
plaster it over with plastic
bullshit as you please,
ours has been a brutal
history, punishing without
regret whatever or whomever
belonged or threatened to belong,
in place, converting the land
to poverty and money any
way the quickest. Now
after the long invasion
of alien species, including
our own, in a time of endangered
species, including our own,
we face the hard way, no choice
but to do better. After the brief
cataclysm of "cheap"
oil and coal has long
passed, along with the global
economy, the global village,
the hoards who go everywhere
and live nowhere, after
the long relearning, the long
suffering, the homecoming
that must follow, maybe there
will be a new world
of native communities again:
plants, animals, humans,
soils, stones, stories,
songs, all belonging
to such small, once known
and forgotten, officially unknown
and exploited, beautiful places
such as this, where despite
all we have done wrong
the light of October
falls through the turning leaves.
The leaves die and fall,
making wealth in the ground,
making in the ground the
only real material wealth,
Ignoring our paltry dream
of omniscience merely human,
the knowing old land
has lighted the woodland's edges
with the last flowers of the year,
the tiny asters once known
here as end-of summer.

Wendell Berry 2008.And yeah, I'm still trying to find something to be upbeat about. Good luck with that.

Friday, December 26, 2014

WHO IS IN THE WAY?

Hope everyone had a great holiday, whatever holiday it was. Unfortunately my brain wouldn't stop working.

When the “too many” of the country arrive in the city they are not called “too many.” They are called “unemployed” or “permanently unemployed. But what will happen when the economists ever perceive there are too many people in the cities? There appear to be two possibilities: either they will recognize their earlier diagnosis was a tragic error, or they will conclude that there are too many people in country and city both—and what future inhumanities will be justified by that  diagnosis?” Wendell Berry in What are People For?

Economists aren't the only ones who make these “decisions.” What kind of headlines came out of Brazil in the run up to the World Games? The slums being cleared out because the poor were in the way.

The eighties in Central America when poor farmers displaced when their landlords pushed them out to make room for cash crops protested and asked for land reform, wanted access to education and the right to organize they were called subversives. And out came the death squads. They weren't subversives, they were in the way.

Gang violence in Mexico and Central America. Is there more to it than America's appetite for drugs? Or is it our eyes closed, fingers in our ears, in the corner humming real loud as the poor and displaced from our trade policies find themselves between the gang's hammer and the border patrol anvil? Makes me wonder these days. 

Many women in third world countries are don’t appreciate being told that the only way for their countries to beat poverty is for them to limit THEIR families or be sterilized. They look at the lives they lead and they look at the lives WE lead. First world families use far more resources than third world families. And that ladies and gentlemen is the problem.

The world’s consumer dependent economies need those first world kids growing up, starting families and consuming their little hearts out. The third world kids? They are in the way. Most of them will never be able to consume at first world levels. If they’re farmers, fishermen; families that depend on subsistence farming or resource use they’re going to want to maintain that life. They’ll be in the way as pressures mount to move their countries to export crop economies.

As resources dwindle we’ll see more civil wars not less. As the citizens in the resource poor parts of countries like Nigeria and Iraq demand their share of the pie we’ll see more groups like ISIL or Boko Haram. They’ll claim it’s in the name of religion. They may even believe it but they aren’t telling the whole truth.

Well, so far we aren’t seeing death squads in this country. YET.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

SHOW ME YOUR PAPERS

I promise I'll try to find something more upbeat for tomorrow. But, I'm not felling very upbeat right now.

For probably ninety nine percent of the time humans have been humans we’re lived on farms, small villages, or cities that had at most a few thousand people, Even if the farmers lived in town they went out every day to work their fields.

Even trades like spinning and weaving were done at home with a middle man picking up the finished product. Then we invented the internal combustion engine. (I’m simplifying I know) and you could put a factory anywhere. Concentration of machinery led to concentration of your workforce. Concentration of the workforce led to housing conditions in some city that you wouldn’t force on a dog, but they were “OK” for people.

After WWII there was a convergence of events that led to a significant depopulation of rural America. The interstate highway system bypassed the small towns. It is so weird to drive up I5 and know that state Highway 99 is only about a mile or so away in some sections going in the same direction. The push to treat farms like factories. “Get big or get out.” Somewhere along the line the mantra became “it’s inefficient to raise your own food, or have it raised close to where you live. Get a job and pay for what you used to be able to do for yourself.”

In the eighties Wendell Berry wrote an essay titled “What are People For?” It isn't very long and here's a piece of it.

“At the same time the cities have had to receive a great influx of people unprepared for the urban life and unable to cope with it. A friend of mine, a psychologist who has frequently worked with the juvenile courts of a large Midwestern city, has told me that a major occupation of the police force there is to keep the “permanently unemployable” confined to their own part of town. Such circumstances be good for the future of democracy and freedom. One wonders what the authors of our constitution would have thought of that category “permanently unemployable.”

“When the “too many” of the country arrive in the city they are not called “too many.” They are called “unemployed” or “permanently unemployed. But what will happen when the economists ever perceive there are too many people in the cities? There appear to be two possibilities: either they will recognize their earlier diagnosis was a tragic error, or they will conclude that there are too many people in country and city both—and what future inhumanities will be justified by that  diagnosis?”

Now stop and think about what we’re seeing in the way minorities, especially African Americans are treated in some areas. And I’m not talking about the gray areas where somebody points a gun at a cop, is doing something that is a low level crime although it’s a big part of the problem. I’m talking about a kid checking the mail box in front of his own house, somebody jogging in a park, or a man who just happened to be an off duty NYPD cop coming out of a birthday party at an upscale night club.

He had a new car. He was wearing some relatively flashy jewelry, sweat pants and a T shirt. The details are a little hazy since he’s suing the city and his former department after being slammed into his own car and ending up on the ground in hand cuffs. And the list goes on..

Watch a few old WWII movies with scenes of cities occupied by say the German army. And compare those with how some of our fellow citizens are treated when they are perceived to be “out of place.” There’s an element of “show me your papers” in a lot of these incidents/


Of course there’s the mantra of “just do what you’re told.” That is not what this country was founded on. I least I didn’t believe it was until I read these comments and op ed pieces from retired cops. More fool me. I can’t help but wonder how THEY’D feel if they were stopped on the street for no reason that they could see or pulled over for the most minor of traffic violations? Probably howl like a scalded cat. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

THE LAW-IT DOESN'T WORK IF WE DON'T TRUST IT

The prosecutor in the Ferguson case has announced that some of the grand jury witnesses lied, presumably under oath. And that he has no plans to bring perjury charges against them. Words fail me. The law works not because we pass laws but because people believe the system works. Undermine that belief and you might as well pack up your marbles and go home before somebody steals them.

In the end that’s what drives me crazy about these draconian anti abortion laws passed at the state level. Almost before the laws are passed potential patients are trying to figure out a way to get around them. The blithering idiots who passed the laws know this is going to happen and frankly I don’t believe most of them care one way or another as long as they can throw some red meat to their fundagelical base. Again, laws are passed that target only part of the population with the wink wink that you can get around the law as long as you have the time and the money to do so. And if you don’t? Tough luck sister.

A few days ago a New Yorker with a long criminal record and a record of mental health problems walked up to an RMP and blew away two police officers. His demented reason. A protest against criminal cops. Ironically the man who was supposedly protesting racist white cops who can’t look past skin color couldn’t look past the uniforms. He brutally murdered two men who happened to be Asian and Hispanic American. And ignited a backlash against the protests against certain police tactics.

The head of the police union accuses critics of hating the police. Most of us do not hate the police. We do want to see officers who may be guilty of crossing the line to face a jury of their hopefully impartial and not to perplexed peers. And that isn’t happening. Again the law only works when people trust that it works for everyone. When they don’t riots is what we get, even though they often make the situation worse.

There are reports that at least some of the New York protesters were chanting. “What do we want. Dead police. When do we want them? Now!”

