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10 November 2017   A couple of evenings ago the Democratic Town Committee in neighboring Longmeadow held a forum with the three Democratic candidates for Governor of Massachusetts. It was downright inspiring, and quite exciting. Don't know when I've ever been confronted with such a spectacularly fine array of candidates. It didn't hurt that the event came a day after the splendid victories in Virginia and New Jersey. I'd be thrilled to see any one of them run against incumbent Republican Charlie Baker, who seems to impress some voters by the sheer fact of being a Republican who isn't nuts. But the Commonwealth is capable of so much more. Here's the one who particularly struck me: Bob Massie.  
       
10 November 2017   So, everybody wants to know, How is it that fervent fundamentalist Bible-thumpers can embrace vile politicians like Roy Moore and Donald Trump, who seem to lack any moral compass (even if they make a lot of moralistic noise)?
There is a simple answer little understood by the journalists puzzling over the same question, and here it is. I know. I heard it in loads of sermons and revival meetings in my Pentecostal past.
What's the rationalization you're likely to hear down at the Abundant Blood Bible Church? It's this: these true believers—believe the Bible. Not as metaphor or something. They think it's actual history dictated by God, every word, every semicolon (well, ancient Hebrew doesn't have semicolons, but you get the idea).
And in the Hebrew Bible (they call it the Old Testament), there are plenty of barbaric bits. You see God sometimes choosing vile and wicked people to be his instruments, the vehicles of his purposes. God specifically appoints heathen rulers like the kings of Babylon and Assyria—using them to punish the Jews. God uses the Babylonians to accomplish his intentions. Among God's own chosen chums, there was the womanizer Samson, the cheating Jacob, the murderer David.
So, you say, it doesn't make sense that at times God, the author of moral law, cares not at all about morality. Of course it doesn't. It's fundamentalism. A fundamentalist site I just noticed explains: "This means that we cannot trust our own reason and thoughts for our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked." Fundamentalism—taking premodern myth and fable and proclaiming it divinely inspired truth, the revelation of God's will and ways. In the barbarism, you have to see a divine purpose. And that might include choosing the worst and wickedest to do God's work. And no, he isn't taking questions.
 
       
28 April 2017  

Editor David Remnick begins the latest New Yorker with a five-page piece on the infamous One Hundred Days, just concluded. And he concludes with this:

The clownish veneer of Trumpism conceals its true danger. Trump's way of lying is not a joke; it is a strategy, a way of clouding our capacity to think, to live in a realm of truth. It is said that each epoch dreams the one to follow. The task now is not merely to recognize this Presidency for the emergency it is,and to resist its assault on the principles of reality and the values of liberal democracy, but to devise a future, to debate, to hear one another, to organize, to preserve and revive precious things.

Read the whole piece here.

 
       
23 April 2017   If you haven't read it, here's a link to a remarkably important article in the NYTimes Magazine: “The Corrections: I Thought I Understood the American Right. Trump Proved Me Wrong” by Rick Perlstein, a penetrating look at the real American conservative movement, which makes clear how it is that Trump fits right into it. Because it’s never been about the nice laundered William F. Buckley version of Conservatism or Barry Goldwater scrupulous Constitutionalism. It’s the real thuggish phenomenon that features “populist” appeals promoted by manipulative bait-and-switch con-men marketing schemes that wind up handing power to the plutocrats behind them who really mean to cut their own taxes and regulations; political hucksters scaring people with phony crises and the collapse of civilization, effectively manipulating resentment; appeals to white rage and nativist racism (think of Fred Trump and his son shamelessly shutting out black renters from their real estate empire). Think of hard-hat resentment, think of Father Coughlin and Joseph McCarthy, think of the Klan. Think of clever marketing to which bald-faced lies are utterly integral. Read it here.  
       
10 March 2017  

And now for some art: last week's The New Yorker cover. The Statue of Liberty with a flickering, smoldering, dying flame.

Smoldering Statue of Liberty: The New Yorker

 
       
10 March 2017   Sometimes we're tempted to think our president is stupid. He is not. He is proceeding according to design, feeding the resentment of his fan club that made him president, and setting up a security wall to protect himself from the consequences of his madness. His vilification of his foes plants doubts about them, even about President Obama. But specifically I mean by this his assault on the judiciary. Because something bad is likely to happen during his term of office, which is weak on diplomacy and big on belligerence. And when it happens, it will be the fault of the judiciary, the so-called judges who wouldn't let him protect America. And when it happens, the judiciary, and diplomacy, and sanity, will be weakened, and his power inflated. It is not that he is stupid; it is that he is a president without conscience, lacking a sense of right and wrong, who is never bothered with having to feel bad about stuff. He is a psychopath, in at least enough respects as to pose a calamitous threat. It will take his own party to stop him, and they are too much enjoying their unexpected control of all branches of federal government; and that sense of courageous responsibility is not to be found in his party's leaders and elected officials. Our resistance to this vile administration must be unmistakable and constantly evident.  
       
9 March 2017   If you haven't read the astonishing piece in this week’s New Yorker, “Active Measures,” here's the link. It was reported by Evan Osnos, David Remnick, and Joshua Yaffa. Remnick, The New Yorker’s editor, served four years as a Washington Post Moscow correspondent. (The online version is titled “Trump, Putin, and the New Cold War.”) If you hope to begin to understand what’s been going on with Russia and Trump, this is where to start.
I believe this link will get you into the piece even if you don’t have a subscription. Here it is: http://bit.ly/2kUdLDE
“Active Measures” (aktivniye meropriyatiya) was the old KBG chief Yuri Andropov’s term, taken up by Putin. It seems that since 2013, Putin and his circle have concluded that 21st-century war is only one quarter military: the rest is about “technological, media, political, and intelligence tactics that would destabilize an enemy at minimal cost.” The strategy came to be known as “hybrid war.” That is, “efforts to shape the political and social landscape of the adversary through subversion, espionage, propaganda, and cyberattacks.” Valery Gerasimov, the Russian chief of general staff, put the theory together and said a “perfectly thriving state can, in a matter of months, and even days, be transformed into an arena of fierce armed conflict, become a victim of foreign intervention, and sink into a web of chaos, humanitarian catastrophe, and civil war.” He went on, “The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness.”
A vast staff of young high-tech operatives are engaged in these active measures, everything from highly advanced hacking to disabling essential systems to inserting genuinely fake news that a large proportion of its audiences will believe—as they believed the ludicrous vilification of Hillary Clinton.
Putin, we know, resented and hated Clinton, and Obama, too. Putin cemented his power by appealing to a conservative, backward-looking vision of Russia.
But what did Trump see in Putin? Andrei Kozyrev, who served as foreign minister in the Yeltsin government but now lives in Washington, D.C,. has been disturbed by what is happening in his adopted country—it’s too similar to what he thought he left behind. “I am very concerned,” he said. “My fear is that this is probably the first time in my memory that it seems we have the same kind of people on both sides—in the Kremlin and in the White House. The same people. It’s probably why they like each other. It’s not a matter of policy, but it’s that they feel that they are alike. They care less for democracy and values, and more for personal success, however that is defined.”
But Trump has met more than his match. Meanwhile, after Russia’s exhuberant celebration of Trump’s victory, there’s real worry there. The prospect of serious investigations into Trump and a range of his associates—Manafort; Flynn; Stone; a foreign policy adviser, Carter Page; the lawyer Michael Cohen—for potential illegal or unethical entanglements with Russian government or business representatives—seems to have surprised them. And the ample current of solid journalism has left Trump very less likely to be too closely associated with initiatives that further Putin’s purposes. Russian media have just now been told to cool the enthusiasm.
Maybe you heard about the dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, which included unverified allegations (although, piece by piece, much of it is being verified) about Trump’s behavior during a 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe contest. According to the dossier, Russia had personal and financial material on Trump that could be used as blackmail. It said that the Russians had been “cultivating, supporting, and assisting” Trump for years. Apparently, Putin saw Trump’s meetings with Russian oligarchs who might be stashing money abroad as a sign of disloyalty.
So the piece concludes:
Putin’s Russia has to come up with ways to make up for its economic and geopolitical weakness; its traditional levers of influence are limited, and, were it not for a formidable nuclear arsenal, it’s unclear how important a world power it would be. “So, well then, we have to create turbulence inside America itself,” Venediktov said. “A country that is beset by turbulence closes up on itself—and Russia’s hands are freed.” The story is unfolding every day, and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow seems to untangle another strand every day.
 
       
13 January 2017   It’s pretty apparent by now that the next four years will feature two parallel phenomena: (1) President Trump disgracing himself, losing a lot of his current support, devoting himself to ego-driven self-promotion and failing at this badly; and (2) the concurrent Republican far-right agenda being implemented via Trump’s appointees, the House, Senate, Supreme Court, and many state governments. We can worry about (1) to the extent that Mr Trump creates international crises and to the extent that his vileness spills over into the national culture. We can certainly worry about (2) as a petroleum-fueled assault on attempts to save this planetary realm of life halt the already insufficient measures now underway, perhaps fatally. Meanwhile it will become more difficult to find any zone anywhere that is free of guns. More than it is now, healthcare will become the province of the well-off; the most vulnerable will suffer deep injury; and inequality will escalate. We can worry about press freedom, civil liberties, and public education.
These two phenomena could become increasingly distinct from each other: the Republicans now grip all the ropes, and can do what they please, while their vile president does what he pleases. I presume the Republicans will tire of their president and tire of defending him.
I hope we can find our voices. I wish I had a pulpit; may have to invent one. Can a vital progressive movement emerge from all this?
 
       
13 December 2016  

So it's to be Tillerson for State. There has been much comment about his coziness with Putin, reflecting both his and Trump's financial interests in Russia. It's good that even Republicans have noticed there's a bit of a contradiction of values here and I hope this gets the attention it demands. But I want to focus on something else that I don't hear much of anybody commenting about, and it's this: Tillerson has been running the number one and possibly most influential climate crisis denier. Exxon-Mobil has spent a fortune transmitting lies about climate change. And it wasn't that long ago that we learned that Exxon-Mobil knew they were lying and funding a lie—their own scientists had made that clear to them. My own response has been, and continues to be, a vow to run out of gas before I'll buy gasoline from an Exxon or Mobile station. And yet. We know that Rex Tillerson knows the climate crisis is real. He has to live with the knowledge that he and his company lied about it and propagandized for climate insanity out of their own greed. And he knows the crisis is real. He'd be one powerful player in the new administration about whom you can say that. Very probably the single most catastrophic consequence of Trump's electoral college triumph (despite the vote of the people, let it be remembered) will be massive suffering, death, and disruption brought about by genuine horrors of the human-caused shifts in Earth's climate. He may be the only insider in this Republican ship of fools who understands that.

Let me add this: As a vile new administration takes shape, may we all find ways to renew ourselves and create a higher human possibility. And to resist the vileness and lunacy. We know there are no guarantees of the outcome in these dangerous times. But how very much it means to share these days with those who care and who share the call of that higher, finer human possibility!

 
       
8 October 2016   A grim time in American politics. A major party, already distinguished by its denial of the climate crisis about which scientists are lifting increasingly urgent voices, has nominated a psychopath for president. Leading Republicans have voiced their disgust with what he is saying, but mostly they still support him. So the latest (but hardly surprising) revelation about his attitudes and behavior (if you're famous, women will do what you want), has finally prompted a few Republicans to call on him (way too late to be feasible) to withdraw as their candidate. His response: Yeh, I said it, sorry if I offended anybody, but Bill Clinton is much worse. One wonders what tomorrow's debate will consist of. But you already know what it won't consist of: an exchange about the climate emergency, or what to do for the desperate people trapped in Aleppo, or for the throngs of desperate, heroic refugees streaming from there and other scenes of horror. Republicans devoutly wish Mike Pence could replace Trump as the presidential candidate. Which would put one of the most extreme right-wingers in sight of the presidency (not to mention his particularly contemptuous attitudes and actions affecting gay folks). Democrats concluded last year, or before, that Hillary Clinton "deserves" the presidency, that it's "her turn," and despite popular support for Bernie Sanders, ensured that she won the nomination. There's not a lot of excitement about another Clinton presidency, so the astonishing thing is that as of the most recent polls, she is barely ahead of Trump. Maybe that changes later in the week. But then, portions of those fabulously compensated behind-closed-door speeches to bankers have come out. Not encouraging. Lucky for me, maybe—I live in Massachusetts. I was living in Rhode Island. The United States has an odd way of electing presidents—the Electoral College. Neither of these states' electors are going to cast their votes for Trump. It doesn't actually matter how I vote. I can protest both candidates, which I couldn't do if I lived in Florida, or Ohio, or Pennsylvania, or North Carolina. Don't know what I'll do. But it's clear enough who must not win this election.  
       
7 October 2016  

I've been quite taken up by moving and, now, working on my fixer-upper of a house in Springfield. But I've been disturbed by the fact that time is passing, and I haven't written the President about Israel's latest doublecross on settlements. So this letter went to the President today:

My dear Mr President:

Israel is deeply engaged in a program of multiplying settlements in what is supposed to be the Palestinian West Bank. In the last few days, it announced yet more settlements there. By squeezing Palestinians out and strategically planting the settlements in such a way as to separate bits of Palestinian population from each other, it's guaranteeing that there can be no Palestinian state, and no justice for Palestinian people. Netanyahu's government does this while publicly maintaining the lie that it means to negotiate in good faith toward the existence of a Palestinian state.

This is bad, but what is at least as troubling to me is America's hypocrisy about all this. You publicly protested Israel's action in announcing the new settlements after promising there would be no new settlements. The State Department went further, and "strongly condemned" the move, asserting that it violated Israel's pledge not to construct new settlements and ran counter to the long-term security interests Israel.

But there has been no mystery about Israel's intent; not for a very long time. You are quite aware of what Netanyahu is doing. And yet. Less than a month ago you significantly increased the amount of money the U.S. gives to Israel every year, even though Israel was already by far the biggest recipient of U.S. aid. The new agreement promises Israel $38 billion over 10 years. This is, by far, a new record for U.S. aid commitments, even though Israeli citizens enjoy all sorts of state benefits that Americans (whose money is being given to Israel) are told are too costly for them, including universal health care coverage, and tout superior life expectancy and infant mortality rates.

Few American political leaders dare criticize Israel. Senator Sanders, who is Jewish, has consistently done so. But Secretary Clinton has vehemently defended Netanyahu; her only complaint is that the United States is insufficiently supportive of Israel's actions. That is among the reasons I cannot vote for her or anyone else on the ballot. In this, the U.S. is quite alone among nations, and shamefully so. I write to protest.

</blockquote>
       
24 July 2016  

How very odd, and not a little disorienting, not to have sermons to conceive, worship services to plan, classes to prepare for. It's work I really love, and miss. But then, no more frustrating Board meetings. Still, I can remember when Board meetings were exciting, too, because we were planning great things, risking, stretching. The last four years were different. The Board didn't vote down my proposals. They ignored them, stuck to familiar routines. My life-work as a minister began in 1973 when I founded the Metropolitan Community Church of Hartford. In 1982, after concluding that I am not a Christian, I transferred my credentials to the Unitarian Universalist Association. Since then I've served a bunch of congregations. The most exhilarating experience were the nine years at Unity Temple UU Congregation in Oak Park, IL, where I led a consolidation of two UU congregations during my first year there. And had the joy of preaching in Frank Lloyd Wright's best building, designed to give expression to Emerson's Transcendentalism. The numbers grew til we had two services with a pretty full house.

 Bungalow at 101 Larkspur I've done interim and contract ministry, and had the unique delight of serving two congregations in the United Kingdom. I've always been dead serious about the urgency of lifting up a prophetic vision of human possibility. If Bernie wants a political revolution (and I do too), my first concern is a spiritual revolution. But dissention at Channing Memorial Church in Newport meant I couldn't stay, and when it was time to apply for other positions, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Yet I haven't actually retired and I don't know that I want to. So what next? Dunno. But my house here on the island has sold, and my offer on a little bungalow in East Forest Park, Springfield, Mass., has been accepted. I expect to move at the beginning of September. It's going to need plenty of work, beginning with a new boiler and removal of the dumb windows that close up what's supposed to be an open front porch. And then it's time for new projects and new forms of trouble to get into. I'd meant to settle into Holyoke, a few miles north, but found this bungalow on a quiet, friendly street a dozen or so blocks from Frederick Law Olmstead's great Forest Park, for an astonishingly low price. More news to come. Here it is. Backyard and pond at 101 Larkspur

 

 
       
9 July 2016   First there was Falcon Heights, Minnesota, where a traffic stop for a taillight fault led to a cop threatening a compliant Philando Castile and shooting him dead, and then screaming maniacally to his girlfriend, who in self-defense wisely livestreamed the proceedings via Facebook, so the badged murderer didn't dare shoot her, too—all this while her three year old daughter watched, and tried to comfort her mom. Then there was Baton Rouge, where two police officers tried to arrest Alton Sterling for selling CDs outside a store where he'd long been doing so with the store's permission. They pushed him to the ground and shot him dead. In both cases, the victims were black; the out-of-control badged killers were white. I thought: another terrible toll taken from whatever trust and mutual respect binds citizens and their police. What will this lead to? The answer came Thursday night. A peaceful protest, in Dallas, a heartening demonstration of the warm public-police relationship that Dallas police have built, shattered by a sniper with one of those all too familiar mass killing machines. Before it was over five Dallas police officers were dead, seven more injured.
All of which spotlights the escalating role of guns in a panicky, angry, distrustful America. In the hands of some rotten police departments and unfit officers, that means militaristic belligerence mixed with presumption of malice. In the hands of the public—well, it's America's distinction as the only "civilized," developed country with anything like our rate of gun violence and death. Americans aren't more violent than Brits or Germans or Swedish. It's just that anybody can get any kind of mass-killing machine, in any quantity, easily and quickly.
And that's because the NRA has been extremely successful in its propaganda offensive to reinterpret the Second Amendment. In 2008 and 2010 they won decisions by a heavily right-wing Supreme Court that reversed a long-held understanding of what the oddly-worded amendment means. Until then, it was understood to provide for a militia in an era before a standing national military. And that was the only context in which it provided for the bearing of weapons. Now the Court said it meant an individual has a right to own firearms. Former Chief Justice Burger called the reinterpretation a "fraud."
An eerily devout worshipfulness now surrounds the Second Amendment. Politicians are unwilling to challenge it, even though it's a human document, constructed by humans and subject to amendment. Just as, in the 1850s, enlightened minds recognized a fault in the Constitution that allowed for the ownership, as chattel, of slaves. Did they reason, NRA-style, that to show one's devotion to the Constitution, it was a citizen's duty to own slaves, as many as possible? No, they amended it. It's time to amend, or revoke, the anachronistic and clumsy Second Amendment.
Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens proposed a way to do it in 2014. To make clear the intent and effect of the amendment as it was understood for two centuries, he proposed adding the words "when serving on the State militia." If we don't like our nation's status as a wild west of death by firearms—from silent suicides to massacres with weapons meant for warfare—and care about the quality of our public life, isn't it time to take Justice Stevens' advice?
That we haven't, and that you haven't even heard this proposal discussed, illustrates the triumph of the NRA, and the fear with which not just cowardly politicians, but even the Court itself, now cringe before it?
 
       
6 July 2016   Sixth day since my ministry with Channing Memorial Church came to an end. It's been 43 years of this work. And I do know the quality of my work—and the irony that the vision and the wisdom driving it have deepened and expanded, even while the public and denominational recognition, which earlier I enjoyed in quantity, has nearly vanished. Funny stuff, this life. So what is to be done with the years that remain? The house is "sold" (that is, I have a buyer but there are a few more hoops) and I've been trying to find a suitable house for myself and Thunder in or near Holyoke, where houses are way more affordable and where I have friends. Then tasks must be found or invented and taken up, and the work will evolve some more. I expect this website will be a part of that, and a new edition of the book, which maybe this time I can figure out how to market. I hope I can do some teaching, and preaching, and writing. But if anybody knows what I'll be doing, do please let me know.  
       
6 July 2016   With reference to my 4 March post: He's about even with Hillary Clinton again. And there's a big part of the threat of a Trump presidency: Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate. I am deeply concerned that the Democratic Party trembles on the brink of suicide by nominating a seriously flawed Presidential candidate. It is true that I write as a progressive voter who cannot see himself voting for Hillary Clinton, who does not want to see Bill Clinton back in the White House, and who enthusiastically supported Senator Sanders. But the threat of a President Trump is real, and very real with Clinton at the head of the ticket.
Personally I cannot see myself voting for anybody who supported the invasion of Iraq, and the Chilcot Report is more damning to American leadership than it is to British. I have plenty of other objections. But James Comey has made it pretty clear that she has not been truthful about a number of matters, like classified matter contained in those emails, or whether in fact she turned over all emails. I don't are all that much about her damn emails. But her credibility on finance and campaign finance reform, fracking and a carbon tax (without which no climate change policy can be successful), and regime-change schemes, is in tatters.
 
       
4 March 2016   Can Donald Trump get to 1237 delegates by the first ballot? I used to think so. I thought it was inevitable. But the grossness, the tawdriness of what he does and says just keeps escalating. I'd thought anybody with any sense of decency would have ruled him out by now. But he keeps crossing thresholds of ugliness, and I think he's losing people now. No guarantees at all about the Republican convention. Sad thing is, Cruz is worse. A genuine true-believer fanatic of the "New Apostolic Reformation" movement. Only this kind of ghastliness lets Marco Rubio appear "moderate." Gulp.  
       
2 February 2016  

Bernie SandersHere is why I am supporting Bernie Sanders for President.

This is a revision of my previous post, and this time I'm starting with foreign policy. That's where most of my additions are. Then we'll go on to the economy, guns, and so on.

We are electing someone to the most sensitive and powerful leadership post on the globe, who will be the next Commander in Chief. It's fine to talk about "experience," but Clinton's track record must give one pause. When it mattered, Hillary got Iraq horribly wrong and supported the invasion. How come even I knew it was a horrendous mistake founded on big lies? And now, whatever is she thinking in calling for imposing a no-fly zone on ISIS-held territory in northern Syria, enforced by the Air Force? Whose planes would we be shooting down? Russia's. ISIS has no planes. Sanders opposes this bad idea. Frankly, if supremely stupid policy is going to be pursued—I don't want it to be our side that pursued it. Please consider this theme in foreign policy, “Judgment.” I am troubled that Hillary Clinton has been quick to embrace, and promote, every CIA regime-change adventure. There was, disastrously, Iraq. Then there was, disastrously, Libya. And, disastrously, schemes to overthrow Assad in Syria. To be sure, wretched dictators all. And what we’ve got in their place is ISIS, and hundreds of thousands dead, and millions thrust from their homes in ruined cities, and an ocean of desperate refugees. Hillary Clinton was a decisive figure in convincing Obama to topple General Ghadafi. Gosh, that adventure in regime change worked out nicely. Judgment.

In the January 17 debate, Sanders was asked about the recent P5+1 accord with Iran. "What we’ve got to do is move as aggressively as we can to normalize relations with Iran,” said Sanders. “Can I tell you that we should open an embassy in Tehran tomorrow? No, I don’t think we should. But I think the goal has got to be, as we’ve done with Cuba, to move [toward] warm relations with a very powerful and important country in this world." To this sensible and fairly obvious position, the Clintons fired off a hawkish denunciation of the idea of  reaching out to Iran diplomatically. We wouldn't want to offend Israel by giving Iran a prominent presence! And as Bob Dreyfuss points out, "Tehran could help support an accord ending the conflict in Afghanistan between Kabul and the Taliban and encourage the US-backed government in Baghdad to develop a new political compact that might begin to reconcile Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish factions there. And, as Sanders notes, Iran is an implacable enemy of the Islamic State." He continues, "Sanders, a longtime opponent of the Cold War and of many of America’s misadventures in Asia, Central America, and the Middle East, has staked out a position against US military intervention. Clinton, on the other hand, is a hawk with a lengthy record of backing the use of the US armed forces in overseas conflicts."

And then there's Israel. Hillary and Bill Clinton have both been promising to make it a top prioritiy to "strengthen the U.S.-Israel alliance." Is that even possible? Already it means billions of dollars in American funding transferred every year to Israel, sophisticated weapons fed to Israel as it bombs its defenseless Palestinian neighbors; and its insatiable land-grab of Palestinian territory, with each new Israeli house in the occupied West Bank rendering a Palestinian state, or any justice for Palestinians, that much more impossible—a coldly intentional Israeli strategy. For Israeli extremists the Clintons offer blindly loyal diplomatic support and protection for everything it does. This has got to stop. All this in stark violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, according to which it is illegal for an occupying power to transfer its citizens into territory under occupation. The United States has yet to exert its real power to influence the extreme rightwing Israeli government toward justice. It could get even worse with a second Clinton presidency. As Alon Ben-Meir of NYU's Center for Global Affairs puts it, "Only by accepting their right to a state of their own will Israel remain a Jewish and democratic state enjoying peace and security, instead of being drawn toward an abyss from which there is no salvation." Why Hillary Clinton doesn't see that escapes me. But she doesn't. She touts her sentiments in support of the extremist Netanyahu government and has made little mention of the Palestinians. In her March 21 speech to AIPAC, she mentioned neither "occupation" nor "settlements." Nope, not even a mention. (She actually uttered the WORD "settlements", but it was totally devoid of any meaningful context.) Bernie Sanders has called for the U.S. to seek a "level playing field" in its approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict. He has won the support of Palestinian-American organizations.

I believe Senator Sanders has the economy right. He's calling for serious controls on the big banks, and denounces the outrages of extreme inequality in America, including executive pay packages. Among the things he'd do about the behavior of banks, he would reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act.

During the Roaring Twenties, banks enhanced their profits by adding to their usual activities—taking deposits and making loans—and began speculating on stocks, which they now sold. Some banks went further, lending to pools of speculators that used the money to pump up share prices. The banks sold the shares to their customers, only to have the share prices collapse when the speculators dumped them. When the entire stock market crashed in 1929, and the country descended into the Great Depression, how could the country's faith be restored in the banking system? One step was for Congress to enact legislation insuring commercial deposits against bank losses.

Another was to prohibit the kinds of conflicts of interest that had led to such losses had fueled the boom and subsequent bust. Under the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, banks had to choose between gambling in the market, and taking in deposits and making loans. They wouldn't be able to do both. The Act prohibited commercial banks from participating in the investment banking business and created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to protect bank deposits from institutional failure. "The idea is pretty simple behind this one," said Senator Elizabeth Warren, explaining her bill to resurrect Glass-Steagall. "If banks want to engage in high-risk trading — they can go for it, but they can't get access to ensured deposits and put the taxpayers on the hook for that reason."

For more than six decades after 1933, Glass-Steagall worked exactly as intended. Few banks failed and no financial panic endangered the banking system. But the big Wall Street banks weren't content. They thought they could make far more money by gambling with commercial deposits. So they set out to whittle down Glass-Steagall.

Finally, in 1999, in the waning days of his administration, President Bill Clinton struck a deal with Republican Senator Phil Gramm to give Wall Street what it wanted, and repeal Glass-Steagall altogether. Major provisions were repealed in 1999.

What happened next was pretty much a replay of the Roaring Twenties. Once again, banks originated fraudulent loans and sold them to their customers in the form of securities. Perhaps you remember the banking crisis. This time the banks were bailed out, but millions lost their savings, their jobs, even their homes.

Ah, but maybe a second President Clinton would be different? Sadly, we have seen that she wouldn't be. Hillary Clinton says she would not reinstate Glass-Steagall. Those of us who believe Hillary Clinton is still too close to Wall Street will not be reassured by what she has proposed. We're disturbed by her cozy relationship with Wall Street (which includes taking enormous fees from Goldman Sachs as a speaker). Says Robert Reich: "Many will recall that her husband led the way to repealing Glass Steagall in 1999 at the request of the big Wall Street banks. [Her opposition to reinstating it is] a big mistake economically because the repeal of Glass-Steagall led directly to the 2008 Wall Street crash, and without it we're in danger of another one."

Reich, who was Bill Clinton' Secretary of Labor, says he was in fairly continuous battle with some of Clinton's advisers who seemed determined to do Wall Street's bidding. To this day, he argues, some Wall Street apologists argue Glass-Steagall wouldn't have prevented the 2008 crisis because the real culprits were nonbanks like Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns. His response? "Baloney. These nonbanks got their funding from the big banks in the form of lines of credit, mortgages, and repurchase agreements. If the big banks hadn't provided them the money, the nonbanks wouldn't have got into trouble. And why were the banks able to give them easy credit on bad collateral? Because Glass-Steagall was gone." The corruption reaches farther. The big banks were the accessories and enablers of the unscrupulous mortgage brokers. In the end, their balance sheets were full of "junky paper, non-performing loans, and worthless derivatives." They were bailed out because they were too big to fail.

Clinton does advocate a tax on high-frequency trading, enforcement of the Volcker Rule (which limits speculative investments), and "a new fee on risk that would discourage the type of excessive leverage and short-term borrowing that could spark another crisis." She talks of "reining in the banks," but Clinton, who has been a favorite of Wall Street donors since her days as a senator representing New York, is asking voters to trust that she will take serious executive action against her friends and donors. The truth is, Wall Street doesn't like Senator Sanders' plans. Wall Street isn't at all worried about Hillary Clinton's plan.
"We continue to believe Clinton would be one of the better candidates for financial firms," wrote Jaret Seiberg of Guggenheim Partners in a note to clients analyzing her plan. Sanders and Elizabeth Warren think the big banks should be broken up. Clinton does not.

In the past, Clinton has spoken favorably of a single-payer healthcare system. Now she opposes Senator Sanders' single-payer plan, and even accuses him of wanting to destroy the healthcare reform achieved under President Obama. But Sanders simply wants to move on to the next, and far more effective, step in healthcare reform. Yes, Obamacare is a big improvement over the wretched situation that existed before. Obama himself had wanted to go farther, but dropped the strongest part of his proposal, the "public option," which would have opened the way toward single-payer. Drug companies can still charge whatever obscene prices they want. Millions still go without health insurance in a country that spends twice as much, and more, per capita as countries that provide healthcare to everybody. If you follow the news about the Affordable Care Act, you know there are many more problems in this too-complex system, including people who can't afford premiums, deductables and co-pays, and people who are getting fairly useless coverage for their money. America must keep working toward a truly effective and just—and sane—system.

I wish Senator Sanders' policies on gun control were stronger. If it were up to me, the Second Amendment would be repealed as a meaningless anachronism that has been used to crank up near reverence for the easy availability of unlimited quantities of all kinds of weapons of mass killing to just about anybody. But if his proposals could be enacted, we would have come a very long way from our current state of wild-west insanity. Meanwhile, Senator Sanders opposes the death penalty; Secretary Clinton doesn't.

Sanders has been consistently out front on the rights and dignity of gay people. Hillary was awfully slow to come around. And then to praise the Reagans for how wonderfully the started a national conversation on AIDS! This establishes for me that she was totally, utterly uninterested in the 80s when this was going on. Else she would certainly have known how execrable the Reagans' response was. There are many Democrats I could support for President besides Bernie Sanders, but honestly, as Hillary rises, it's becoming less likely that I will be able to vote for anybody for President. I can still hope, and I still do.

For awhile, polling has shown that Sanders beats any Republican, generally soundly. It shows Clinton losing to most, or tied with some. Yet popular assumptions, reenforced by pundits, seem to think Clinton's got the better chance to win. I think that's dead wrong. For all these reasons, and quite a few more, I'm supporting Bernie, and earnestly hoping I have him to vote for in November. I'd have a tough time voting for Hillary Clinton. I wasn't much taken with the first President Clinton. We don't need a second one.

 
       
31 January 2016   My editor at the Newport Daily News particularly liked my weekend column, "The Dream of Equality."  
       
11 December 2015  

This is the kind of news I long to see. This is the kind of news I wish we were seeing in America. From today's New York TImes:

OTTAWA —Canada welcomed 163 Syrian refugees under its new accelerated entry program late Thursday night, the first of 25,000 the country has promised to take in by March.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a battery of politicians from across the political spectrum were on hand at the Toronto airport to greet the refugees.

“You are home,” Mr. Trudeau said to the first passengers to disembark after a 16-hour flight from Beirut on a Canadian military aircraft. “You’re safe at home now.” The premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, gave them winter coats.

Under a plan announced by Mr. Trudeau’s new government, a series of flights will bring 10,000 Syrian refugees into Canada by the end of this month and a total of at least 25,000 before March.

Read the whole story here. And watch the truly heartening video of the PM's remarks.

 
       
28 November 2015  

Something deeply unsettling is happening out there. What it says inside the lower pedestal of the Statue of Liberty is

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

But as the most desperate, needy, and traumatized throngs flee the hell that is Syria today (and other hells, elsewhere), here's what you see. Governors shutting their borders and political leaders and presidential candidates stirring up fear, bigotry, and hatred against them and urging Americans to keep them out. One compared the refugees to rabid dogs; others focused their contempt on Muslims. Spooked by Paris, the House just passed an execrable bill, HR 4038, meant to render it almost impossible for the U.S. to take in any Syrian refugees. And one of our Congressmen—no, the other one; Cicilline was a strong voice for the refugees—joined them. Forty-seven Democrats joined the hate, giving the bill a veto-proof vote. Now it's up to the Senate.

How bad has it gotten? Elaine Morgan, R-Hopkinton, wrote: "The Muslim religion and philosophy is to murder, rape, and decapitate anyone who is a non Muslim." Well, true enough, there is a problem with pre-modern, pre-Enlightenment scriptures and notions. And if you're looking for barbarism, you can find it there—and that includes Judaeo-Christian scriptures and history, too. But those ancient documents and that history don't define these religions for anyone but fundamentalists. Those who aren't fundamentalists—whether Muslim, Christian, or Jewish—search their scriptures for goodness, truth, and beauty—and find plenty of it.

A favorite Transcendentalist thinker of mine said it best, I think. Rev. Samuel Johnson wrote:
Much as Christians have insisted that they rest on an infallible Bible, they have never really shaped their creeds by the Bible, whether fallible or infallible; but always primarily by the actual condition of things within and without themselves, putting their trust in this, and making the Bible mean essentially what this demanded.

No, ISIS (or Da'esh) doesn't define Islam. If it does, then the Crusades define Christianity. What we know of Da'esh terrorists is that they aren't even particularly religious people. They're thugs, happy to have religious cover for their barbarism.

Those refugees: in my book, heroic souls who undertake a terrifying journey for the sake of life itself, their own, and their loved ones'. If they're coming here, they will have to wait out an exhaustive vetting process that may exceed two years' duration—in distant UN refugee camps. And now they'll have to face the stoked-up resentment and fear. Yet refugees have been shown to boost GDP growth and employment rates for the nations that offer them legal residence.
Yet I cannot begin to imagine what they have faced, and so many now face, in Syria, and other sites of fanaticism-driven horror. Wherever they land, most will contribute richly to their new national home. A nation made almost entirely of immigrants should know that. But these aren't just immigrants. They're traumatized refugees.

 
       
Friday, 27 November 2015  

It was Black Dog Friday, so we went to the beach.

Thunder at Sachuest Beach

 
       
Thanksgiving Day 2015   Dangerous refugee!  
       
22 November 2015   US Rep. David Cicilline at Channing's Transgender Day of Remembrance service.U.S. Representative David Cicilline (1st Dist, RI) reads names of transgendered people whose lives were taken violently last year--at Channing's annual Transgender Day of Remembrance service yesterday. He began by talking about his bill to establish a federal ban on discrimination against GLBT people. I followed the names with the Mourner's Kaddish. Newport Daily News photo by Dave Hansen.  
       
5 October 2015  

A letter to the President:

I am deeply troubled by the American airstrike on the Medicins Sans Frontieres hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. It left a number of those magnificent physicians and staff and a variety of patients dead or maimed and it left the Kunduz region with no hospital.

The incident undermines America's justification for so much of its foreign policy, not just the insanity initiated by George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq and then Afghanistan. Our military establishment changed its story about what is supposed to have happened. This in a city taken from the Taliban fourteen years ago -- now after billions of dollars and lives risked, lost, and distorted. Yet the other day, American forces deliberately targeted a heroic MSF hospital. Did the Afghanis see the hospital as a secret terrorist rampart? If they did, that is a grim commentary on what Afghanistan has become after all this U.S. money and sweat. But more to the point. It was American forces that attacked that hospital. Which leads me to the conclusion that American policy in the region is entirely bankrupt.

Personally, I believe that those who took America into this catastrophe by faking evidence about WMDs and Saddam's intentions should have been prosecuted, enabling the United States to take a radically clearer look at the consequences -- instead of continuing, more or less, what Cheney and Rumsfeld began. But truly I scarcely know what you, as American President, should do now, or could do now.

But I know I won't be satisfied until the blazing light of day is thrown on this incident, and those responsible are held to account in a serious way, and the assumptions that allowed it to happen face the same light of day.

 
       
15 September 2015  

Watching the wall go up along Hungary's border. Watching the stance and accompanying mentality taken, and recommended by Prime Minister Orbán. In the name of "preserving a Christian culture." Whatever is that?

From High Holy Days prayerbook: "For the closing of borders"

 
       
26 July 2015  

Thunder with a [former] baseball he found along this morning's walk.

Thunder with former baseball

 
       
22 June 2015  

Saturday night was Pride in Providence, and it seemed so much more exhuberant than usual. This year we were just at the front, right behind our deluxe Senator Whitehouse (the Senate's champion of ecological responsibility), Rep. Cicilline (my terrific progressive out gay Congressman), Gov. Raimondo and other leaders who make one proud to live here. We were up front because Pam Goff, organizer of our annual Born This Way Prom, was Honorary Marshal. That's her in the yellow Fiat 500 convertible. Lots of Prom kids marched with us, as well as lots of Channing members. And there's Rhode Island's statehouse dome, standing over the capital city.

Me, with a few of the Prom kidsPam Goff, honorary marshal

Pam with Dave and Larry in our Pride delegation2-prom-kids-pride2015RI capital dome stands over Pride 2015

 
       
26 May 2015  

Summer Study reopens!

Summer Study reopens!

 
       
24 May 2015  

With all the votes in yesterday: See RTF radio results. It's 62.1% to 37.9%, w/ 60.5% turnout. Ireland thus became the first nation in the world to embrace marriage equality by popular vote!

Reactions— Salman Rushdie: "Bravo, Ireland! Irish voters back gay marriage in 'social revolution'" Stephen Fry: "So so happy. Oscar smiles in his grave." Ian McKellen: "CONGRATULATIONS to the Republic on saying yes to same-gender marriage! Now what about Northern Ireland?" Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon: "Sending lots of admiration and congratulations to the people of Ireland. Wonderful." JK Rowling: "Sitting here watching the Irish make history. Extraordinary and wonderful." Peter Tatchell: "The Irish people have voted for love and equality. Oscar Wilde would be so proud." Gerry Adams: "There are two Irelands, the elite Ireland and the hidden Ireland. And today the hidden Ireland spoke." Morrissey: "Congratulations to Ireland. The people, once again, teach the church. The people, once again, teach the politicians. Now, Ireland, please abolish fur farms and factory-farming and transportation of live animals, and welcome yourself completely into the 21st century."

Health minister Leo Varadkar, who this year came out as the country's first openly gay minister, said the campaign had been "almost like a social revolution". At a news conference, Prime Minister Enda Kenny said "Today Ireland made history," , adding that "in the privacy of the ballot box, the people made a public statement. This decision makes every citizen equal and I believe it will strengthen the institution of marriage," Mr. Kenny said. The Fine Gael-Labour coalition had asked voters to amend their 78-year-old constitution, which originally defined marriage as only between a man and a woman. Voters were offered the chance to amend the constitution to read: "Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex."

Irish gay rights campaigner Senator David Norris arrived at Dublin Castle, where he was mobbed as a hero by a younger generation of gay activists. The world expert on James Joyce had pursued court cases all the way to the European court of human rights, forcing a previous Irish government to decriminalise homosexuality in 1993.

Well. That leaves the United States behind only The Netherlands and Belgium. And Canada and Spain and South Africa. As well as Norway and Sweden. Also Iceland and Argentina and Portugal, plus also Denmark. As well as Brazil. And England and Wales and Scotland. Plus France, New Zealand, and Uruguay. And Luxemboug. Finland also. And Ireland. How very advanced and civilized we are . . . Soon we'll see what the Supremes do.

 
       
2 May 2015  

Long bleak winter. I shall now re-emerge.

My latest column ("...And No Religion Too ?")
Or listen (longer version)

 
       
3 January 2015  

A fine holiday, with sister Pat and brother Tim (here we're at Colt State Park in Bristol)

Pat & Tim at Colt State Park, Bristol

And best friend & me at home, photographed by Tim

Jay & Thunder, Christmas 2014

 
       
3 January 2015   So it turns out that one hundred percent of newly elected Republican Senators have agreed to vote to eliminate the food stamps program. They are: Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.). Have a friend who, without SNAP ("food stamps") doesn't eat. These senators, and their party, don't accept the role of luck in human affairs, and have the arrogance to think they are too good to be poor. Some are probably professing Christians who don't mind disregarding Jesus' teachings entirely, while insisting on his divinity, so they can count themselves among the elect and saved. They believe in the "unseen hand"—if you pursue selfishness and accumulate all you can, and let the economy roll along free from regulation, some invisible hand will make it all work out, magically distribute the wealth in a just manner. That hasn't worked out so well, has it? Mostly what you get is a lot of greedy hands. It's good to hear the new Pope call for a more just economic system.  
  d    
3 December 2014   Not individual police officers, not particular police departments—but the profession of policing itself—has allowed its credibility is to be battered, and so have whatever norms prevail in working relationships between police and the justice system. Americans—and particularly Black Americans—now wonder what it is that governs police behavior. In the case of Ferguson, where we don't have video and it can be argued that we don't know for sure what happened, no one can avoid the question, Why six shots? Why so brutal a killing? And now in the Staten Island incident, where New York's rules against chokeholds were violated (and regularly are, with impunity) and where we do have video that establishes the brutality, and where there are no ambiguities about this declared homicide—once again, no indictment. Virtually never are police officers punished for brutality. Policing is vital work. So it's tragic that it's left with very damaged credibility and trust. The profession has got to face this for the sake of every just and decent police officer and department, and for the sake of the nation's soul. If I feel my respect for police damaged, what is this doing to those with more reason for bitterness and contempt?  
       
31 October 2014  

While the poorest and most vulnerable are being ravaged by a disease, Ebola, for which we'd have a vaccine or cure if its principal victims were, say, Americans—those Americans who have responded and heroically gone to west Africa to treat the stricken or otherwise work to halt Ebola's spread have met with an ugly response at home. Some of it's about fear whipped into hysteria by politicians (and their media enablers). So we have, for instance, the uninspiring behavior of governors LePage, Christy, and (at least at first) Cuomo. This stuff goes for the very worst in us, and that's nowhere more apparent than in Fox News' Ann Coulter. Sometimes even I am astonished by the words some folks are prepared to utter. Like this, which refers to the fact that some of these heroic helpers have been driven by their Christian faith—while managing to distort that same faith into a virulent poison, hardly the religion of Jesus that inspired the heroism (and here I'm citing Charles Blow's Oct. 29 column):

When Dr. Kent Brantly, a missionary caring for Ebola patients in Liberia, became the first known American Ebola patient, Ann Coulter called him “idiotic” and chastised him for the “Christian narcissism” of deigning to help people in “disease-ridden cesspools” rather than, say, turning “one single Hollywood power-broker to Christ,” which would apparently “have done more good for the entire world than anything he could accomplish in a century spent in Liberia.”

Yup. She's saying that, according to her version of that faith, extending a hand to the sufferers is idiotic; the truly authentic Christian response would be to convert some Hollywood power broker to her primitive religious beliefs. I have to assume some significant part of our countrymen think that way and think their Jesus would have despised the "disease-ridden cesspools" and their inhabitants as much as they themselves do. Under these circumstances, there's not going to be a lot of support for those heroes willing to go and help.

 
       
14 October 2014  

I have just finished Sam Harris' Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, and it is splendid—the intelligent, unpretentious, and quite helpful reflections of someone who has practiced meditation, sometimes intensively, for a long time, and whose contemplation as a neuroscientist adds vital dimensions to the book.

He has famously little patience with premodern religious mythology, though he honors explorers of consciousness of any tradition who bring a more fully evolved consciousness to these traditions and, with it, a big filter for the primitive, tribal, and barbarous, of which there is plenty—and who simply leave it behind, in another time and culture.

He finds both the Judaeo-Christian and the Islamic traditions frought with this primitive stuff. Which has inspired some to accuse him of intolerance or even bigotry. That's not really fair. Anyway, that's not what Waking Up is about. But is he guilty?

Consider the biblical story where God tells Joshua to march into Canaan—Ai, Jericho, etc.—and exterminate all the men, women, and children there who worship the wrong deity (his Yahweh is awfully jealous). He is told even to exterminate their animals. He is to seize the land for the correct deity, Yahweh, of course.
Might that story inspire acts of terrorism? Well, in fact, it has done so, and there are those around today whose minds inhabit the same stage of development—who would duplicate the exploit if they could. Harris' argument is that both traditions, and certainly the Islamic, are loaded with dangerous images and ideas. Criticizing the outmoded ideas isn't bigotry; and he praises more enlightened believers who inform themselves, instead, with the higher values they also find in the tradition.

The Muslims and Jews I know, and most of the Christians I know, don't take things like the Joshua story as a guide for living or a source for ethical decision-making. They aren't potential terrorists. They're a creative presence in the world. But is it not proper to apply a bit of criticism to the ancient texts? I don't believe they're an adequate spiritual or ethical guide, and I'd be dishonest not to point that out. Yet I honor those who manage to find uplifting inspiration in them. So does Harris—but his intolerance for the primitive content of scriptures and traditions and his willingness to be vocal about it has sometimes been mistaken for a bias against all their practitioners.

We are feeling keenly these days the chasm between primitive consciousness and the evolutionary demands of today and tomorrow, and religions need to do some reinventing.

But Waking Up isn't about that. It's about consciousness, states of consciousness, the mind, how the brain works, the usefulness and danger of psychedelics, the illusion of the "self," and the possibility of being awake. IMHO, you'll be missing an awful lot if you decline to read it.

 
       
20 August 2014  

ISIL, or ISIS, or the Islamic State, or The Caliphate—crudely, cruelly, gruesomely beheads a fine American journalist named James Foley. We're all a bit traumatized. Turns out the Obama Administration had launched a significant effort to rescue him some weeks ago, but he wasn't where our intel said he was. And now the President is faced with something a little more threatening. He'd wanted to be the president who ended American entanglement in Iraq and Afghanistan. What will this mean? Almost certainly, deeper American military engagement. Clearly, ISIL, or whatever you call it, must be stopped in its tracks and destroyed.

President Obama has faced searing criticism from the Republicans for—what? Not perpetuating Bush's war? or not doing so vigorously enough? Today he spoke with a force and conviction we don't always hear from him. That's good. But isn't it time for him to add: These are the catastrophic consequences of Mr Bush's war, and yours, Mr McCain, and all of you who led this nation into a disastrous war by manufacturing fictitious evidence and crazy logic, and who didn't even bother to think through how you were going to rebuild Iraq or what it would mean. Yes, surely, it's time.

 
       
20 August 2014   Somebody, we don't know who, kills the latest ceasefire by firing off three rockets from Gaza. Dumb, yes, but nobody hurt, no damage. Israel's response: 80 strikes on Gaza that kill 19 people. They target Hamas' military leader Mohammed Deif. Not clear if they got him but they killed his son and his wife. Does the U.S. condemn the assassination of Palestinian officials? No. So does this mean it would be fine if Hamas knocked off Israel's defence minister, Moshe Ya'alon? Oh, no, Deif was a terrorist! And Ya'alon isn't? And then they knocked off three more Hamas military leaders. Look at this, already: the deaths in Gaza have now topped 2,000. Israeli deaths stand at 66, and only three or four of them civilian. Are we not compelled to say, End the Occupation; End the Blockade of Gaza; recognize a Palestinian state (such recognition needs to be mutual); stop strangling Palestinian life by preventing shipments of food, medicine, building materials, and on and on; rebuild the Gaza airport; and treat your neighbors with respect. Then see if rockets keep coming from Gaza. It would take enormous strength to do that. Continuing the massacre and stranglehold only requires superior weapons. And as the attacks and counter-attacks go on, a little boy dies in an Israeli kibbutz, and Mr Netanyahu says the Palestinians will pay. Well, I feel pretty badly about the little boy's death, too, but it would help if Mr Netanyahu felt as badly about the hundreds of dead Palestinian children. Instead, he seems to see them as the cost of "mowing the lawn." I wish I thought he cherished a dream of Palestinians and Israelis living as neighbors in a just peace, but there's no evidence of that.  
       
11 August 2014  

And now 2,000 Gazans are dead, and now far more are gravely wounded, and a generation of children are traumatized to an extent we cannot yet even see. In Beit Hanoun, a town in the north of Gaza, the mayor says 70 percent of the homes are uninhabitable. From north to south—Rafah—there are ruins, and the power is out and so is the water. And what has been achieved? The answer is hate. Rage. Hamas was never popular in Gaza, but it was the core and center of resistance to the Israeli assault, and now it is overwhelmingly popular.

If you have seen the Hamas Charter from 1988, you know it's bitter and fairly crazy. But that charter isn't actually awfully significant in the Palestinian scheme of things; it's not taken awfully seriously. Even Hamas has stated and restated its position: it's willing to attempt to live side-by-side with Israel and consider recognizing its legitimacy after awhile. Has Israel shown a willingness to recognize a Palestinian state? Well, consider the Likud charter. Likud, the party of Prime Minister Netanyahu. Its charter makes clear that no Palestinian state must ever be permitted to exist.

There is something wrong with American media reporting from the middle east. There is something very wrong with American politics when it comes to the middle east. And there is Hillary Clinton, declaring Israel's "right to defend itself," taking her stand with Israel in this conflict. (This is the same Hillary Clinton who supported the invasion of Iraq.) President Obama and virtually the whole of the American political establishment has towed the same line. Intentionally blind to the occupation, the expanding settlements, the expansion of Jerusalem, the atomization or compartmentlization of Gazan territory so it isn't continguous, travel in or out forbidden, Gaza blockaded. Would I vote for Hamas? No. I don't like them. But what other can the Palestinian people do than resist? Israel says it wants "quiet." Leave the occupation, the blockade, the limitations on travel, the blockading of the Gazan coast, and be quiet. Keep the restrictions on basic supplies, building materials, even medicine—in place. Keep the carefully-engineered limitations on the number of calories a Gazan gets to live on. Do we really want to live with that? Why do we supply one side with an Iron Dome to protect itself from the other side's pathetic, primitive rockets—and not protect the other side from Israel's highly sophisticated missiles and F-16s? There's a fundamental insanity here, and American might ought not to be undergirding it.

 
       
5 August 2014   So what has the Israeli war on Gaza accomplished? I'd said it would be hard to come up with a stupider strategy than Hamas' missiles; that Hamas isn't highly regarded among Palestinians. Out of 1.8 million Palestinians, only 15,000 belong to Hamas. They voted for Hamas, in Gaza, because Hamas represents resistance, and while they're still alive, they've got to resist. But their ugly, crazy charter hardly speaks for most Palestinians.
But now throngs of Palestinians who had had no sympathy for Hamas support it strongly, after what they have been through, after so many deaths to those they held dear, so much grave injury, so much loss of homes, businesses, and public space, so much terror. To them it seemed that nobody else was doing anything at all to defend them. What has been achieved—far beyond anything else—is hate. Bitter hatred of Israel. Hate that Israel and the world are now going to have to contend with. And that is supreme stupidity.
 
       
3 July 2014  

For many, it's terribly hard to stand up for Palestinians when it's all about Hamas. Hamas is a fanatical Islamic fundamentalism fundamentally antithetical to any kind of pluralism or secularism. Its absolutism sees human existence as warfare, requiring the eradication of the "other," and especially the Jewish other, who is the enemy. On the other side, a Zionist fundamentalism has no room for a Palestinian state and seems quite comfortable with its contempt for Palestinians. This contest of fundamentalisms will never lead to any resolution. Hamas' pathetic rockets rarely penetrate Israel's (U.S.-funded) Iron Dome, and the contrast with Israel's armaments is stark, but they're enough to arouse real fear in Israel, and afford Israel with justification for its treatment of Gaza and Palestinians. It would be hard to come up with a stupider strategy. Yet what would it take to get the world's attention honorably? Palestine badly needs an answer. Out of 1.8 million Palestinians, only 15,000 belong to Hamas. But it's Hamas that has the world's attention.

So today Israel launched a deadly attack on yet another UN school where thousands of Gazans have been taking refuge. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon denounced it as a "moral outrage" and a "criminal act." It's clear that Israel was very aware of the school and the 3,000 finding refuge there. At least 10 are dead, many injured. The world is condemning this madness—with the exception one nation, ours, which continues to resupply Israel with ammunition, even now. Americans have got to learn to see Palestine, not just Hamas. But they voted for Hamas, someone says. Sure, in Gaza, they did. Because Hamas represents resistance, and while they're still alive, they've got to resist. Unfortunately, Hamas has it all wrong, and their ugly, crazy charter hardly speaks for most Palestinians.

A most refreshing break: this morning at Channing, an utterly beautiful worship experience with the music, movement, words, and joyous spirit of Christopher and Katherine Carbone. I was in tears for gratitude. And gratitude, too, for my joyous companion Thunder, who keeps me laughing.

Mr Thunder

 
       
30 July 2014   Israel shells another UN school and busy Shejaiya market, killing at least 35 and injuring hundreds more, but 89% of Israelis, living in fear of Hamas rockets, support the bombardment. Palestinians need a better way to get the world's attention.  
       
29 July 2014  

Israel has for the past seven years turned Gaza into a prison camp; yet claims the jailor's "right to defend itself" against its inmates. It controls the movement of persons and goods in and out of Gaza, limiting the entry of foodstuffs and other essentials. It has occupied the Palestinian territory for nearly fifty years and unceasingly acts to reenforce its occupation through its insatiable appetite for Palestinian land and continued expansion of the settlements. It does not negotiate in good faith, having no intention to allow a Palestinian state to come into existence, or to recognize such a state.
Israel has employed several tactics: physically fragmenting the Palestinians, restricting their movement, limiting their ability to import necessities like food, assassinating their leaders, and carrying on a series of "negotiations" while determined never to allow a Palestinian state.
When Palestinians managed to patch up their differences and establish a unity government, President Netanyahu's strategy of keeping Palestinians divided suffered a setback, and he seized on the June 12 disappearance of three young Israelis in the West Bank. Despite the absence of any evidence linking that crime to Hamas, he used it to whip up anti-Palestinian demagogy that led to the abduction and burning alive of a Palestinian teenager—and to whip up what has become a military rampage. There were killings and mass arrests, and looting and demolition of houses. Hamas rockets began to fly toward Israel's Iron Dome, and some got through.
In the past I tried to believe Israel's protestations that it only wants a just resolution; this ruse is credible now only to the most severely self-deluded. Foolishly, Hamas rockets now give Israel cover, and Israel is making the most of it. So Hamas has primitive rockets which it launches to destinations unknown. And it has an intricate system of painstakingly built tunnels. (I don't admire Hamas' attitude or its violence, but I have to ask, what would you do, given the circumstances in which Palestinians must live, when you know the "negotiations" are meaningless?) Meanwhile Israel has the most advanced American weapons with high-precision guidance—and that Iron Dome. The Palestinians have none of that. So if the tunnels and the crude missiles have to go, do not also the highly sophisticated Israeli weapons? Weapons that are daily obliterating helpless Palestinians, eighty percent of whom are civilians, most of whom are women and children, and most of whom have no involvement with Hamas. One can only cite numbers while aware they'll have climbed before they're typed. I see 56 Israeli deaths, mostly military, and I see 1,221 Palestinian deaths, eighty percent civilian. I see 3,289 targets in Gaza struck by Israel.
Israel doesn't care. Even if the strike at the largest hospital in Gaza was an errant Hamas missile, Israel has struck two other Palestinian hospitals, killing and maiming many. It has destroyed Gaza's only power plant. It has left Palestinian people no place of safety.
Israel must be stopped, and American political leaders have got to halt their kneejerk repetition of Israel's self-righteous and delusional rhetoric, abandon its role as Israel's sole international apologist.

 
       
16 May 2014   Just watched Thom Hartmann's excellent Tedx Talk on money in politics, vanished laws we once had to protect our democracy from it, how corporations got to be people, and what we've got to do next: http://bit.ly/1qJShWP  
       
8 May 2014   We thought the Cold War was over. Ukrainians, yearning for qualities Europe and America represent (and often fail to embody)—equality, democracy, freedom from domination and corrupt oligarchs—finally overthrew the Yanukovich government. And Vladimir Putin showed his Stalinist instincts. In a kind of replay of the old Lenin-Stalin struggle, Lenin's values of equality and self-determination have vanished, and so have images of Lenin. Now, Stalin is everywhere. Where Lenin wanted self-determination for the republics, Stalin wanted the government of Soviet Russia to be the government of them all, without transparency, but lots of secrecy. He uses propaganda to attribute fascist intentions to Ukraine, but fascism, tribalism, antisemitism—all these are in abundant supply in his Russia, and among those now disrupting eastern Ukraine. Europe's far-right fascists in France, Italy, Hungary, and Serbia enthusiastically support Russia in the Ukrainian crisis. Of course, the conflict isn't that simple. Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs are powerful factors in what's happening. Just as powerful as are oligarchs in America. The ideals for which heroic Ukrainians yearn aren't well or consistently embodied in Europe or America. But I think Ukrainians know that. They aren't blind to the religious fundamentalism, the fascism, the oligarchs, the tribalism on both sides. They want something better.  
       
28 April 2014   I don't use this Blog to gripe about Type I Diabetes. Usually. So Thursday night I'm running an open session to introduce the central ideas from my recent Transformative Congregation Study Group to a wider segment of the congregation. I start with a carefully-arranged slideshow and convincingly-put introduction (IMHO). Then I'm going to moderate the conversation, using good questions, summary statements, focussing, moving the theme forward. But no. Hypoglycemia suddenly leaves me not quite following what follows, and silent. Phooie. Then this morning, hallucinations. I think I'm stuck in this other realm that I cannot get out of except by some extremely intricate maneuvers involving the buttons on my internet radio, which I cannot quite figure out. Thunder stays patiently with me. After awhile I'm aware that he is hungry and think there is nothing I can do about it. I stumble downstairs (have no balance when this happens) by leaning against the wall, look at the OJ in the fridge, but don't know what to do and stumble back upstairs. Then see hungry Thunder again and stumble back down and, thinking I must feed him, drink some orange juice so I'll be able to feed him. And then I come back into this universe and I'm okay and we go for a fine walk and he gets breakfast. There, I've said it. Meh.  
       
27 April 2014   Meanwhile, and ironically — the church I grew up in — The Presbyterian Church of Toms River, NJ — is withdrawing from the United Presbyterian Church in the US because the PCTR is that adamant about not embracing GLBT people, and because the UPCUS is prepared now to ordain GLBT ministers. Their Session (governing board) is doing it without a vote of their 2,500 members. Astonishing. And a very stupid move, guaranteed to split the congregation. My sister, now a Quaker, wrote a beautiful, impassioned letter to the Session in protest. The former minister's two sons did, too — sent to all 2,500 members.  
       
26 April 2014  

Last night (Friday), Channing Memorial Church hosted its fifth Born This Way Prom for GLBT youth in the region. For the first time, it was held at Newport's Eastons Beach Rotunda and Carousel, with carousel running. It was a joyous event, and kids from RI Pride Youth, and from the Alliance at Salve Regina University, and many others turned out. There are some great photos and videos. This year we had help and co-sponsorship from NewportOut! and Options, Providence's GLBT monthly. I remember high school. No Prom for us! You couldn't have convinced me that this much change could have happened in fifty years! There are still too many places where this Prom could not have happened. Where, if you attended it, it could cost you your life. But look at this!

Here's a video Bill Peresta shot: pic.twitter.com/J6rOmi20KN

And some photos:

CarouselPam Goff, who made it happen!Bill & Rex at sign-in tableNancy & Rex getting readyFood tableDancingTables

 
       
23 April 2014  

Been kinda busy lately, partly owing to my new housemate. Adopted him from The Potter League for Animals, a couple of miles from home. He's a year old and superb company. I seem to have gotten awfully fond of him in two weeks' time. He likes the beach. He's a little over a year old. Meet Thunder!

Thunder!

 
       
1 April 2014  

But I'm not fooling. If you don't want to help the Koch brothers fund far-right, antienvironmental, anti-progressive crusades, here are their industries — and the stuff not to buy. List thanks to Daily Kos.

Koch Industry Gasoline:
Chevron
Union
Union 76
Conoco

Koch Industry/Invista Products:
COMFOREL® fiberfill
COOLMAX® fabric
CORDURA® fabric
DACRON® fiber
POLYSHIELD® resin
SOLARMAX® fabric
SOMERELLE® bedding products
STAINMASTER® carpet
SUPPLEX® fabric
TACTEL® fiber
TACTESSE® carpet fiber
TERATE® polyols
TERATHANE® polyether glycol
THERMOLITE® fabric
PHENREZ® resin
POLARGUARD® fiber and
LYCRA® fiber

Koch Industry/Georgia-Pacific Products:
Angel Soft toilet paper
Brawny paper towels
Dixie plates, bowls, napkins and cups
Mardi Gras napkins and towels
Quilted Northern toilet paper
Soft ‘n Gentle toilet paper
Sparkle napkins
Vanity fair napkins
Zee napkins

Georgia Pacific Building products:
Dense Armor Drywall and Decking
ToughArmor Gypsum board
Georgia pacific Plytanium Plywood
Flexrock
Densglass sheathing
G/P Industrial plasters (some products used by a lot of crafters)-
Agricultural Plaster
Arts & Crafts Plaster
Dental Plaster
General Purpose Plaster
Glass-reinforced Gypsum (GRG),etc.

 
       
29 March 2014   It's now Saturday in the United Kingdom, where, as midnight, same-sex marriage is reality in England and Wales! Scotland voted last month to implement same-sex marriage as of next October. Unitarians in Britain have been campaigning for it. Liberal and Reform Judaism, and the Quakers, supported it too. And despite Anglican resistance, the Bishop of Salisbury announced his support (even after prohibiting Anglican clergy from officiating).  
       
28 March 2014  

More on the Senate (see 25 March, below): There's a second Senator Udall running for reëlection — Mark Udall, in Colorado. And a great progressive, Jeff Merkley, is up for reëlection in Oregon, and well ahead. My own senior senator, the very effective Jack Reed, faces a very weak conservative Republican here in Rhode Island.

Less inspiring, but holding the Senate means winning enough of these: In Kentucky, there's the seat currently held by senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He's being primaried by an even more extreme teapartier, and he's quite unpopular. The Democrat is Secretary of State Allison Grimes. Sadly, she's pro-coal, this being Kentucky. But she's doing very well in the polls and could win. In Georgia, far-right Republican Saxby Chambliss is retiring. Two Democrats are running in a May 20 primary for the seat: the progressive Branko Radulovacki, and the fairly conservative daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, Michelle Nunn. She's way ahead. The Republican candidates appear weak (and nutty). In Mississippi, Republican Senator Thad Cochran is being primaried by a neo-confederate lunatic who may win the nomination, which would give the Democrat, Travis Childers, a decent chance. Another conservative, but still a substantial improvement over either Republican. In ever-redder West Virginia, Sen. Jay Rockefeller is retiring, and the Democratic candidate is Natalie Tennant. Hard to be enthusiastic about a candidate who opposes any "misguided efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will destroy our coal industry" but the alternative is worse. Still, I'll save my campaign contributions for candidates who acknowledge that we face climate catastrophe if we keep burning fossil fuels, especially that one. In Montana, John Walsh is running for the seat being vacated by Max Baucus. Is he any better than Baucus? No. He's pro-coal, and "As a proud gun owner and sportsman I am a strong supporter of the second amendment and will stand up for Montanans’ right to bear arms." Meh.

On the other hand, a few of these conservative Dems are supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act even though they represent (in order) