Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Clarion Call For Transparency

Below is a letter from Amnesty International USA, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union written to President Obama, seeking complete access to the U.S. Detention Center at Guantánamo Bay.

Dear President Obama,

As heads of four prominent civil liberties and human rights organizations, we greatly appreciate your decisive action in restoring U.S. commitment to the rule of law and respect for human rights by issuing executive orders to close Guantánamo, suspend the military commissions, prohibit CIA prisons, and enforce the ban on torture. We eagerly await your continued actions to renew American justice.

Today, we write to request full access to the Guantanamo Bay detention camps so that we may independently review and report on the conditions of confinement there and make concrete recommendations for change. In August 2004, our four organizations were granted observer status to observe the military commissions, but for years the Bush administration has denied our organizations' repeated requests for full access to the detention camps. We have only been offered the VIP tour to observe a model Guantanamo detention camp, which was far from adequate access.

Section 6 of your January 22, 2009 executive order, "Review and Disposition of Individuals Detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Closure of Detention Facilities," addresses the issue of conditions of confinement and orders Secretary of Defense Gates to "immediately undertake a review of the conditions of detention at Guantanamo to ensure full compliance with [Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions]."

Our presence can assist this effort. We will provide an outside assessment of current conditions and, as improvements are made, credibly, independently, and publicly report them to the world. Such access and reporting would further the objectives of the current Department of Defense (DoD) review and amplify the international benefits of improving conditions at the camps. Our presence itself will be welcomed as another break from the prior administration's policies on detainees, and set an example of transparency that will help advance human rights worldwide.

We ask you to reconsider our organizations' request for full access to the Guantanamo Bay detention camps and honor it in light of the current DoD review. According to your executive order, the DoD review "shall be completed within 30 days and any necessary corrections shall be implemented immediately thereafter." We ask that, if granted full access, our independent review should take place within the next few weeks, to allow time for us to finalize our report and recommendations before the completion of the DoD's review.

The Bush administration's past policy of secrecy regarding detention conditions at Guantanamo makes it critically important for your administration to open Guantanamo to independent review as part of a new government policy of transparency. Full and independent review of conditions of confinement by human rights organizations is urgently needed because of the secrecy regarding detention conditions at Guantanamo Bay as a whole. The ACLU and other organizations continue to struggle for production of materials requested pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regarding Guantanamo Bay. The Bush administration denied full access to several UN independent human rights experts who insisted on confidential interviews with the detainees as dictated by UN protocol for such visits.1

While the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has had access to Guantanamo detainees, its access has been restricted in the past and the extent of its current access is unclear to us. A leaked version of the Camp Delta Standard Operation Procedures (SOP) from March 2003 revealed that the ICRC was denied access to various groups of detainees at the camp, and a leaked version of the SOP manual from 2004 revealed continued restrictions on ICRC access.

Regardless of the ICRC's present level of access, its role is distinct from that of our organizations. While the ICRC plays an important role in visiting prisoners under the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC maintains full confidentiality in order to preserve the exclusively humanitarian nature of its work. The role of our human rights organizations in reviewing and reporting on conditions at Guantanamo would be distinct and equally important.

Granting human rights organizations full and unfettered access to a detention facility where torture and abuse have occurred will send a powerful message to the world regarding your administration's commitment to transparency and openness, consistent with your January 21, 2009 FOIA directive, which noted, "A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency." Opening Guantanamo to full review by human rights organizations would help to restore American legitimacy and standing in the world, and place pressure on other governments to open their detention centers for independent inspections.

Furthermore, independent review of conditions of confinement by human rights organizations will assist your administration in revising its policies and improving detention conditions in the camps. If granted full access, our independent human rights delegation would include experts on detention conditions and medical professionals, and would offer your administration concrete recommendations on how to improve conditions of confinement in order to comply with relevant national and international standards and guidelines on persons in detention.

We hope that you will act quickly on this matter in the interest of transparency and the protection of human rights.


Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union

Larry Cox, Executive Director, Amnesty International USA

Elisa Massimino, Executive Director, Human Rights First

Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch

Let us all encourage President Obama to agree to this clarion call for transparency.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Hey, Hey, Hey — Good-bye."

Bush Leaves for Texas

by Dee Newman

President Barack Obama Inaugural Address

Washington, DC Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Part 2:

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many.

They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met. On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.
For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn. Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages.

We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we
carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Monday, January 19, 2009

You Have to Follow Your Conscience

by Jack Reeves

Martin Luther King Jr Day recalls the integration of Atlanta, January 1964. Led by comedian/activist Dick Gregory, we marched on Peachtree St. to Leb's Restaurant. The Ku Klux Klan confronted us.

A statement in Challenging U.S. Apartheid describes why I, a theology school student, was there: "...student activists recognized that it was necessary to confront the force of custom supporting segregation with the force of protest affirming rights."

I recollect through the window the surreal motion of police, pedestrians, media, the KKK.

Dick Gregory peeked under a Klansman's hood, "Is dat you, Lawd?"

He was not amused; Gregory was arrested.

I compare this to 45 years later. I sued New Smyrna Beach for refusing to disclose when I bought a home that 22 flight schools use the airport. The traffic approximates San Diego.

