Friday, April 30, 2010

"Drill, Baby, Drill!"

by Dee Newman

Forty years ago in 1971 when I lived in the Bay area I volunteered and spent a month helping to clean up an oil spill along Point Reyes National Seashore between Drakes Bay and Bolinas Bay when two oil tankers collided in the fog off the Golden Gate, spewing nearly 900,000 gallons of toxic slug. It was devastating to the wildlife. Over 10,000 birds and millions of sea creatures were killed.

According to The Mariner Group, since then there have been over 100 major oil spill disasters world wide. Though many of them have involved tankers, many others have not.

The worst oil spill in human history was not the result of an accident, but was intentionally discharged. During the Gulf War in 1991, Iraqi forces, attempting to prevent the landing of American troops, opened the valves at an offshore oil terminal in the Persian Gulf and released an oil slick that eventually covered 4000 square miles at an averaged depth of 4 inches.

Ironically, the second worst oil spill happened in the Gulf of Mexico between June 3, 1979 and March 23, 1980 and was caused by the blowout of an offshore oil well much like the unfolding disaster we are witnessing today. Pemex, a state-owned Mexican petroleum company was drilling an oil well when the blowout occurred. The oil ignited causing the drilling rig to collapse. Sound familiar? Oil began gushing out of the well into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of 10,000 to 30,000 barrels a day. Workers were not able to cap the well and stop the leak for almost an entire year.

As BP's massive oil spill in the Gulf begins to wash ashore along the Louisiana coast threatening the incredible diversity of life there, the catastrophe has the potential to eclipse even the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Prince William Sound, Alaska which has been characterized as the most devastating human-caused environmental disaster in American history.

David Kennedy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Associated Press, "I am frightened. This is a very, very big thing. And the efforts that are going to be required to do anything about it, especially if it continues on, are just mind-boggling."

My question is: Why have we not heard from Sarah Palin and her followers and all those supporters of "drill, baby, drill!"?

Click here to see a list of the top 10 worst oil spills ever.

Update: A top adviser to President Barack Obama, David Axelrod, told ABC's "Good Morning America" today that no new oil drilling would be allowed until authorities learn what caused the explosion and collapse of the oil rig, Deepwater Horizon.

From Running With the Tao

I just received the following from my good friend Greg Webb:

Dear Friends,

I've just marked two milestones that you have helped make possible, and I want to thank you and share them with you.

Running With The Tao has just been published in its entirety as an 'eBook'!  Anyone with an electronic reading device (Kindle, IPad, etc.) can now add us to their collection.  If you read books online, or know someone who does, please consider visiting the Smashwords website at the link below.  Half the book can be sampled for free, and the regular purchase price of $4.99 is 60% off with the coupon code PP692 for the next thirty days.  Those of you who are really into this new publishing format and feel Running With The Tao is something worth letting others know about may also want to consider becoming a Smashwords affiliate.  I've 'juiced' the royalties to 20% of any net sale an affiliate makes – that's a dollar per book (retail)!  Go to: and have a look around – this is a hopeful and humble beginning, and I really do need (and appreciate) your support!

Secondly, I've just submitted a simple video, via YouTube, to Hay House as part of a possible opportunity to host a radio show and speak at one of their conferences.  I would love it if you could take a minute and check it out – it's a pretty accurate picture of 'me-in-a-nutshell-nowadays', and I think if you watch to the end you'll enjoy it.  The YouTube link is:

Thanks so much – Have a wonderful weekend!!

Greg Webb 

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Arizona Immigration Law Violates Constitution, Guarantees Racial Profiling

By Mary Bauer, SPLC Legal Director

Arizona’s newly adopted immigration law is brazenly unconstitutional and will undoubtedly trample upon the civil rights of residents caught in its path.

By requiring local law enforcement to arrest a person when there is “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the country illegally, Arizona lawmakers have created a system that guarantees racial profiling. They also have usurped federal authority by attempting to enforce immigration law.

Quite simply, this law is a civil rights disaster and an insult to American values. No one in our country should be required to produce their “papers” on demand to prove their innocence. What kind of country are we becoming?

When Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was asked what an undocumented immigrant looks like, she responded: “I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like. I can tell you that I think there are people in Arizona who assume that they know what an illegal immigrant looks like."

We all know what the outcome of all this double-talk will be. People with brown skin – regardless of whether they are U.S. citizens or legal residents – will be forced to prove their legal status to law enforcement officers time and again. One-third of Arizona’s population – those who are Latino – will be designated as second-class citizens, making anyone with brown skin a suspect even if their families have called Arizona home for generations.

Given the authors of this law, no one should be surprised about its intended targets. The law was drafted by a lawyer for the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), whose founder has warned of a “Latin onslaught” and complained about Latinos’ alleged low “educability.” FAIR has accepted $1.2 million from the Pioneer Fund, a racist foundation that was set up by Nazi sympathizers to fund studies of eugenics, the science of selective breeding to produce a “better” race. The legislation was sponsored by state Senator Russell Pearce, who once e-mailed an anti-Semitic article from the neo-Nazi National Alliance website to supporters.

Making matters worse, lawmakers have allowed citizens to sue local law enforcement agencies that they believe are not adequately enforcing the new law. One can be sure that FAIR and its proxies are salivating at the prospects.

The law is not only unconstitutional, it’s bad public policy and will interfere with effective policing in Arizona’s communities. That’s why the legislation was opposed by the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police. As Latinos grow more fearful of law enforcement, they will be more reluctant to report crimes, and witnesses will be less likely to cooperate with police. Criminals will target the Latino community, confident their victims will keep quiet.

Lawmakers in other states are eager to replicate this ill-advised law. Their frustration with current immigration policy is understandable, but this system must be remedied by our Congress, which should enact fair immigration reform. The federal government must craft a policy that repairs our broken immigration system and, at the same time, protects our most cherished values. States that attempt to follow Arizona’s example will only succeed in sowing fear, discord and intolerance in our communities while undermining law enforcement and inviting costly constitutional challenges.

From Life's Bones

Where the Buck Always Stops

So, we have a menacing oil blob in the Gulf of Mexico. Some 40 miles wide. 80 miles long. And less than 20 miles off the coast. And costs to contain, clean up, and rebuild will be some one billion dollars. Thankfully, we can feel re-assured that the oil company, BP, in this instance, will accept responsibility for this mess. At least, that's what I heard on the news this morning. The representative from the oil company, being interviewed did say that the oil rig was built and was being operated according to 'regulations'. Never mind that these regulations didn't call for the kind of remote shut-down system that would have nipped the problem in the bud. Something that some other countries such as Brazil and Norway have already figured out. Besides, that's between the oil rig industry that BP essentially sub-contracted to draw the oil, and those who regulate what they do. Still, BP assures us they will do everything possible to set things right. Even if it costs a billion dollars. Unfortunately, we have already learned that if there is a major shake-up with any mega-corporation or industry, it is the 'common folk' who will ultimately pick up the tab. Yikes! That's Me!

Wildflowers from the Narrows (Photos)

From Truhout

Wall Street Grins as Washington Fiddles
Wednesday 28 April 2010
by: Jim Hightower, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

Performing a public service was undoubtedly the last thing on the minds of the geniuses who created Abacus 2007-ACI - but I, for one, am grateful to them.

Abacus is an infamous investment package created by the financial alchemists at Goldman Sachs. It fell into infamy because it is the convoluted scheme that has recently caused mighty Goldman to get its tail caught in a crack. According to fraud cops at the Securities and Exchange Commission, Abacus is a scam. Yet I find it an enormously useful tool, for it sheds light on a dirty little secret that the banking behemoths definitely do not want us outsiders catching onto: They have become casino dealers - only without the ethics.

In the past few years, Wall Street has radically shifted its function in our society. Rather than being the financier of productive, job-creating enterprises, the Street has transformed itself into a glitzy global gambling house for the super-rich - and Abacus is bare-naked proof of this.

The idea for Abacus came from a billionaire hedge fund huckster named John Paulson, who had scoured regional mortgage records and picked out a whole mess of them that were destined to go into default. At his urging, Goldman bankers gladly created an investment instrument in 2007 that it could sell to pension funds and wealthy speculators. This instrument allowed "investors" to place bets that the Abacus package of mortgages would go up in value. Paulson paid a $15 million fee to Goldman to market Abacus and put the GS imprimatur on it.

One little detail unmentioned to Abacus buyers was that Paulson had handpicked each of the mortgages in the package specifically because they were headed to foreclosure. Nor was it mentioned that Paulson had quietly placed his own big bet against the mortgages he had packaged. In the end, bettors who were bullish on Abacus lost a billion dollars, and - big surprise - Paulson raked in a billion.

Not only did Goldman pocket fees for taking each of the bets, but it also collected unrevealed millions by placing its own insider wager that the package it was selling would go bad. How ethical is that?

Abacus is what Wall Street has become. This is not investing, it's a craps game, pure and simple. There was no actual value in Abacus - neither Goldman nor Paulson owned any of the mortgages in question. Abacus was a paper construct that simply allowed rich people and huge investment funds to roll the dice on whether struggling homeowners would make it or not. It enriched Paulson and Goldman, but it contributed absolutely nothing of social value to our nation.

With the unfolding Abacus scandal as a backdrop, President Obama marched boldly up to Wall Street last week to confront the narcissistic banksters who've turned America's financial system into Las Vegas East. In the audience, the barons of the Street were braced for some presidential heat, possibly including a populist proposal to shut down their games.

But, the longer Obama spoke, the broader the grins became on the bankers' faces. Far from punishing these fat-cat plutocrats, the president was hailing them as "titans of industry" and pleading for their help in passing a package of modest banking reforms. Obama meekly noted that his proposals are "in the best interest of the financial sector."

I'll say! His reforms, for example, do not ban such abusive gaming schemes as Abacus, instead limiting regulators to gathering information on the scams and reporting their concerns to Congress.

This will be as effective as using a feather for a doorstop, which is why the bankers were grinning. The only way to stop Wall Street's excesses is not to "regulate" them, but to restructure the financial oligopolies that inevitably produce the excesses.

One step in this direction has been proposed by Sen. Sherrod Brown in S.3241, a bill that would prevent huge banks from threatening our whole economy by cutting them down to size, making them small enough that their failure won't harm the rest of us.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Is Opposition Really Over?


by Dee Newman
Ezra Klein wrote the following earlier today in the Washington Post:
Word is that the Democrats might make the Republicans actually . . . stand on the floor and talk and talk and talk . . . forcing the Republicans to really filibuster the bill . . . The Kentucky Derby starts Friday, and Kentucky's senior senator, Mitch McConnell, would surely prefer to attend. Given that his members are already talking about breaking ranks, McConnell may find himself eager to get this kabuki dance over with a little bit early.
It seems that Ezra was right. The Senate Republicans blinked. After four straight days of blocking debate they dropped the filibuster.

But, why?

Did Mitch McConnell really drop Republican opposition to the legislation because he wanted to go to the Kentucky Derby?

Press reports have confirmed that the Congressional Republican leadership have been meeting privately for the pass month with Wall Street executives, plotting to weaken the bill.

So, why did they end their opposition?

Did they finally come to believe that obstruction is not a good political strategy in an election year?

Or, was it that they finally decided that delay was no longer necessary, that bank lobbyists had had enough time to water down the reform legislation with loopholes and exemptions?

Or, was it that they finally realized that they were losing the debate and have decided to go with Frank Luntz’s new strategy? Namely to characterized the legislation as a lobbyist bill written by Wall Street and that it has been the Democrats and not them who have been working with Wall Street to weaken the bill?

It's true, the Senate bill is far from perfect, but it does do a number of important things, including:
Ending bailouts by using the big Wall Street banks' own money to shut them down if there's another AIG-like disaster. Taxpayers will no longer be on the hook to bail them out.

Protecting consumers by creating an independent watchdog that would finally stop credit card companies, mortgage brokers, and big banks from hiding information in the fine print. 
And Shutting down the "shadow markets" by cracking down on the secret, trillions of dollar, highly risky, and virtually unregulated derivatives market that truly put our economy at risk.
Whatever the reason the Senate Republicans decided to end their obstructionism, one thing is clear, they are now in the process of trying to turn this obvious loss into a political victory.

From Julian Sanchez

On April the 7th, 2010 Julian Sanchez wrote the following essay on his libertarian blog. Though it is difficult to believe that a phrase as dispassionate as “epistemic closure” could get anyone excited, the term has sparked both a heated and enlightening argument among conservatives in recent weeks about their movement’s intellectual health.

Epistemic Closure, Technology, and the End of Distance 

I’ve written a bit lately about what I see as a systematic trend toward “epistemic closure” in the modern conservative movement. As commenters have been quick to point out, of course, groupthink and confirmation bias are cognitive failings that we’re all susceptible to as human beings, and scarcely the exclusive province of the right. I try to acknowledge as much, and I’m often tempted to pluck some instances from the left just to show how very fair-minded and above the fray I am. (For instance, I find myself increasingly sympathetic to complaints about the coverage of the Tea Parties: Obviously there are both subtle and not-so-subtle bigots in the pack, but I doubt they’re representative, and it’s a huge leap to the dismissive suggestion that the phenomenon is nothing but a manifestation of racial anxiety.) Yet I can’t pretend that, on net, I really see an equivalence at present: As of 2010, the right really does seem to be substantially further down the rabbit hole.

Perhaps some of that perception can be put down to the fact that I mostly write about the issues where I’m prone to agree with progressives—so I’m more conscious of it when Fox spins fantasies about the Patriot Act than when MSNBC spins on economics or health care—but I don’t think that’s the whole of it, since I feel like I see the same tendencies even on issues where I’m closer to the conservative position. So suppose it’s true that there’s a real asymmetry here—the obvious question, if we’re going to sideline the cheap partisan explanation that conservatism intrinsically appeals to the stupid or closed minded, is why this should be true now. I have a couple ideas, and (perhaps another bit of personal bias) they mostly focus on the effects of technological change.

The big obvious change is the democratization of media, where the idea that there’s a liberal bias in the journalistic profession has long been part of the conservative narrative. The effect of this is, I think, usually exaggerated, and the forms bias takes more complicated than the popular caricature. But it’s clearly empirically true that reporters are disproportionately liberals and Democrats, and I expect it’s even more the case at the networks and major national dailies. Cable and the Internet have, of course, opened things up dramatically.

But as Tucker Carlson won boos for pointing out at CPAC last year, the fact is also that publications like The New York Times fundamentally practice solid journalism. Inevitably, reporters’ and editors’ own views are at least subconsciously going to shape how stories are presented and which are seen as newsworthy in the first place however hard they might strive for objectivity. It’s still more likely when those views are shared by the large majority of the professional community.

Still, there’s a lot of institutional and cultural capital built up in those hoary outlets, which at least produces a set of norms and practices that create pressure toward more fair and accurate reporting—and some of that bleeds over into even the explicitly ideological ones. The output may have varying degrees of liberal slant, but The New York Times is not fundamentally trying to be liberal; they’re trying to get it right. Their conservative counterparts—your Fox News and your Washington Times—always seem to be trying, first and foremost, to be the conservative alternative. And that has implications for how each of them connects to the whole ecosystem of media: Getting an accurate portrait is institutionally secondary to promoting the accounts and interpretations that support the worldview and undermine the liberal media narrative. Perhaps ironically, the trouble is that the novel conservative institutions that have emerged as an effect of technological innovation lack that Burkean reservoir of evolved, time-tested local traditions.

There’s another explanation that’s related to the rise of what I’ve called the politics of ressentiment, maybe best illustrated with the help of an example in the news lately. Constance McMillen, as you may have read, is a teenage lesbian in Fulton, Mississippi who (with the help of the ACLU) sued for the right to bring her girlfriend to her high school prom, and to attend wearing a tux. At first, the school planned to simply cancel the prom rather than afford Constance the basic equality a court agreed they should. But ultimately, there was an official “prom” attended by Constance and a handful of others, including a couple of the class’ learning disabled kids, and a real (but unofficial) prom sponsored by parents, to which she wasn’t invited.

Here’s what’s interesting for present purposes. A bunch of her classmates started a Facebook group called “Constance quit yer cryin” to ridicule her. The attitude of the students and parents who spoke up there was characterized less by overt homophobia than by a resentment of the effort, characterized as attention-grubbing and selfish, to upset local traditions and “force” the school to cancel the dance by demanding equal treatment. But then gay-friendly sites—including traffic behemoth Perez Hilton—began linking the group, bringing a tsunami of comments from people all over the world, in numbers vastly dwarfing the original membership. Almost all condemned the actions of the school and parents, and supported Constance. Not a few doled out their own hateful stereotypes, heaping scorn not just on the school, but on southerners or Christians on the whole, as inbred rednecks. Photos were posted, and much speculation ensued about which rack at Walmart various prom dresses had come off.

Contemplate how vertigo-inducing this must be. You’ve got a local community where a certain set of cultural norms is so dominant that it’s just seen as obvious and natural that a lesbian wouldn’t have an equal right to participate in prom—to the point where the overt hostility isn’t really directed at Constance’s sexuality so much as her bewildering insistence on messing with the way everyone knows things are supposed to be. They’re not attuned to the injustice because it seems like almost a fact of nature. Except they’re now flooded with undeniable evidence that a hell of a lot of people don’t see things that way, and even hold their community in contempt for seeing things that way. There have been thousands of “outside” posts in a handful of days, with more every minute. (Think of the small-town high school quarterback getting to college and realizing, to his astonishment, that everyone thinks the “art fags” he used to slag on are the cool ones. Except without even leaving the small town.)

Fulton is an extreme case, but I think there are probably a lot of conservative communities that feel a lower-grade version of this all the time. So here’s a hypothesis: Epistemic closure is (in part) an attempt to compensate for the collapse of geographic closure. A function no longer effectively served by geographic segregation—because the digital equivalents of your local hangout are open to invasion by the hordes from New York and London—is being passed to media segregation, bolstered by the sudden demand that what was once tacit and given be explicitly defended.

On both explanations—and I think they’re complementary rather than competing—the shift toward epistemic closure is linked to changes in communications technology. Then the obvious question is whether it’s a short-term symptom of adjustment to that technology, or the start of a new equilibrium.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

From Counter Currents

Can You Pass The Iran Quiz?

By Jeffrey Rudolph

24 April, 2010

What can possibly justify the relentless U.S. diplomatic (and mainstream media) assault on Iran?

It cannot be argued that Iran is an aggressive state that is dangerous to its neighbors, as facts do not support this claim. It cannot be relevant that Iran adheres to Islamic fundamentalism, has a flawed democracy and denies women full western-style civil rights, as Saudi Arabia is more fundamentalist, far less democratic and more oppressive of women, yet it is a U.S. ally. It cannot be relevant that Iran has, over the years, had a nuclear research program, and is most likely pursuing the capacity to develop nuclear weapons, as Pakistan, India, Israel and other states are nuclear powers yet remain U.S. allies—indeed, Israel deceived the U.S. while developing its nuclear program.

The answer to the above-posed question is fairly obvious: Iran must be punished for leaving the orbit of U.S. control. Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, when the Shah was removed, Iran, unlike, say, Saudi Arabia, acts independently and thus compromises U.S. power in two ways: i) Defiance of U.S. dictates affects the U.S.'s attainment of goals linked to Iran; and, ii) Defiance of U.S. dictates establishes a “bad” example for other countries that may wish to pursue an independent course. The Shah could commit any number of abuses—widespread torture, for example—yet his loyalty to the U.S. exempted him from American condemnation—yet not from the condemnation of the bulk of Iranians who brought him down.

The following quiz is an attempt to introduce more balance into the mainstream discussion of Iran.

Iran Quiz Questions :

1. Is Iran an Arab country?

2. Has Iran launched an aggressive war of conquest against another country since 1900?

3. How many known cases of an Iranian suicide-bomber have there been from 1989 to 2007?

4. What was Iran 's defense spending in 2008?

5. What was the U.S. 's defense spending in 2008?

6. What is the Jewish population of Iran ?

7. Which Iranian leader said the following? “This [ Israel 's] Occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.”

8. True or False: Iranian television presented a serial sympathetic to Jews during the Holocaust that coincided with President Ahmadinejad's first term.

9. What percentage of students entering university in Iran is female?

10. What percentage of the Iranian population attends Friday prayers?

11. True or False: Iran has formally consented to the Arab League's 2002 peace initiative with Israel.

12. Which two countries were responsible for orchestrating the 1953 overthrow of Iran's populist government of democratically elected prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh, primarily because he introduced legislation that led to the nationalization of Iranian oil?

13. Who made the following address on March 17, 2000? “In 1953 the United States played a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Iran's popular prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh. The Eisenhower administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons. But the coup was clearly a setback for Iran's political development. And it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs.”

14. Which countries trained the Shah's brutal internal security service, SAVAK?

15. Does Iran have nuclear weapons?

16. Is Iran a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)?

17. Is Israel a signatory of the NPT?

18. Does the NPT permit a signatory to pursue a nuclear program?

19. Who wrote the following in 2004? "Wherever U.S forces go, nuclear weapons go with them or can be made to follow in short order. The world has witnessed how the United States attacked Iraq for, as it turned out, no reason at all. Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy. Though Iran is ruled by Islamic fundamentalists, most commentators who are familiar with the country do not regard its government as irrational. ... [I]t was Saddam Hussein who attacked Iran, not the other way around; since then Iran has been no more aggressive than most countries are. For all their talk of opposition to Israel , Iran 's rulers are very unlikely to mount a nuclear attack on a country that is widely believed to have what it takes to wipe them off the map. Chemical or other attacks are also unlikely, given the meager results that may be expected and the retaliation that would almost certainly follow.”

20. What percentage of Iranians in 2008 said they had an unfavorable view of the American people?

21. What percentage of Iranians in 2008 expressed negative sentiments toward the Bush administration?

22. What were the main elements of Iran's 2003 Proposal to the U.S., communicated during the build-up to the Iraq invasion, and how did the U.S. respond to Iran's Proposal?

23. True or False: Iran and the U.S. both considered the Taleban to be an enemy after the 9/11 attacks.

24. Did the U.S. work with the Tehran-based Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq both before and after the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq?

25. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, who said the following? "The Iranians had real contacts with important players in Afghanistan and were prepared to use their influence in constructive ways in coordination with the United States ."

26. Who wrote the following in 2004? “It is in the interests of the United States to engage selectively with Iran to promote regional stability, dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons, preserve reliable energy supplies, reduce the threat of terror, and address the ‘democracy deficit' that pervades the Middle East …”

Click here to read the answers to the Iran quiz.

Jeffrey Rudolph, a college professor in Montreal, was the Quebec representative of the East Timor Alert Network, and presented a paper on its behalf at the United Nations. He prepared the widely-distributed, “Can You Pass the Israel-Palestine Quiz,” which can be found at, (Comments or questions concerning these quizzes should be emailed to:

Senator Franken: Wall Street Fueled by Unbridled Greed (Video)

From Truthout

Behind The Arizona Immigration Law: GOP Game to Swipe the November Election

Monday 26 April 2010
by: Greg Palast, t r u t h o u t | Report

Our investigation in Arizona discovered the real intent of the show-me-your-papers law.

Phoenix - Don't be fooled. The way the media plays the story, it was a wave of racist, anti-immigrant hysteria that moved Arizona Republicans to pass a sick little law, signed last week, requiring every person in the state to carry papers proving they are US citizens.

I don't buy it. Anti-Hispanic hysteria has always been as much a part of Arizona as the saguaro cactus and excessive air-conditioning.

What's new here is not the politicians' fear of a xenophobic "Teabag" uprising.

What moved GOP Governor Jan Brewer to sign the Soviet-style show-me-your-papers law is the exploding number of legal Hispanics, US citizens all, who are daring to vote - and daring to vote Democratic by more than two-to-one. Unless this demographic locomotive is halted, Arizona Republicans know their party will soon be electoral toast. Or, if you like, tortillas.

In 2008, working for "Rolling Stone" with civil rights attorney Bobby Kennedy, our team flew to Arizona to investigate what smelled like an electoral pogrom against Chicano voters . . . directed by one Jan Brewer.

Brewer, then secretary of state, had organized a racially loaded purge of the voter rolls that would have made Katherine Harris blush. Beginning after the 2004 election, under Brewer's command, no fewer than 100,000 voters, overwhelmingly Hispanic, were blocked from registering to vote. In 2005, the first year of the Great Brown-Out, one in three Phoenix residents found their registration applications rejected.

That statistic caught my attention. Voting or registering to vote if you're not a citizen is a felony, a big-time jail-time crime. And arresting such criminal voters is easy: After all, they give their names and addresses.

So I asked Brewer's office, had she busted a single one of these thousands of allegedly illegal voters? Did she turn over even one name to the feds for prosecution?

No, not one.

Which raises the question: Were these disenfranchised voters the criminal, non-citizens that Brewer tagged them to be, or just not-quite-white voters given the Jose Crow treatment, entrapped in document-chase trickery?

The answer was provided by a federal prosecutor who was sent on a crazy hunt all over the Western mesas looking for these illegal voters. "We took over 100 complaints, we investigated for almost two years, I didn't find one prosecutable voter fraud case."

This prosecutor, David Iglesias, is a prosecutor no more. When he refused to fabricate charges of illegal voting among immigrants, his firing was personally ordered by the president of the United States, George W. Bush, under orders from his boss, Karl Rove.

Iglesias' jurisdiction was next door, in New Mexico, but he told me that Rove and the Republican chieftains were working nationwide to whip up anti-immigrant hysteria with public busts of illegal voters, even though there were none.

"They wanted some splashy pre-election indictments," Iglesias told me. The former prosecutor, himself a Republican, paid the price when he stood up to this vicious attack on citizenship.

But Secretary of State Brewer followed the Rove plan to a T. The weapon she used to slice the Arizona voter rolls was a 2004 law, known as "Prop 200," which required proof of citizenship to register. It is important to see the Republicans' latest legislative horror show, sanctioning cops to stop residents and prove citizenship, as just one more step in the party's desperate plan to impede Mexican-Americans from marching to the ballot box.

(By the way, no one elected Brewer. Weirdly, Barack Obama placed her in office last year when, for reasons known only to the Devil and Rahm Emanuel, the president appointed Arizona's Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano to his cabinet, which automatically moved Republican Brewer into the Governor's office.)

State Senator Russell Pearce, the Republican sponsor of the latest ID law, gave away his real intent, blocking the vote, when he said, "There is a massive effort under way to register illegal aliens in this country."

How many? Pearce's PR flak told me, five million. All Democrats, too. Again, I asked Pearce's office to give me their names and addresses from their phony registration forms. I'd happily make a citizens arrest of each one, on camera. Pearce didn't have five million names. He didn't have five. He didn't have one.

The horde of five million voters who swam the Rio Grande just to vote for Obama was calculated on a Republican website extrapolating from the number of Mexicans in a border town who refused jury service because they were not citizens. Not one, in fact, had registered to vote: they had registered to drive. They had obtained licenses as required by the law.

The illegal voters, "wetback" welfare moms, and alien job thieves are just GOP website wet dreams, but their mythic PR power helps the party's electoral hacks chop away at voter rolls and civil rights with little more than a whimper from the Democrats.

Indeed, one reason, I discovered, that some Democrats are silent is that they are in on the game themselves. In New Mexico, Democratic Party bosses tossed away ballots of Pueblo Indians to cut native influence in party primaries.

But what’s wrong with requiring folks to prove they're American if they want to vote and live in America? The answer: because the vast majority of perfectly legal voters and residents who lack ID sufficient for Ms. Brewer and Mr. Pearce are citizens of color, citizens of poverty.

According to a study by professor Matt Barreto, of Washington State University, minority citizens are half as likely as whites to have the government ID. The numbers are dreadfully worse when income is factored in.

Just outside Phoenix, without Brewer's or Pearce's help, I did locate one of these evil un-American voters, that is, someone who could not prove her citizenship: 100-year-old Shirley Preiss. Her US birth certificate was nowhere to be found, as it never existed.

Reporter Greg Palast in a guard tower looking out on Joe Arpaio's jail in Maricopa County, Arizona. (Photo: Greg Palast)

In Phoenix, I stopped in at the Maricopa County prison where Sheriff Joe Arpaio houses the captives of his campaign to stop illegal immigration. Arpaio, who under the new Arizona law will be empowered to choose his targets for citizenship testing, is already facing federal indictment for his racially charged and legally suspect methods.

Ok, I admit, I was a little nervous, passing through the iron doors with a big sign, "NOTICE: ILLEGAL ALIENS ARE PROHIBITED FROM VISITING ANYONE IN THIS JAIL." I mean, Grandma Palast snuck into the USA via Windsor, Canada. We Palasts are illegal as they come, but Arpaio's sophisticated deportee-sniffer didn't stop this white boy from entering his sanctum.

But that's the point, isn't it? Not to stop non-citizens from entering Arizona - after all, who else would care for the country club lawn? - but to harass folks of the wrong color: Democratic blue.

From the Washington Post

Arizona's new immigration law is an act of vengeance

By Eugene Robinson Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Arizona's draconian new immigration law is an abomination -- racist, arbitrary, oppressive, mean-spirited, unjust. About the only hopeful thing that can be said is that the legislation, which Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed Friday, goes so outrageously far that it may well be unconstitutional.

Brewer, who caved to xenophobic pressures that previous governors had the backbone to resist, should be ashamed of herself. The law requires police to question anyone they "reasonably suspect" of being an undocumented immigrant -- a mandate for racial profiling on a massive scale. Legal immigrants will be required to carry papers proving that they have a right to be in the United States. Those without documentation can be charged with the crime of trespassing and jailed for up to six months.

Activists for Latino and immigrant rights -- and supporters of sane governance -- held weekend rallies denouncing the new law and vowing to do everything they can to overturn it. But where was the Tea Party crowd? Isn't the whole premise of the Tea Party movement that overreaching government poses a grave threat to individual freedom? It seems to me that a law allowing individuals to be detained and interrogated on a whim -- and requiring legal residents to carry identification documents, as in a police state -- would send the Tea Partyers into apoplexy. Or is there some kind of exception if the people whose freedoms are being taken away happen to have brown skin and might speak Spanish?

And what is the deal with Sen. John McCain? The self-proclaimed practitioner of "straight talk" was once a passionate advocate of sensible, moderate immigration reform. Now, facing a primary challenge from the right, he has praised the new law, which is as far from sensible and moderate as it could possibly be. Are six more years in the Senate really worth abandoning what seemed like bedrock principles? Or were those principles always situational?

Let me interrupt this tirade to point out that while Arizona has unquestionably done the wrong thing, it is understandable that exasperated officials believed they had to do something. Immigration policy and border security are federal responsibilities, and Washington has failed miserably to address what Arizonans legitimately see as a crisis.

Arizona has become the preferred point of entry for undocumented workers, and an estimated 460,000 are in the state -- settling down, or just passing through -- at any given time. I have driven down to the border and watched as authorities tried to pick out trucks and vans that might be transporting people without papers. I've spent a morning at the Mexican consulate in Phoenix, which is usually crowded with recent immigrants; only the most naive observer would think that all or even most of them were in the country legally. The influx imposes an unfair burden on the state, and for years Arizonans have implored federal officials to do something about immigration reform and border control -- to no avail.

But this law won't work. On the contrary, it will make the problems worse. Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon -- who wrote an op-ed in The Post calling proponents of the law "bitter, small-minded and full of hate" -- hopes to file a lawsuit against the state arguing that local police are now being forced to fulfill a federal responsibility.

One of the concrete problems with the law treating undocumented immigrants as criminals is that it gives those without papers a powerful incentive to stay as far away from police as possible. This will only make it more difficult for local police to investigate crimes and track down fugitive offenders, because no potential witness who is undocumented will come forward.

And how are police supposed to decide whom they "reasonably suspect" of being in the country illegally? Since the great majority of undocumented immigrants in Arizona are from Mexico, aggressive enforcement of the law would seem to require demanding identification from anybody who looks kind of Mexican. Or maybe just hassling those who look kind of Mexican and also kind of poor. Or maybe anyone who dares to visit the Mexican consulate.

Arizona is dealing with a real problem and is right to demand that Washington provide a solution. But the new immigration law isn't a solution at all. It's more like an act of vengeance. The law makes Latino citizens and legal residents vulnerable to arbitrary harassment -- relegating them to second-class status -- and it is an utter disgrace.

Monday, April 26, 2010

From Cosmic Navel Lint

"Imagine if the Tea Party Was Black"

By Tim Wise  

So let’s begin.

Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters - the black protesters - spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protesters — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.

Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.

Imagine that a prominent mainstream black political commentator had long employed an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization, and that this bigot regularly participated in black separatist conferences, and once assaulted a white person while calling them by a racial slur. When that prominent black commentator and his sister — who also works for the organization — defended the bigot as a good guy who was misunderstood and “going through a tough time in his life” would anyone accept their excuse-making? Would that commentator still have a place on a mainstream network? Because that’s what happened in the real world, when Pat Buchanan employed as Executive Director of his group, America’s Cause, a blatant racist who did all these things, or at least their white equivalents: attending white separatist conferences and attacking a black woman while calling her the n-word.

Imagine that a black radio host were to suggest that the only way to get promoted in the administration of a white president is by “hating black people,” or that a prominent white person had only endorsed a white presidential candidate as an act of racial bonding, or blamed a white president for a fight on a school bus in which a black kid was jumped by two white kids, or said that he wouldn’t want to kill all conservatives, but rather, would like to leave just enough—“living fossils” as he called them—“so we will never forget what these people stood for.” After all, these are things that Rush Limbaugh has said, about Barack Obama’s administration, Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama, a fight on a school bus in Belleville, Illinois in which two black kids beat up a white kid, and about liberals, generally.

Imagine that a black pastor, formerly a member of the U.S. military, were to declare, as part of his opposition to a white president’s policies, that he was ready to “suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.” This is, after all, what Pastor Stan Craig said recently at a Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina.

Imagine a black radio talk show host gleefully predicting a revolution by people of color if the government continues to be dominated by the rich white men who have been “destroying” the country, or if said radio personality were to call Christians or Jews non-humans, or say that when it came to conservatives, the best solution would be to “hang ‘em high.” And what would happen to any congressional representative who praised that commentator for “speaking common sense” and likened his hate talk to “American values?” After all, those are among the things said by radio host and best-selling author Michael Savage, predicting white revolution in the face of multiculturalism, or said by Savage about Muslims and liberals, respectively. And it was Congressman Culbertson, from Texas, who praised Savage in that way, despite his hateful rhetoric.

Imagine a black political commentator suggesting that the only thing the guy who flew his plane into the Austin, Texas IRS building did wrong was not blowing up Fox News instead. This is, after all, what Anne Coulter said about Tim McVeigh, when she noted that his only mistake was not blowing up the New York Times.

Imagine that a popular black liberal website posted comments about the daughter of a white president, calling her “typical redneck trash,” or a “whore” whose mother entertains her by “making monkey sounds.” After all that’s comparable to what conservatives posted about Malia Obama on last year, when they referred to her as “ghetto trash.”

Imagine that black protesters at a large political rally were walking around with signs calling for the lynching of their congressional enemies. Because that’s what white conservatives did last year, in reference to Democratic party leaders in Congress.

In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?

To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.

Game Over.

Friday, April 23, 2010

From Tribe of Heart

TOH News Banner
News from Tribe of Heart , Producers of PEACEABLE KINGDOM: THE JOURNEY HOME and THE WITNESS

Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home wins
Audience Award at Environmental Film Fest at Yale!
Coming up: Screenings in Seattle, Cleveland, Massachusetts, and Illinois
Dear Friends,
We are thrilled to announce that Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home recently won the Audience Award for Best Feature at the Environmental Film Festival at Yale! The people of New Haven gave us a warm reception with a nearly full house for the screening and a lengthy Q&A following the film.
Q&A at Yale
Q&A at Yale with filmmakers Jenny Stein and James LaVeck, and film subject Harold Brown
Our experience at Yale was remarkable in many ways. According to the festival organizers, Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home attracted one of the largest audiences of this year's event. It also received one of the festival's only three awards, the Audience Award, which is a great honor by any measure, but for an uncompromising film about the ethics of the human-animal relationship screening at an environmental film festival, it was surely a breakthrough.
Harold with Audience
Harold Brown spends time with audience after Q&A
Nearly the entire audience stayed for what turned into an extended Q&A session, and even after the formal Q&A ended, a couple dozen people stayed on to talk for another hour or so, until the conversations had to be brought to a close as it was time to shut the festival down for the night. It was heartening to see such intense interest in the film and its subject matter.
Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home seemed to touch something deep for many audience members at this festival. Their written comments hinted at new connections being made by the film. One person wrote:

Thank you. I work with individuals with disabilities and strive to interact at all times with respect for their individual humanity. However I don’t extend that to the entire animal kingdom. This film finally challenged that disconnect. I’ve moved to a new consciousness again. Again, thank you.
We are very excited by this response, which seems to indicate the film is speaking to people who have developed social justice values in one area, encouraging them to extend those same values to their relationship with other animals.
Another viewer wrote:

I am a biologist and the thoughts of the farmers expressed in this film reflect some of the experiences I have had with animal research. These are things that I am still actively thinking about and discussing with people. Your film made me realize that these human reactions to cruelty and death are just as “real” as scientific truths.

These few words offer a snapshot of a person experiencing a profound moral awakening, a scientist who has gained the courage to give his intuitions and emotional reactions the same weight he had formerly given to scientific truths. This kind of introspective, heartfelt response is what we hoped for and dreamed of when making this film.
After spending the last six months on the road with Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home and interacting with audiences across North America, we are seeing that this film's potential to change lives is greater than any project we’ve ever been a part of. In between events, we have been working diligently to put in place the educational resources and other support systems needed to maximize the film's potential once it is released on DVD. As we do this, we are feeling a deep sense of connection with you, our community. Without your encouragement, support, patience, and participation over the years, it would not have been possible to create a film that makes these multi-layered social justice issues accessible, understandable, and inspirational for such a wide range of people. And with your continuing support, we have a chance to offer viewers of the film the resources they need to transform a moment of awakening into a lifelong journey of conscience. Transformation of our society is possible through the peaceful transformation of individual lives. It is achieved by telling the truth of injustice, but also by sharing the equally compelling truth of our beautiful human capacity to respond to injustice with creativity and compassion.
Thank you for all you do to make the world a kinder place for all beings.

Warm wishes,
James LaVeck and Jenny Stein
Co-founders of Tribe of Heart
Stein and James LaVeck Tribe of Heart needs your support now, more than ever, to keep the momentum building and to develop the resources and support needed to launch Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home on DVD. Please help us bring this powerful tool to people who are eager to put it to use in communities around the world!
Donations can be made online or mailed to:
Tribe of Heart, PO Box 149, Ithaca, NY 14851

Witness in Russian
Russian is Coming!
At Tribe of Heart, we have a vision of making our films understandable and accessible to the majority of people in the world. Last December, we reached a milestone toward accomplishing this goal when we launched our Online Screening Room, which currently enables people to watch The Witness online for free in English, Closed-Captions, and Spanish, with 10 additional languages to come.
Witness in RussianFor many months, activist and volunteer translator Lidia Belknap has been working with the Tribe of Heart team to create a seamless experience for Russian-speaking viewers. Now, visitors to our Online Screening Room will not only be able to watch the Russian-subtitled version of The Witness (beautifully translated by volunteer Tanya Gelfand), but also have access to tools and resources in their native language for enriching their viewing experience and sharing the film with others.
Together, Tanya and Lidia have performed an incredible feat of outreach, making the inspirational message of The Witness available to hundreds of millions of people. Since Russia is amongst the largest fur producers in the world, it's particularly important that The Witness be made accessible to the Russian people.
More details coming soon!

Yale Award
Watch a Preview of
Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home
Peaceable Kingdom
Upcoming Screenings

May 9: Evanston, IL
Talking Pictures Fest

The Talking Pictures Festival
Sunday, May 9th at 12 Noon
Next Theatre
927 Noyes St., Evanston, IL
Screening followed by Q&A with guests TBA
Note: Tickets sold for festival screenings are not designated for a particular film, so seating is on a first come, first served basis.
PARKING: Metered parking is available in a lot adjacent to Noyes Cultural Arts Center with additional free parking in a large lot behind the Evanston Civic Center, one block south on Ridge Avenue.
facebook If you are on Facebook and plan to attend, let us know, and invite your Facebook friends, too!

May 13: Seattle Premiere!
Seattle Skyline
Thursday, May 13th at 6:45 PM
The Egyptian Theatre
801 E. Pine St., Seattle, WA
Q&A with filmmakers
Special Guests: Film subjects
Willow Jeane & Howard Lyman
Reception to Follow
Ticket info coming soon!
facebook If you are on Facebook and plan to attend, let us know, and invite your Facebook friends, too!

June 6: Western Mass.
Berkshire Film Fest
Saturday, June 5th at 9:15 AM
Beacon Cinema #1
57 North St., Pittsfield, MA
Parking Info
Sunday, June 6th at 2 PM
Triplex Cinema #2
70 Railroad St., Great Barrington, MA
Screening followed by Q&A with filmmakers and film subject(s). More details TBA
Tickets: $10
Learn more about this event

June 27: Cleveland Premiere!
Sunday, June 27th at 4 PM
Cleveland Institute of Art
Aitken Auditorium
11141 East Blvd., Cleveland, OH
(in University Circle, across from the Cleveland Museum of Art)
FREE Screening & Reception
Plus Q&A with filmmakers James LaVeck and Jenny Stein, and film subject Harold Brown
facebook If you are on Facebook and plan to attend, let us know, and invite your Facebook friends, too!
CIA theater

Tribe of
 Heart logo Tribe of Heart is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that produces award-winning, life-changing films about the journey of awakening conscience and the ethics of the human-animal relationship.
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Thursday, April 22, 2010

The War Payer
by Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and sputtering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spreads of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country and invoked the God of Battles, beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpouring of fervid eloquence which moved every listener.

It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came-next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their faces alight with material dreams-visions of a stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender!-then home from the war, bronzed heros, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation -- "God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest, Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!"

Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was that an ever--merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory -

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there, waiting.

With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal,"Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said

"I come from the Throne-bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd and grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import-that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of-except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of His Who hearth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this-keep it in mind. If you beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer-the uttered part of it. I am commissioned by God to put into words the other part of it-that part which the pastor, and also you in your hearts, fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory-must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle-be Thou near them! With them, in spirit, we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it-for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause)

"Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits."

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mark Twain (Verse)

One hundred years ago today Mark Twain, Samuel Clemems, died. The following is an excerpt from an unpublished book I wrote a few years back about a young boy who meets a number of characters on his journey to find a gold nugget:

Samuel Langhorne Clemens

Once, I was stuck aboard a malfunctioning train
just outside Hartford with the infamous Mark Twain.
Ev’ry mile or so, though no one seem to know why
the train’s engine would slow, stutter, sputter, and die.

That old Missouri cuss by the end of the day
grew so furious with the incessant delay
that when the conductor came around for the fee
Sam gave him a buck for the two-dollar duty.

“Are you a child?” inquired the conductor with a glare,
since all that was required of children was half the fair.
“No, not anymore,” retorted the perturbed Twain,
“but I was when I boarded this god-awful train!”

As each minute and mile ticked, clicked slowly away,
I was amused, beguiled, distracted from the fray
by Sam’s infinite knowledge of ev’ry subject,
by the wisdom and wit of his rare intellect.

There was nothing he did not seem to know about,
from how to sail a yacht around a waterspout
to what kind of pot in which to make sauerkraut.
Why, he even knew what to do about the gout.

But, it was Sam's opinion on why politics
and one’s religion should never mingle and mix
that most interested me as we talked that day
and I slowly digested what he had to say.

“Faith is believing what you know full well ain’t so.
It’s a self-deceiving desire,” he said, “to know
the unknowable. Odd, how we can understan’
the enigma of God and be mystified by man.”

“The sure confidence with which we righteously reject
other Faiths as nonsense should teach us to suspect
that ours is also. For when all is said and done,
if you only know one religion – you know none.”

For awhile we sat with a local politician
who piously told us that it was his mission,
before he died, to plan and lead a pilgrimage
to the Holy land and climb to the top edge

Of Mount Sinai and read the Ten Commandments aloud.
He said he would succeed, “if only the Saints allowed.”
“I’ve a better idea,” Twain suggested to him.
“Why don’t you just remain at home and live by them.”

“Tragedies occur because we’re insensible.
We think it’s easier to die for a principle,"
he went on to argue, "though we may deny it,
than to simply do our best to live by it.”

Lamenting the morals of public officials,
Sam later said, “Their laurels are superficial.
Truly honest men shine brighter in politics,
but it’s hard to find one who’ll stay bought and fixed.”

"The Truth will rule the day. There is nothing wrong with
this assertion, per se, except that it’s a myth.
While the Truth’s being unfurled, a lie can travel
halfway around the world and never unravel.”

“You know, son, it is easy to fall from bad to worse;
a downward spiral is mighty hard to reverse.
So, do what’s right. Evoke in others what is best.
It will delight some folk and astonish the rest.”

When I told Sam what state and county I was from,
where I had been of late and how far I had come,
he smiled and laughed and said, “Why son, I do declare!
Though not born and bread, I ‘as conceived not far from there.”

“In 1835 my father and mother
left there to arrive with my sisters and brother
in Florida, Missouri. Soon, thereafter, my
mother gave birth to me as stars fell from the sky.”

“Ya see, I came to this world with Halley’s comet,
with any luck, I’ll curl up and go out with it.”
As fate would have it, two years later Twain would die
as Halley’s comet soared across the evening sky.

“I was nearly eighteen,” he said, “before I set out
to see the world. Between then and now, I’ve about
seen everything worth seeing – even a spot
or two on this old earth that I wish I had not.”

“If you live a bold, fearless life full of surprise
as I have and grow old, one day you will realize:
It’s not the amount of years in your life that's dear,
that ultimately count; it’s the life in each year.”

“Aging is a state of mind,” he said with a grin.
"Wrinkles should indicate merely where smiles have been.
Most of us can manage with a bright boutonnière
To modify the age of how old we appear.”

“But, if you can only make seventy by a slow,
painful road, for God’s sake, whatever you do – don’t go.
If you feel forsaken, old and weary of breath
And your heart is breakin’, the best refuge is death.”

“But, don’t count on livin’ in some place in the sky.
You may be forgiven, but you’re still gonna die.
I’d rather be a carp swimming in the sea
than play hymns on a harp through all eternity.”

“Though Eternal Rest sounds from the pulpit – sublime,
once you try it, you’re bound to find how heavy time
hangs on your mind. If things are so bad of this earth,
why do we grieve at passings and rejoice at birth?”

“Once, I was asked, ‘Is life worth living?’ It depends,
I said, on the liver. My daughter contends . . .
it's the gallbladder. My wish, son, is that when I die
even the mortician will be sorry and cry.”

Sam's very last commit before he fell asleep
was, “Don’t ever forget – it is better to keep
your mouth shut and appear stupid than to speak out
for the whole world to hear and remove any doubt.”

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I received the following email from a friend: 

Working people frequently ask retired people what they do to make their days interesting. Well, for example, the other day my wife and I went into town and went into a shop. We were only in there for about 5 minutes. When we came out, there was a cop writing out a parking ticket. We went up to him and said, "Come on man, how about giving a senior citizen a break?" 


He ignored us and continued writing the ticket.  I called him a Nazi turd. He glared at me and started writing another ticket for having worn tires. So my wife called him a sh_ _head. He finished the second ticket and put it on the windshield with the first. Then he started writing a third ticket. This went on for about 20 minutes. The more we abused him, the more tickets he wrote . . . Personally, we didn't care. We came into town by bus and saw the car had an sarah palin sticker . . . We try to have a little fun each day now that we're retired . . . It's important at our age.