Really helpful guys. Really helpful. Martin Luther King must be spinning in his grave.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

SOLSTICE

Several years ago my south of LA living aunt, uncle and one of my cousins came up for a visit that summer. It was getting late and Karen asked what time it was. When  I told her it was after nine she was surprised because it was still light. Apparently there's enough difference between LA and Springfield to be noticeable.

You have to wonder what our ancestors thought as they moved further north and realized how short the days were getting in winter. Yeah, the sun came back last year but what about this year? And it's no accident that for the Scandinavians hell wasn't fire it was ice. A frozen eternity.

Well, we didn't get frozen, we got drowned. Relatives on the coast south of Newport reported better than four inches on rain in twenty four hours yesterday. We got off with a measly half an inch. Here's to the shortest day of the year and the return of the sun.

A Winter Solstice Prayer

The dark shadow of space leans over us. . . . .
We are mindful that the darkness of greed, exploitation, and hatred
also lengthens its shadow over our small planet Earth.
As our ancestors feared death and evil and all the dark powers of winter,
we fear that the darkness of war, discrimination, and selfishness
may doom us and our planet to an eternal winter.
May we find hope in the lights we have kindled on this sacred night,
hope in one another and in all who form the web-work of peace and justice
that spans the world.
In the heart of every person on this Earth
burns the spark of luminous goodness;
in no heart is there total darkness.
May we who have celebrated this winter solstice,
by our lives and service, by our prayers and love,
call forth from one another the light and the love
that is hidden in every heart.
Amen.

Edward Hayes from Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim

Saturday, December 20, 2014

KICKING CREATION IN THE A$$?


Is my title a bit, shall we say provocative? Damn straight. This is not how I was raised. And frankly this is pretty damn scary. If my fellow self described Christian citizens are willing to see foreigners tortured to protect their precious lives and property what will they sanction if they see a threat from their neighbors?

This graph is from a poll taken by the Washington Post/ABC News. Now they only broke down the results between all adults, Christian variations and respondents who claimed no religion so we don't know how Jews, Muslims or Pagans might have responded. And it's not broken down by race. Those results might be very interesting

But frankly? These results don't say much for Christianity American style. At least until you go back and read your history books. It's always been there. Lurking just below the surface. The mobs that made Cyril Patriarch of Alexandria and then used by him to drive out the Jewish population that had lived in the city for centuries? Yep. The inquisition? The witch trials? The European wars of religion? What we've done to the rest of Creation? I'm not sure when we started down this terrible path. Different groups, Anabaptists, Quakers other small groups have tried but we've never gotten past the fringes. And damned if I know how to stop it now.

SHAPING CREATION

A non-traditional Celtic take on the traditional Trinity.

Cruthaitheoir (noun): creator Cruth (noun):shape. Cruthigh (verb): to create, to shape.

Honestly, I have no idea how to pronounce the Irish and the net wasn’t much help. In any case when most of us use the word create we mean to bring something into existence. However, the less common definition of create is ‘to bring into a new form.” And, the root word cruth in those Irish words means to shape. Shaping implies that you are working with something that already exists.

In the Celtic mythology stories that have survived, there appears to be no creation myths as we understand them. One of those in the beginning there was  a Void, a cosmic Egg, something that wasn’t there and then it was there, somehow. Something created from nothing.

Since those eternally curious scribes in the ancient Irish monasteries  translated, copied, and recopied every written scrap they could find it seems unlikely to many scholars that any creation myths they found wouldn’t have been recorded even if they were cleaned up to give them a less pagan cast.

Or, perhaps, the Celts never had an “in the beginning” story to start with. The universe didn’t have to come “into” existence because it has always existed. This does answer one problem. If the universe is created, who created the Creator? If somehow the universe has always existed then the Creator has always existed, does exist and will always exist. Creation then becomes a reshaping of what already exists, not the creation of something out of nothing. In this universe even the big bang becomes a reshaping of a “something” that already existed. What that “something” was or is we don’t know. Perhaps as humans with human limitations this is something we can’t know or comprehend.

And where does the raw material for reshaping come from? For some, like the writer Tom Cowan, the raw material the Creator works with is the Creator itself. (arrrrgh! Pronouns describing the indescribable are such fun to try to use.) This ever changing, ever shifting, and always becoming universe is made not only by the Creator but from the very essence of that Creator.

One of the best examples I can think of is this. A giant star is mostly hydrogen with some helium and an almost undetectable scattering of heavier elements. It lives its life, burns through its hydrogen fuel in a few million years, explodes as a supernova and seeds the universe with star stuff. The carbon that builds our cells, the oxygen we breathe, the iron in the steel that holds up our skyscrapers: these elements were forged in the heart of an exploding star. This star stuff reshaped, renewed, becomes new stars, new planets and wonder of wonders; us.

Cowan, who works with Celtic and shamanic traditions took the more traditional trinity and reworked it using the image of shaping. So the trinity becomes The Shaper of life, the Shape of life, and the Shaping of life. These three are truly indivisible, no one of the three can exist without the other two. It sounds really odd to say it but this trinity does work. And in a strange way we become not only the Created but the Creator. We are the Shaper, the Shape and the Shaping itself. (I know, my brain is feeling a little “sprained” right now.)

And he rewrote an old Irish prayer using the trinity of shaping.

Shaper of life, above me and below.
Shaper of life before me as I go.
Shaper of life, at my sides and
I know that You circle me around
And around and around.

Shape of life, above and below.
Shape of life before me as I go.
Shape of life, at my sides and
I know that You circle me around
And around and around.

Shaping of life, above and below.
Shaping of life before me as I go.
Shaping of life, at my sides and
 I know the You circle me around
And around and around.

Sacred Three, above and below.
Sacred Three before me as I go.
Sacred Three at my sides and
 I know that You circle me around
And around and around.

From Yearning for the Wind

So, all of us should rejoice for we are truly a part of the Creator of creation. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

ANOTHER REASON FOR THE SEASON


Winter solstice is just around the corner. Found this on the net. Wish I could find this in a yard sign. I would really love to play with the fundies minds this time of year. Trouble is most of them wouldn't even know what I was talking about. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

TONE DEAF

If you believe, as I do, that all of Creation has a voice if we would just listen with our souls instead of just using our ears we could hear the trees singing and know it was more than an afternoon breeze. They do not hear the Great Song, the Oran Mor of the Celts.

Those who use the world assuming
their knowledge is sufficient
destroy the world. The forest
is mangled for sale
of a few sticks, or is bulldozed
into a stream and covered over
the earth it once stood
upon. The stream turns foul,
killing the creatures that once
lived from it. Industrial humanity,
an alien species, lives by death.
In the clutter of facts, the destroyers
leave behind them on big story,
of the world and the world's end,
that they don't know. They know
the names and the little stories. But the
names of everything are not everything.
The story of everything, told,
is only a little story. They don't know
the languages of the birds
who pass northward, feeding
through the treetops early in
May, kept alive by knowledge
never to said in words.
Hang your head. This is our hope: Words
emerge from silence, the silence remains.

Wendell Berry 2007

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

WE BLEW UP PARADISE

John Denver sang it too in Rocky Mountain High. "They try to tear the mountain down to bring in a couple more." Or the song with the refrain "they paved paradise and put in a parking lot."

We've allowed the multinationals to use precious fresh water in this country to frack for natural gas to sell overseas. The corporations rip the guts out of the mountains here to sell the coal somewhere else. What's left behind by our unique form of American Socialism? Fouled streams, choked valleys and quiet places that fall to the bulldozers. Destroying what the Creator gave freely would be bad enough if we at least saw the benefits from the resources. Instead the gas and coal go overseas. The profits go to a mulitnational headquartered in some tax haven and WE end up with the mess to clean up.

"When you get the time to do it and you drive up here and leave your truck and walk into the woods and stay awhile in a pretty place where you don't hear no noise and nothing's bothering you, and you go back the next week and that place is not even there, that's hard."
Joe Begley (1919-2000) of Blacky, Kentucky
speaking of mountaintop removal mining. 

I dream by night the horror
That I oppose by day.
The nation in its error 
In its work and in its play

Destroys its land, pollutes
Its streams, and desecrates
Its air and light. From the roots
It dies upwards, our rights,

Divinely given, plundered
And sold to purchased power
That dies from the head downward,
Marketed hour by hour. 

The market is a grave 
Where goods lie dead that ought
to live and grow and thrive,
The dear world sold and bought

To be destroyed by fire,
Forest and soil and stone,
The conscience put to hire
Rules over flesh and bone. 

To take the coal to burn
They overturn the world
And all the world has worn
Of grace, of health. The gnarled

Clenched, and forever shut
Fist of their greed makes small 
The great life. Hollowed out,
The soul like a green hill

Yields to the force of death.
The crack in the despots skull
Descends into the earth, 
And what was bright turns dull. 

Wendell Berry 2007 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

WHICH KINGDOM DO WE BELONG TO?

Another Wendell Berry. This one is from 2005 at the height of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They gather like an ancestry
in the centuries behind us:
the killed by violence, the dead
in war, the "acceptable losses" --
killed by custom in self defense,
by way of correction, in revenge,
for the love of God, for the glory
of the world, for peace; killed
for pride, lust, envy, anger,
covetousness, gluttony, sloth,
and fun. the strewn carcasses
cease to feed even the flies,
the stench passes from them,
the earth folds in the bones
like salt in batter.

And we have learned
nothing. "Love your enemies,
bless them that curse you,
do good to them that hate you" --
It goes on regardless, reasonably:
the always uncompleted
symmetry of just reprisal,
the angry word, the boast
of superior righteousness,
hate in Christ's name.
scorn for the dead, lies
for the honor of the nation,
centuries bloodied and dismembered
for ideas, for ideals,
for the love of God!

When I read this one it hit me as too strong. Then the torture report was released and I remembered an article in Newsweek several years ago that profiled an attorney that the administration had finally located who would sign off on the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques." Didn't say how many others they talked to. Then I read more comments on the Ferguson and New York stories. Then there was another school shooting. This one in Portland. Then I read Benjamin Corey's breakdown of the stories in his blog that drew the most hate mail. Especially the one at the top of the list. And suddenly this poem wasn't strong enough.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

POLITICAL WEATHER

Another Wendell Berry from the early nineties. Prime example? California is getting hit with the worst storm in over five years. Massive amounts of rain. Winds at gale force; close to hurricane strength. And the storm is heading for the southern burned areas with potential for massive mudslide. Only on AOHell could a story about the weather be turned political.

"Oh poor California. They're getting rained on call in the disaster designation." Go watch the blasted weather channel and wonder how you'd do in gale force winds as the storm drains not only back up but geyser. Remember how Texas begged for help a couple of years ago when the whole state threatened to turn to ashes?

Hate has no world.
The people of hate must
try to posses the world of love,
for it is the only world;
it is Heaven and Earth.
But as lonely, eager hate
possesses it, it disappears;
it never did exist,
and hate must seek another
world that love has made.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

ETERNAL FOREST

From a poem by Wendell Berry

How long does it take to make the woods?
As long as it takes to make the world.
The woods is present as the world is, the presence of
all its past, and of all its time to come.
It is always finished, it is always being made, the act
of its making forever greater than the act of its destruction.
It is part of eternity, for its end and its beginning
belong to the end and the beginning of all things,
the beginning lost in the end, the end in the beginning.

A forest is constantly beginning and ending. A giant redwood begins to die, shoots come up from the roots, reaching for the sun and the sky. Go into the woods, Find a clearing where a pine or fir or hemlock has found its final resting place. But that tree is not alone. It's a home to new life. Mushrooms, little bushes, insects, birds.

That's why I believe it is impossible to practice sustainable forestry. We take out what would support the next of living things. The big timber companies turn a forest into a monoculture using herbicides that poison not only the earth in the tree plantation but anyone and anything living near by.What a world.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

THE LORDS OF WAR

We've heard it all before. "Better dead than red" with the power to turn the earth into an ash heap.  As if the birds, beasts and flowers knew or cared about the politics of the destroyers. "We had to destroy the village to save it" as we forced old men, women and children into ready made villages that were little more than detentions camps so we could plow the earth with bombs, coat it with napalm and turn their crops into wastelands. Who can hear the cry of the newborn in the manger over the screams of the fallen?

Our reasons for our newest wars shifted like a sand dune under our feet. Fighting terrorism without asking WHY we were a target. And shouting anyone who did ask as a traitor, a coward or a disbeliever in American "Exceptionalism."  Making the world safe for McDonalds, Wally World and our version of "democracy." Add the sacrilege of so called holy men standing in their pulpits arguing that the Prince of Peace arrived carrying an Uzi and Peace on Earth fades into the distance like a mirage on a sun baked highway.

But do the Lords of War in fact
hate the world? That would be easy
to bear if so. If they hated their
children and the flowers that
grow in the morning light, that
would be easy to bear. For then
we could hate the haters
and be right. What is hard
is to imagine that the Lords of War
may love the things that they destroy.

Wendell Berry 2003 in Collected and New Sabbath Poems

OoooooKaaaaaay! As sometimes happens the entry took over and wrote itself. It feels really weird when "somebody" takes over and off we go on a roller coaster ride.

Monday, December 8, 2014

THE AMERICA THAT COULD BE

From Martin Luther King the Inconvenient Hero by Vincent Harding. Tragic that at a time when the memory of his powerful belief in the power of non violence could help turn this country around his name isn’t even mentioned.

“Who dares recall this man, when all the plagues he fought are still among us, standing in the way of the “America we hope to be”: poverty and exploitation, racism, militarism, materialism, manipulated anticommunism?* How shall we recall him when the America which has been is still is still protected and justified by Bible quoting presidents and supine legislators who offer no visionary leadership to a spiritually crippled people?

Who dare rededicate themselves to the causes of this hero? Who is there now, when major portions of his black middle class have made their peace, found equal opportunity in the America that is? Someone.

Who is there now, when the overwhelming experience of the Black church is still focused on an individualistic religious experience, breaking faith with the Tubmans, the Turners, the Truths, and the Kings (and the King)? Someone.

Who is there when so many of his white comrades now stand back in cynicism, fear, success and puzzlement? Someone.

Who is there when so many of poor (and recently poor) now compete for crumbs across racial and ethnic lines, rather than standing together to vision, to pray, to recollect, to plan, to struggle? Someone.

Who stands with a hero who insists on living for the broken and exploited, who refuses to deny nightmares, who still will not let dreams die? And who is not afraid to go on exploring, stumbling, trembling, wherever visions lead him? Someone.

Who will open the door for the children, to let them see him, feel him, as he was, to recall him as he is, perhaps to expose their hungry directionless lives to the flaming vector of his passion for the poor? Someone.

Is he safely dead? Perhaps we should recall him and see. Now. Perhaps in the process we may learn again how to live-unsafely, in love with God and neighbor, with cleansing, purifying fire, with the America that is yet to be created-by us?”


*Soviet Union fell over twenty years ago and we’re still being called commies etc. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

ANATOMY OF POLICE VIOLENCE


Graphic created by Benjamin L, Corey Formerly Fundie. He put a lot of work into this and I believe it's spot on. His blog is a great one. The link is on my sidebar. You might not agree with all his conclusions. On the other hand ask the few Pequots who survived the war engineered by colonists in Connecticut.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

WHAT CAN'T BE CHANGED

I’m getting a little fed up with the comments that the Irish, the Germans, the Italians etc. ad nauseum had adapted to the majority culture in the US so why can’t _______ I don’t think you’ll have to think too hard to fill in the blank.

Well for starters many of those minorities are white or at least rather tan in complexion. Lose the accent, alter your name, move to the other side of the country and you can pretend to be just about anything you want to be. If anyone is curious enough to ask, that is. Even the Italians. For every immigrant’s son who looks like Antonin Scalia, there’s a blue eyed blond from the north of the country that was settled by the Germanic tribes. Change your name from Bellini to Bell and nobody will ask any questions.

As for the minorities from the orient, they faced some very extreme prejudice in the early years. And let’s face it. I didn’t take the time to run the numbers but there just aren’t that many Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Asian Americans in this country. I suspect that there are parts of the country where the good citizens can go for years and not see an Asian face outside of the TV or movies.

African Americans have been the quintessential other from the beginning. Were they persons or property? The constitution came down on the side of what? They were persons but only 3/5 of a person and only so they could be counted for census purposes. Called “black” even though most African Americans are varying shades of brown it conjures up all those images of darkness.

The dangers of night. Going over to the “dark side.” Thanks George we really needed that and Darth Vader in his midnight black get up to let us know he wasn’t one of the good guys. The psy cops in the Babylon 5 universe with their SS wannabe’s black uniforms. The black sheep of the family. The black market. All the negative images conjured up by “black.”

You can change your name. You can get an education that lets you speak like a BBC presenter. You can get a good job and dress the part. Even buy a decent car. There are still areas where the real estate agents will try to steer you away from. You can still be arrested for buying belt considered too nice for somebody like you. You and that nice care can still be pulled over for “infractions” that probably wouldn’t be noticed in a European American driver.

You can be stopped and questioned for walking while black with your hands in your pockets. (true story. Apparently a store owner had called because an African American with his hands in his pockets had been passing back and forth in front of the store and he was afraid he was going to be robbed. No matter that the man who was actually stopped was nowhere near the store. He was walking the mile between the house of a friend and his place about a mile away)


You can still be called every vile  name in the book because, unlike other hyphenated Americans, you can’t change the color of your skin. From the day you’re born until the day you die too many people will only look at skin color and no further. And from the comments I’ve been reading on too many stories too many people aren’t interested in doing things any different. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

BLACK FRIDAY SURPRISES?

Surprise, surprise. Turns out post Thanksgiving weekend retail sales were/are down. I suspect that the same people shop 'til they drop year after year. Give them more time to shop with the same amount of money something has to give and it did.

That and the suspicion that the "gift" being bought are pretty much for the buyers. I remember one year when mom took an old formal and reworked it into a lovely robe for my little sister. I still have the knitting instructions for the slippers we used to make. I could probably knock out a pair with my eyes closed. Same with knitted hats. We always made a lot more jams, jellies and kraut than WE needed because it all made good gifts. One year my room was awash in shredded foam for the Raggedy Anne and Andy dolls for the littlest sister.

Traditionally the Christmas tree went up the week before Christmas and went down at New Years. Providing the tree stayed green enough long enough. Ornaments were gradually collected. We still have two or three that were my grandmother's. Lots of lights to fill in the gaps.

Cars, TV's shop equipment? Christmas gifts? I watched film clips of the stores opening their doors on Thursday evening. Pushing, shoving, knocking other people down and not stopping to help them. Most of them looking like they were just this side of insane. Hell a security guard got trampled to death a few years ago. I think it was at a WalMart. If there's a War on Christmas it started about Halloween, hit the beaches on Thanksgiving and is being fought in your local mall. And we're losing. And whether you celebrate Christmas, the Winter Solstice, the Celtic pantheon or just want to hang with family, take a deep breath and enjoy watching the squirrels at the feeder we're losing. Big time.

We're working on Advent and the Solstice right now. We'll get around to Christmas when it is time.

Monday, December 1, 2014

JURIES

I haven't spent much time in the comments sections of stories about Ferguson and the protests. Not from lack of interest but in the interests of keeping my blood pressure at levels closer to Mt. Hood levels than Mt Everest.

What I have seen. If you aren't white you don't have the right to protest. I've seen comments that seemed to call for genocide against minorities in this country. Most African Americans are thugs or worse and those who acknowledge that like whites, a small minority are responsible for violent crimes. However, even that person called on the African American community to "police themselves." That's why we have the LAW, bonehead. Not all cops are trigger happy either. All African Americans are lazy, on welfare, on food stamps etc. etc. etc. One commenter even called for 7 PM to 7 AM curfews in the cities and if you don't "have a good reason to be out" subject to arrest. Shades of North Korea, the old USSR and Nazi Germany.

And something that really bothers me. Too many of our fellow citizens don't seem to know the difference between a grand jury proceeding and a jury trial. There's a joke that a careful prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. After the sandwich is indicted both sides have their chance to present their best evidence before the public and before a jury of the sandwiche's "peers." Now THAT presents an interesting picture. LOL

I've run into more than one comment of "he's not guilty, get over it." No, we don't know that. The grand jury didn't indict the officer and there are plenty of questions about how the prosecutor handled the proceedings. No indictment, no trial. No chance for the public to watch what's going on and see justice being served.

Now, about those protests. I'm all in favor of non violent confrontation, that's NON VIOLENT confrontation. And if it means going to jail, that's part of the price we pay for something resembling the rule of law. You don't throw bottles at the cops. You don't throw barricades at the cops. You don't spit at the cops.

Anybody out there ever watch the movie Gandhi? There is a sequence where demonstrators are marching on a salt works. There was a tax on salt and the British government controlled production. Row by row they marched towards the native police armed with bamboo staves. Row by row they were struck down and the women carried them to one side for first aid treatment. They kept it up hour after hour until after dark. It took another decade and WWII to finally achieve Indian independence but the Raj fell that day. True non violence is a disciplined, courageous confrontation of injustice. It doesn't always work. But it puts the violent response squarely in the oppressors ball park. Dr. King where you now?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

WANTED POSTER


This was posted on Face Book and apparently you can buy this as a real live poster. Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Just want to be sure who we're waiting for here. I"m also waiting for the yearly conservative entries trying to prove that the family wasn't really poor etc. OK. Back in the day there were pretty much two classes of people. Especially in a backwater like Judea. The very rich and everybody else. Mary and Joseph were definitely from the everybody else class while the rich and the wannabe rich have been trying to claim Jesus for themselves every since. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

COMFORTED AND FULFILLED

Another piece from Drum Major for a Dream. Interesting how the piece works, with a few changes in words, works for just about any martyred prophet from the last two thousand years or so.

Is heard no more.A silence now stands
Where hope once spoke.
The voice in the wilderness
of inhumanity crying
against the indifference
of the righteous.

Silenced?
            So then is justice,
            So then is hope.
            So then is faith.
            Decency.
            Dignity.
            And a dream.

Where one dies thousands rise
For Martyrs are made to
            multiply.
            The stars catch the sound
            The wind carries the word
            The earth contains the eternal law
            Struggling to be born in
                        Man.

In the silence
Where he once stood
The children grow
The poor gather
And those now mourning know
They shall be comforted
- Comforted – and fulfilled.

N. Ellsworth Bunce in Drum Major for a Dream.


Friday, November 28, 2014

THE UNKNOWNS


And the same social groups that ended up being drafted back in the sixties are the ones volunteering for a chance at an education or job training. And the real irony? The same guys were involved in both wars. Especially Rumsfeld and Cheney.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

FOLLOW THE SPIRIT

MARTIN LUTHER KING

Above the shouts and shots,
The roaring flames and the siren’s blare,
Listen for the stilled voice
Of the man who is no longer there.

Above the tramping of the endless line
Of marchers along the street,
Listen for the silent step
Of the dean man’s invisible feet.

Lock doors, put troops at the gate,
Guard the legislative halls,
But tremble when the dead man comes,
Whose spirit walks through walls.


Edith Lovejoy Pierce in Drum Major for a Dream

Over a half century ago MLK gave voice to his dreams for his children. That a time would come when who they were would count for more than the color of their skin. It's 2014 and that dream is as far from being realized now as it was then. If not further. Dipping my toe into the comments on an article on AOL about the president pardoning two turkeys this Thanksgiving. I'm not providing a link to the story it's too damn depressing and frankly disgusting. And I only read the first page. I didn't feel like going any deeper into the cesspool. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

AND FOLLOWING THE REBEL

Just might lead to a similar fate. According to what I've read Jackson Brown wrote this for the Celtic group the Chieftains. Didn't record it himself until a little later. A couple of lines echo the lament of a Brazilian archbishop Helder Camara. "If I give food to a starving man, they call me a saint. If I ask why that man is starving? They call me a communist." And the Celtic churchman Pelagius wrote to a new convert that not only would she soon realize that scripture and doctrine were created by men, but that some pagans were better Christians than some Christians he'd met.

THE REBEL JESUS

All the streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants' windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
While the sky darkens and freezes
Will be gathering around the hearths and tables
Giving thanks for God's graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus

Well they call him by 'the Prince of Peace'
And they call him by 'the Savior'
And they pray to him upon the seas
And in every bold endeavor
And they fill his churches with their pride and gold
As their faith in him increases
But they've turned the nature that I worship in
From a temple to a robber's den
In the words of the rebel Jesus

Well we guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why there are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus

Now pardon me if I have seemed
To take the tone of judgment
For I've no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In a life of hardship and of earthly toil
There's a need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus

Jackson Brown


And I'm old enough to remember that Christmas gifts meant a doll or a book or maybe a record. When I was a kid helping decorate our tree I never imagined they'd be pushing cars and big screen TV's and all the other glittery blankety blank blanks. Most days there are more ads than newspaper. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

THE ONLY GOOD PROPHET

is probably a dead one. The living ones are so inconvenient and pushy. They hold up mirrors to our actions and insist on pointing out that what we do and what we say we believe not only seldom match, they aren't even in the same zip code. And yes, Jackie is just a teensy, weensy cranky today.

Now that he is safely dead
Let us praise him.
Build monuments to his glory
Sing hosannas to his name

Dead men make such safe,
Convenient heroes:
They cannot rise to challenge the images
We would fashion from their lives.

And besides,
It is easier to build monuments
Than to build a better world.

So, now that he is safely dead
We, with eased consciences
Will teach our children
That he was a great man…knowing

That the cause he lived for
Is still a cause. And that the dream
For which he died is still a dream.
A dead man’s dream.

Carl Wendell Hines Jr. in Drum Major for a Dream

This piece was written in memory of MLK Jr. However it could also describe the fate of the teachings of a certain footsore rabbi who came a cropper when he went against the combined power of Rome and the Jerusalem power structure.

We don’t know what HE taught. He didn’t write anything down. People with their own agendas did write things down and out of those writings at least one author has identified eight distinct theologies. And he believed that seven of those were wrong.

Now that He is safely out of the way we can make just about anything we want out of the scraps that were allowed into the accepted canon and proceed to beat each other over the head with them and build fences with safely locked gates. Above those gates are the words Keep Out.


Monday, November 24, 2014

DRUM MAJOR FOR A DREAM

This is from a small collection of poems written after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. titled Drum Major for a Dream. Appropriate for the beginning of Advent. What happens to inconvenient prophets and Messiahs. 

DRUM MAJOR FOR A DREAM
Ira G Zepp, Jr.

Your dream was clear,
We understood it perfectly.
Liberty and justice for all –
But that was too costly
For us, too expensive
Too dear, as they used to say;
Have-nots having
Disinherited, inheriting.
Is that what you meant by
Lowering mountains and
Exalting valleys?

But you beat your drum
Slowly, persistently, non-violently.

Your dream was clear,
We understood it perfectly.
Heaven on earth.
But heaven can wait.
It is often unwise and untimely for color of skin
To give way to content of character: for black, white
Brown, red yellow
To live together in Shalom.
Is that what you mean by
Making rough places plain
And crooked paths straight?

But you beat your drum
Lovingly, redemptively, faithfully.

Your dream was clear.
We understood it perfectly.
Love your enemies,
But that is impractical, not
Calculating enough.
Loving those who despise you
Who speak calumny against you
Enables us to be brothers and sister
In the Beloved Community.
Is that what you meant by
Seeing the Promised Land?

We understood all of this
So perfectly, saw it so clearly
That we beat the drummer

Senselessly, violently, fatally. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

TWO DADS


Ran across this on the web. Seems true enough. Bless the Anglicans.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

NOVEMBER

Actually it's been an unusual mid October/November this year in the southern Willamette Valley. We haven't had the day in, day out, chilly fog so far. Rain yes, fog no. Ran across this by a Thomas Hood.

No sun - no moon!
No morn, no noon!
No shade, no shine!
No butterflies, no bees!
No fruits, no flowers!
No leaves, no birds!

November!

And Lisa knows exactly what I'm talking about. Althoooooogh, Earlier in the month when it was chilly, but sunny in the mornings you could still hear a few birds calling in the mornings. The flickers harvested all the dogwood berries. And we haven't cut down the black eyed Susans seed heads yet. The little gold finches and the siskins love them. How anything that tiny can cope with the cold. I think they hang out in the big holly tree across the street. If they stay close to the trunk of the tree almost nothing can get in.

SONS OF ABRAHAM


Last week theEpiscopal church hosted an interfaith get together with several hundred Muslims. During the service the South African ambassador to the US, who is a Muslim, called on Muslim moderates to fight back against extremism. Peace, brotherhood, prayers; what’s not to like. Apparently the usual list of suspects from Louie Gohmert to Franklin Graham found plenty not to like. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

But, what really struck me in the comments section was this little number from a commenter who shall remain nameless.

“So funny that the term "political fringe" was used in this article. It's not exactly just the fringe that would question this activity. That being said if it was the Episcopal church that hosted this, why would an evangelist have any input on it? The Episcopalians went off the rails a long time ago so why be surprised or outraged? I think the "having no other gods before me" would be where inviting a group into a temple dedicated to the God of Abraham to openly worship another god might get static. That IS one thing God makes pretty clear.

You see it’s the bit about the God of Abraham that caught my attention. Other folks too. Over and over I’m amazed at the abysmal ignorance of the fundies on the right. Yo, spam for brains. Sorry for insulting a perfectly good, if high salt, brand of canned lunch meat. Islam is not only a religion. Islam worships the same God as the rest of us in the Judeo/Christo universe.

Bet he forgot that Abraham had two sons. The eldest, Ishmael, was the son of Abraham by Sarah’s slave girl Hagar. When Sarah finally had Isaac she was afraid that Ishmael would share in the future promised to Isaac so she convinced Abraham to send them away. You know Abraham doesn’t come off very well most of the time but that’s another story.

You’d think he’d have had the balls to point out that “look he’s my first born and we’re in the middle of a desert; their chances of survival are just about zero.” But he didn’t so God had to. Out of water Hagar despaired of her son’s life. To make a long story short, an angel appeared to Hagar and showed her a well. They survived and Ishamael, according to tradition also had twelve sons who were the founders of the Arabic peoples.

Abraham/Ibrahim. Samey, Samey. And since nobody can hurt you like family all three branches have been trying to kick the bejeezus out of each other ever since.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

CLASS WARFARE

From your mouth to the ears of somebody a little south from heaven. Discovered on the Christians on the Left website.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

NOT SURE WHAT TO CALL THIS

Oregon's (thankfully) defeated Measure 90 would have dumped the partisan primary process for a so called open primary with the top two candidates going to the general election. Even if they both came from the same party. Which did happen in Washington this year. Two Republicans running for the same office. One a TP candidate. The other, presumably, a more sane Republican. I'm not sure who won.

The complaint is that if the voter registers as an independent they can't vote in the partisan primary and claim that they are thereby "disenfranchised.". My recent take. Well boo F'ing hoo. You knew that going in. Should I complain that as a registered Democrat I don't get to vote for the Republican candidates as well? Because that's what it boils down to.

While looking information up for this entry I discovered that, yes Virginia, Oregon does have a real live Independent Party complete with donation guidelines and all those assorted goodies. No donations from unions, corporations, no money from out of state. Yadda, Yadda, Yadda.

The Republican candidate for governor also entered the Independent party primary held in July. And a quick check of his donors shows that he sure as hell didn't follow the guidelines. Surprise, surprise.

So, in Washington we had two candidates from different wings of the same party running for an office. In Oregon the governors race featured six candidates from seven different parties. The Republican was also running as an Independent. The house race had five candidates from six parties. The Republican was also running as an Independent. I forget now, if there was any overlap in the Senate race.

 Frankly I very much prefer our much messier way of doing things. Under the top two the Greens, Libertarians, Progressives and any other small party would be SOL for the general election unless they could mount a successful write in campaign. Yeah, that's a really "democratic" scenario.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

UNWANTED POLITICAL ADS ON FACEBOOK

Imagine my surprise when I found an ad for Oregon Republican senate candidate Monica Wehby on my FB page. I mean guys, I follow Chicks on Left, Christians on the Left, moderate Christian bloggers. What glitch in your algorithms even suggested I would appreciate finding her and the comments going with it on MY page? After a dip in the kitchen midden of the comments I axed the page with no regrets.

She supports axing the IRS, the Department of Education AND the EPA. Nothing personal, but it’ll save money. Excuse me while I start laughing semi hysterically. Dear Monica was in her early teens when the EPA was created. And I suspect she hasn’t looked into WHY the EPA was created. Under a Republican president by the way. Anybody remember Love Canal? Contaminated industrial and electrical substation sites, the abandoned factory site where the PBB’s that poisoned Michigan were manufactured, Hanford. They didn’t even get started on the Michigan site until 2012.  20 f’ing 12 for God/dess sake. Almost thirty years after the factory was closed.

These agencies were not created just to piss off the Koch brothers and their loyal minions. They were created for a reason. Oh, and the possible replacement for the IRS? Setting totals state by state and leaving it to the states to raise the money. Folks that’s been tried before. Under the Articles of Confederation which were replaced by the constitution. It didn’t work then either. Fancy that.

I’m working through Forrest McDonald’s book on the ideas that cited to support the constitution. Don’t know if I’ll get a blog entry out it, but there truly is nothing new under the sun. LOL. What ticks me off is that we're arguing over the same damn ideas from state sovereignty to nullification over two hundred years later.

UPDATE: With twenty odd percent of the votes Merkley and DeFazio are going back to Washington. Happy, happy. Joy, joy. 




Sunday, November 2, 2014

OUT OF MANY...

Well getting the one came close to a miracle. Ever catch the chariot race in Ben Hur? Imagine a chariot with not four horses, but thirteen. None of them wants to go in the same direction and at least one of them is trying to get in the chariot with the driver. That's what our not so sainted founding fathers were faced with in the summer of 1787.

Just finished literally blasting through E Pluribus Unum by Forrest McDonald. Book originally dates to the early seventies. It's a fairly short, often irreverent survey of the (dis)United States of America in the years between the start of the revolution and the ratifying of the constitution.

He goes section by section, state by state (briefly). Some states come off better than others. And his description of traveling conditions in say North Carolina, remind me just how easy we have it. Fronted by sand bars and barrier islands it was easier to ship exports up or down the coast and ship through Philadelphia, New York or Charleston.

And next time somebody tells you they "don't have time to go cast a ballot" ask them how far they live from their polling place. There were more than a few back country farmers who owned enough property to be eligible to vote but couldn't afford to from one to three days (both ways) to cast their ballots.

There was a whole lot of horse trading, private planning, arm twisting and down right chicanery that went into the creation of and ratification of the final version of the constitution. As for original intent. There wasn't one, in my opinion. More than a few of the delegates still called their home states their country and weren't in any hurry to allow more power to a central, national government.

McDonald refers to farmers, planters, storekeepers, sailors, ship builders, butchers, bakers and candle stick makers. Nowhere does he mention corporations. Probably because corporations as we know them DIDN'T  exist in 1787. I suspect that Patrick Henry for one would consider treating a corporation as a "person" as outright blasphemy if not underhanded chicanery.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

MY COUNTRY?

Trying to get into the mindset of the members of the constitutional convention can be, well kind of hard. When some of them spoke of My Country they weren't talking about the United States. Especially the US as we understand it now. 

When some of the delegates invoked country they were talking about Virginia or Carolina or Massachusetts. Thirteen former colonies founded at different times, under different rules by settlers with radically different ideas about what made a perfect society, what defined liberty. 

I live in Oregon, probably wouldn't want to live anywhere else. But, I am an American. And this country with all its flaws is what I am. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

YEAH I'M STILL HERE

Or it's hard to type while you're either reading seven hundred plus page brick (Washington A Life) or keep your faded trade paperback (Miracle at Philadelphia) from falling apart. Hard to believe we're still arguing over the same things over two hundred years later. Even most of the participants admitted it was the best document they could come up with at the time given all the horsetrading, compromising and arguing that went on. Note to guys like Scalia, I believe our "founding fathers" would be surprised to find their patchwork quilt being treated like Holy Writ. "Hey, we did the best we could do at the time.If you can do better go for it."

The bio on Washington is good. Incredibly detailed, but good. This isn't Parson Weems plaster saint, but a far more interesting, sometimes conflicted man. Quiet, most of the time. Dignified, most of the time. Overshadowed perhaps by the likes of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and a lot more radical as the revolution gained speed than most of us realized. One of the straws that bent the camel's back. Ordering products from England, paying top prices and getting crap in return.

By 1770 he was out of the tobacco business. Just wasn't worth it, prices fluctuated too much. Grew what and corn. Shipped grain and flour to England. Flour ground in his won mill and when the mill wasn't grinding his grain it was grinding other folks, for a fee of course. Went into the fishing business on the Potomac Other mercantile irritation? The best salt for curing fish came from Portugal, but that market was closed. Had to buy from England. Martha Washington supervised the weaving of the cloth for the clothing provided for their slaves.

Yes, he owned slaves. Inherited, purchased and acquired by marriage. By the standards of the times he had the rep as a fairly decent master. And his views on the practice change somewhat over time. But, he was a wealthy Virginia plantation owner with all the privileges and baggage that went with it. Heck I'm only on page two hundred or so. The Americans have just chased the Brits out of Boston. There's a long way to go, what with a shortage of gun powder, one years enlistments and all.


Monday, October 20, 2014

THE THIRTY YEARS WAR?

So John McCain, if the senate falls to the Republicans, will probably call for more troops in Iraq and Syria to combat the Islamic State. AND to practice regime change in Syria.

If we're going into perpetual warfare we need to bring back the draft. If the situation is that serious then there needs to be nationwide debate and bringing back the draft will probably bring this on. No deferments, no exclusions. Joe Blow's grandkids go. So do Mitt Romney's. We're going to need them.

Iran stood to one side when we took out Saddam Hussein. He was largely secular and if he was a practicing Muslim, he was probably a Sunni. Assad belongs to a branch of Shiite Islam. I doubt if Iran will stand by while we take out a coreligionist and possibly create another Sunni leaning state near Iran's borders.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A MIDGET TRYING TO STAND ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS

Warning, when I started writing this it turned into a mini rant.


The Tea Party is running a candidate for the senate from Iowa. Who just happens to be a woman. Her name is Joni Ernst, and frankly I don’t believe that a degree in public administration qualifies a candidate for anything above dog catcher. And I don’t care if you’re a man or a woman. But, you are assuming that you are qualified to walk the same halls where the likes of where the likes of Webster, Clay and even Calhoun could be found. I don't think so.

Her program is the usual mish mash. Get rid of the IRS. Get rid of the Department of Education. Good God woman one of the reasons our country is heading for the crapper is that we DON’T have a national curriculum. Get rid of the Environment Protection Agency. Right. Let’s just hand the country over to the polluters and the frackers. Get rid of the federal minimum wage. And the newest excuse “I’m not a scientist so I’m not qualified to speak about climate change.” I assume you have access to a library and know how to read.

That was snarky, I know. But, damn it when I don’t know something I look it up, verify the sources and dig in. If I can do it, so can anyone else with an IQ approaching the temperature of a warm room.

So what brought this individual to my attention? According to Raw Story she opposes the Affordable Care Act because the churches and the family should be looking after poor people who can’t afford health care. I’m assuming that she reached this position because the constitution doesn’t specifically mention health care.

Lady, the job is bigger than the resources of the “church.” And thanks to corporate America our families have been scattered to the four winds starting with the post WWII boom. Sam went to Akron. Joe went to Boston. Harry went to LA, Joan married a guy who was transferred to Dallas, Texas and the folks retired to Palm Beach. She’s harking back to Golden Age that never really existed.

Heck, my ancestors hugged the Atlantic coast from the 1630’s/1680’s. Then the Erie Canal opened the doors to the west and we were in Oregon within two generations.

And Ms. Ernst I wouldn’t get all “the original intent of the framers” on your constituents. Remember it took an amendment to the constitution to guaranty women the right to vote. It took decades to actually get women elected to state and federal offices. And don’t look know but, there are folks out there, especially in the back ground of the Tea Party ranks who still thank that amendment was a bad idea.

Now that I think about it, some of the same folks are not cool with the idea of direct election of senators either. That should give you something to think about.

So, it’s back to the classroom for me, so to speak. I swear to all the deities I hold dear that I am going to finally finish reading the Federalist Papers. Little did I know that there is a collection from the other side.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

TEXAS HOSPITALS OR THE AMERICAN (UN)HEALTHCARE SYSTEM

Interesting letter to editor in the Guard this morning. Apparently most of the hospitals in Texas are for profits and thanks to so called tort reform signed into law by Rick Perry it's almost impossible to sue them.

In light of the ebola patient who was diagnosed with sinustitis and sent home with a bag of antibiotics whether he needed them or not this letter was written. The writer's mother went to Texas hospital ER. She was diagnosed with a unrinary tract infection after sitting in the ER for two hours. She died two or three hours later of a heart attack.

Now I know that women often don't present the same symptoms as men do when they have heart attacks but I suspect that running a temp isn't one of them. And if you have an infection of some kind you're probably going to run a temp. And I don't know if the cute little instant anaylsis machine they used on the series The Last Ship really exists. Draw the blood, stick in a sample get a DNA analysis of the germ in question. And never having had a UTI I don't know the proticol for diagnosing one but I suspect that a swab and a petri dish are in there somewhere, or used to be.

And Lisa over at Coming to Terms has written about the fun her husband had when he had blood clots in his leg. Sent homw with syringes of Warfarin (blood thinner) and a "let us know if you have any problems." And they have insurance.

Incidentally Mr. Duncan was kept at the Texas hospital for "treatment." And I'm sure they did everything they could with what they had. And he may have been too sick to transport to another facitly. He also didn't have any insurance, In the meantime the two nurses have been shipped to facilities on the east coast that are especially equpped to handle diseases like Ebola. If I was one of Mr. Duncan's relatives I sure as hell would be asking questions.

And a commenter on a story about the original patient suggested that he should have been "euthenized" before he showed symptoms. Didn't really thing that one through did you? However with potential contacts between the original patient and the two nurses pushing nearly a thousand I haven't heard anyone suggesting THEY should be eliminated before they show any symptoms.

Friday, October 17, 2014

DOWN THE HISTORY TUNNEL

Spent some time on Amazon looking for book bargains. IE used in decent condition and no more than a couple of bucks to add to the bios of John Adams, Clay, Calhoun and Webster. Found one of Andrew Jackson that looks promising. One buck, plus shipping. John Quincy Adams, same price.

And like an idiot I let my copy of the Federalist papers get away. Two bucks for that one. Didn't know that there was also a collection of pieces on the anti federalist side. This should be interesting.

Those old men. Flawed, opinionated but giants in their time. Still giants compared to the midgets in office now. I mean how often do we hear of a president threatening to hang someone to the nearest tree. That was Andy Jackson (and I do have problems with amny of Jackson's actions) to South Carolina over efforts to nullify a federal tarriff. The south backed off a bit, something resembling a compromise was reached and nobody got hanged.

I truly wonder if some of these politicians could get elected now. I mean John Adams. Short, plump, irascible at times, definitely prickly and opinionated. He couldn't make small talk if his life depended on it unless it had to do with farming, the law or how to create a new government but he was still a giant. Especially compared to what we're stuck with now. Frankly it's bloody embarrassing.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

LET'S ALL JUST TAKE A DEEP BREATH

I hate to believe this but, perhaps we’ve done too good a job of eradicating the diseases that used to be an unpleasant backdrop to our ancestor’s existence. Heck we have a letter from my great great grandmother in Kansas around the turn of the last century. She discusses this and that and then it’s “oh by the way there are rumors of small pox in the neighborhood.” Gulp. Theodore Roosevelt lost his mother and his first wife on the same day. Mom to typhoid, wife to kidney disease. Thanks to vaccinations mumps, measles, chicken pox and whooping cough are don’t even clear the horizon for most folks and polio is a distant, unpleasant memory.


So now we have our knickers in a twist over a disease that can only be spread, in this country, by contact with who already has the disease. And in no way do I want to down play the horror of this disease in countries with no money, no training and no medical infrastructure.

Apparently one of the health care workers who worked with the patient from Africa has tested positive for the virus and there’s a full court panic press in the comments section.

One sensitive individual suggested euthanizing a suspected patient before they need treatment. ?!?!?!? Hey, genius, until the patient shows symptoms they probably can’t spread the disease. It’s too bad that in the early stages Ebola acts like several other diseases, say sinusitis. That was the working diagnosis when the late Mr. Duncan went to the ER the first time.

Apparently his admission that he’d recently arrived from Liberia wasn’t flagged the first time. Geez, abdominal pain, a headache that he rated as an eight on a scale of ten and a temp of 103 degrees. What does it take to get admitted these days? The hospital has been accused of racism. Frankly I’d be more interested in his insurance status and whether THAT was a factor in sending him home with a pat on the back, antibiotics and see your regular doctor ASAP. Poor guy was probably feeling so crappy he didn’t think to fire back with “I just here, I don’t HAVE a doctor.”

Fortunately most of the comments on the thread called him/her out as the total idiot that they are. But there are plenty more “the sky is falling, the sky is falling” to go along with this one.

Others want to ban all incoming travel from Africa. I suspect that like Sarah Palin they don’t realize that Africa is a CONTINENT containing many different countries from Egypt to South Africa. Or from Mozambique to Tanzania. Do we close the borders to travelers from say South Africa or Tanzania? They’re hundreds of miles from the outbreak.

Oh, and it ‘s all a plot by America hating, fascist, communist, Muslim loving whatever president Obama to destroy God, motherhood, apple pie and the good ol’ U S of A. Actually the level of scientific ignorance displayed is not only appalling it’s down right scary.

Let’s all take a deep breath, OK? This is a disease spread by direct contact with infected patients. Although on the off chance that somebody might have contaminated the local well I’d boil the water until the outbreak is over. This started last March and coincidentally the two countries hardest hit have histories of civil wars that lasted years. They are dirt poor. The medical infrastructure is almost nonexistent. Hell, they can barely afford aspirin much less deal with this virus.

Yes, they need all the help we can give them. The good news is that the only way you can get Ebola in this country is by being in contact with another patient. There is no reservoir of the virus out in the woods somewhere. The current suspect is a variety of bat, but that’s just speculation. Until it’s absolutely necessary let’s keep our eager fingers off the panic buttons for now. OK?



Saturday, October 11, 2014

IF THAT BOOK COULD TALK

No, I didn’t fall off the earth. Again. However, a history of the US from the end of the revolution to the beginning of the Civil War isn’t exactly easy to blog about. I suppose I COULD wax poetic about the Erie Canal. After all, thanks to the Erie Canal my east coast ancestors who had been facing the Atlantic for nearly five generations made it to Ohio in one and the west coast in two. If there had been a state west of Oregon I suspect I’d be living there. Yeah I know Hawaii is out there but there’s a whole lot of blue water between, say, Astoria and Honolulu.

As much as possible I buy used books. I look for reasonable condition for a decent price. And most of the books that make it onto my list were published at least twenty years ago. If not longer. Makes the hunt that much more interesting.

I’m a fan of American historian James MacGregor Burns. When I ran across mention of his latest Fire and Light, a history of the Enlightenment. I went shopping. Didn’t hold out a whole lot of hope since I prefer hardbacks and the book came out early last year. Imagine my surprise when I was able to score a copy of a book that lists for nearly thirty dollars for less than six.

Imagine my further surprise when I discovered it was a library discard. Barely a year old and already sent to the knacker’s yard, so to speak. I really wish this book could talk because I would love to find out why it was shown the door. I’d like to believe that the library ended up with an extra copy. I’d like to but the library ID doesn’t show a copy two designation. I suspect that somebody didn’t agree with the late professor’s politics and a raised a stink.

Burns was an unapologetic supporter of the New Deal. He was an old fashioned liberal and his writing reflected that. Hell, their loss is my gain. It’s joining a small but growing collection of American and English history and biography.

And after reading the one and two star reviews I’m echoing the King in the King and I. It is a puzzlement. /Funny how the right wing fundies can put out their screeds and no one really expects them to present the other side of the argument. But, let a liberal be perceived as even half partisan and stop the presses. He’s a dastard and a rotter who is obviously out to destroy the country. As Bill the Cat would say: Thbbbbbbbp!

Oh, and so far it’s a pretty good book.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

PRO LIFE? HARDLY

I’m not sure what to call this entry. Sweepings from the “we believe in the sanctity of life except…” perhaps.


Kevin Williamson, a right wing columnist with connections to the National Review, believes that women who have abortions should be hanged. And he isn’t just targeting the patient. He wants to hang the doctor, the nurses, the techs and for all I know the person at the desk who made the appointment. Now that’s “pro life” for you. Never mind that as far as the zygote worshippers are concerned once that fertilized egg hits the uterus it and the mother are on their own. I mean, if they really gave a shit they’d make sure the family could afford decent food, housing, and a job that keeps them off the food stamp and Medicaid rolls.

Rick Willis, a so called Christian, with a radio show believes that Ebola is great. Bring on the pandemic. It’ll take out all the atheists, gays, lesbians, etc. In other words, anyone he doesn’t agree with. Excuse me while I insult a perfectly good brand of lunch meat. YO, SPAM FOR BRAINS all a virus “cares” about is replicating. It doesn’t carry around a check list to be filled out so that it only infects “sinners.” I have to wonder if this apparent ditz brain really believes what he’s saying or if he’s just looking for fifteen seconds of fame. If he really does believe that this is how viruses go about their reproductive lives, then the level of science education these days is worse than I feared.
In the early nineties a couple of right wing fundies started writing what turned a twelve novel series. I think Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders series might be longer but the Left Behind load of compost is in the running. The series actually spawned two or three direct to video/cable films that were eminently forgettable. At least the total of four and half minutes I spent checking one of them out was.

I actually came close to buying a couple of the books. My sister gave me the third book as a gift. I think she either thought it was a fantasy type novel/or didn’t realize it was part of a series. Anyway, I hied myself over to the local Christian bookstore in search of the first two. Found them and headed for check out. There were at least four of us. All with money in hand and ready to do business. I forget what the owner and the clerk were discussing but, it was as if the store was empty. Hell, it saved me from wasting money on a couple of crappy novels. The Umatilla sister has several of the books and I had a chance to leaf through a couple. Saved by the idiocy of store owner who soon sold out to a chain I donated my copy to the church book sale.

NOW there’s a remake of the first film for the big screen with actors whose names you might recognize. Apparantly it’s so bad that even the Christian Science Monitor gave it ½ stars.

Never mind that the whole end times/rapture/tribulation etc. theology is less than two hundred years old. Never mind that the theology itself stinks to high heaven. It’s the egos that get me. It appears that everyone (at least the ones I’ve run across) believes that they will be in the swept into heaven group, not the left behind to face seven years of war, famine, pestilence, earthquakes, etc.

Their “reverence” for life is just astounding isn’t it?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

NEVER A GOOD

What else can you say to this? Not a damn thing.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

CLEAN OUT THE GARDEN SOUP

Which isn't the actual name of the recipe.

Ok. I’m still tap dancing on the line. What I love about these recipes is that they take advantage of what is available seasonally. Well at least what’s available in New York at certain times of the year. The author is French, a Benedictine monk and lives in a small monastery in New York. The recipes are eclectic, largely vegetarian, but he does use eggs and dairy products. Also a lot of wine. If you don’t want to use wine you can probably use vegetable, chicken or beef stock.


The book is divided by months. This one is from September.
I thought this recipe makes a lot but this soup can be canned so you can enjoy the tastes of the harvest when the snow is on the ground. Or you can cut the recipe in half.

Monastery Harvest Soup

10 Tbsp olive oil
8 medium tomatoes coarsely chopped
7 garlic cloves chopped
2 gallons of water
2 leeks, white and tender green parts thinly sliced
5 celery stalks thinly sliced
3 potatoes peeled and cubed
4 medium sized carrots thinly sliced
2 zucchini cubed
1 winter squash, peeled and cubed
4 Swiss chard leaves chopped
1 small cauliflower, cut into small pieces
24 or more flat pole beans, shelled
1 bunch parsley finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Using an extra large (really extra large) stock pot Put tomatoes and garlic in blender or food processor. Chop. Add puree and olive oil to stock pot and cook over medium heat for two or three minutes stirring constantly. Add water (I prefer to use stock, actually) and vegetables bring to a boil after twenty minutes lower heat and simmer for another thirty minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Soup can be poured into hot, sterilized jars, processed according the canning directions. Boil at least fifteen minutes and make sure those jars are sealed.



Monday, September 29, 2014

THE SERIES THAT DIDN'T PAN OUT-FOR NOW

Well, it looks like the PBB series isn’t going to pan out right now. At least not the way I plannned. Frankly rereading the material is just too damn depressing at the moment. I’m not sure it’s an exclusively American trait to find a product we can exploit, do as quickly as possible, ask few or no questions, stonewall when the problems finally get too big to ignore and then leave the mess for our system of reverse socialism to clean up the mess.


I was shocked but not really surprised to discover that the abandoned factory site that manufactured the PBB and the nearby landfill didn’t start the clean up process until 2012. There is a book by the farmer who was the first to sound the alarm titled Bitter Harvest. I got most of my material from the book The Poisoning of Michigan by Joyce Eggington. Also, Vandana Shiva’s group Navdanya has been working to shine the light on the effects of pesticide poisoning in India.

And to the nut jobs who complain that the US is ignoring the plight of malaria ridden Africans because we don’t allow DDT to be manufactured in this country, here’s a news flash for you. The chemical is manufactured in India. I wonder how their bird populations are doing.

There’s a not bad TV movie by the same name that’s out on DVD. It was made in the eighties, packs a punch and to my knowledge hasn’t been rerun in years. The main character is a composite and really emphasizes the problems these farmers had even getting the word out to the mainstream media. If all else fails, herd your dying dreams into a pit, call the neighbors and destroy your herd in time for the five o’clock news.

In real life protesting farmers hauled cow carcasses into town and camped out in front of the Michigan capital building. The state didn’t want upset the farm lobby and the feds wouldn’t step in because the problem was pretty much confined to Michigan and hadn’t spread to other states.

In other words, at almost every step the bureaucrats and organizations that were expected to help didn’t. Either because they didn’t want to stir up trouble with interest groups in an election year or the problem was beyond their ability to handle.

To be honest it’s hard to find the needle in the haystack when you don’t know what the needle looks like. All they knew was that the Magnesium Oxide that was supposed to be there wasn’t. And identifying the PBB was almost pure serendipity. Instead of shutting off the machine that was analyzing a feed sample the tech went to lunch. When he got back there was a big pile of paper and at the end were a series of dips and peaks that he couldn’t identify. Finally, finally they found someone who could say “hey that looks familiar and boy are you in a heap of trouble.”

And for the acute poisoning cases no one knows what the PBB levels were to start with. Every time those cows were milked some of the chemical was excreted with the butterfat in the milk. What was finally realized was that because the chemical is fat soluble there was no “safe” level of exposure.

As I said at the beginning. Find something you can market and exploit it to the max before you know how dangerous it might be, Don’t monitor the process and leave the mess for somebody else to clean up. American capitalism  (reverse socialism) at its finest. (sarcasm intended)