Frank Bird Gummey, New Smyrna Beach city attorney, is vengeful for "affirming rights." Last week he sued for suing. In court Thursday, he repeated demand for thousands of dollars in fees.

I suspect that the New Smyrna Beach City Commission is pleased.

The city attorney seems of an alien world, where affirming rights is to be punished.

Speaking as one who practiced law and majored in theology, I cannot imagine him marching on Peachtree Street.

Six year later I met Gregory at the Douglas, AZ, airport, and we went to his motel. I interviewed him for TV and radio. Sitting beside him on a sofa, I asked, "You know what happened to Jesus, to Gandhi, to Martin Luther King. This could happen to you."

"I know," he replied. "But you have to follow your conscience."

The Dream Lives

by Dee Newman

Dr. King's I Have a Dream Address

The March on Washington August 28, 1963. Washington, D.C.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Two Wrongs Don't Make Anything Right (Political Verse)

By Dee Newman

All nations have the right to protect
Their people, but not the right to use
Their superior power, unchecked,
Claiming “self-defense” as an excuse.
Though the rockets launched by Hamas on
Israel are deplorable acts
Of armed, unwarranted aggression,
Their limited range, scale and impacts,
Do not justify the uncalled-for,
Disproportionate attacks within
Gaza by Israeli forces on more
Than 1.5 million innocent men,
Women, and children, hopelessly caught
In a captive state of persecution
Within a brutal, endless onslaught
Of ancient tribal retribution.
Though some extreme factions of Islam
Remain firm and determine to take
Back their land and wipe Israel from
The face of the earth that does not make
Israel’s criminal acts of war
Any less severe and egregious.
Nor, does it make them any more
Morally acceptable or just.
Two wrongs never make anything right.
They just prolong and expand the fight.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Self-fulfilling Prophecy (Political Verse)

by Dee Newman

During the six years they held majorities
In both the U.S. House and the Senate,
The Bush administration’s priorities
Seemed bent on proving their basic tenet–
That government inefficiency
Is as inherent as its corruption,
Clearly a self-fulfilling prophecy,
Rather than a proven assumption.
After filling government agencies
With all their cronies, they implemented
A long list of conservative policies,
And throughout the process, circumvented
A large number of federal statutes,
Choosing to ignore, relax, neglect or
Outsource federal regulatory pursuits
And other tasks to the private sector.
By undermining the federal
Government’s ability to perform
Its duties, they sparked a political
And ideological firestorm
That led to one disastrous event
After another, undercutting those
Agencies that were created to prevent
Such things as our present financial woes.
From the preemptive and protracted
Invasion and occupation of Iraq
To the failed rescue, no-bid contracted
Recovery plan for Katrina’s storm-track,
From the injurious consequences
Of cutting taxes during a time of war
To the harmful, disturbing offenses
Authorized by the president on torture,
The Bush administration’s disdain
For government and the rule of law does
Not prove that our government is profane,
Only that his administration was.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hope (Verse)

by Dee Newman

I guess it can be said with persuasion
That Hope’s a liar with tenacity.
It has never lost its reputation,
Though undeserved, for its veracity.
Deceitful as it may be, Hope, at least,
Offers some solace to our journey’s end.
Though we may never arrive at the feast,
We can dream that it’s just around the bend.
Of all the many pains we must endure,
(Grief, heartache, anguish, agony, and woe)
Hope may provide the sole possible cure.
Without it, despair is all we may know.
So, whether or not hope has a kernel
Of truth, thank the fates it springs eternal.


By Jack Reeves

"Oh, the worst of all tragedies is not to die young, but to live until I am seventy-five and yet not ever truly to have lived." Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. died at 39.
Alexander the Great, age 32.
Jesus, 33.
Wolfgang Mozart, 35.
Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, 39.
Abraham Lincoln, 56.
Hank Williams, age 29.
Buddy Holly, 23.
John Kennedy, 46.
There is little time to savor life. We are always close to death. Ninety seconds without oxygen can be insufficiently sufficient.
Hank Williams had 348 months.
Look what Jesus did in three years, roughly 36 months.
Kennedy was president for only 27 months.
Much we do in life reminds us of the passing of time--time perhaps devoid of much purpose.
The wise find interests that imbue life with meaning. It is not in trivia, TV, or the tawdry touted as important. Meaning is not in the shallows of life but in the depths. There go.

"On the whole, age comes more gently to those who have some doorway into an abstract world-art, or philosophy, or learning-regions where the years are scarcely noticed and the young and old can meet in a pale truthful light."
Freya Stark

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Proportional Justice? (Political Verse)

By Dee Newman

It is one thing – to take their land, impinge
On their sovereign rights, mock their gains,
Laugh at their losses, scorn their claims, infringe
On their liberty with tanks and planes,
Cause the innocent to cower and cringe
From so-called precision bombing campaigns,
Devoid of remorse, not the slightest twinge.
It’s another – to blast their children’s brains
Into vapor beyond the crater’s fringe,
Leaving them with just some bloody remains
And an unbearable grief to avenge.
Though, the villainy flows through all our veins,
A hundred to one, we all must insist,
Cannot be called “proportional justice.”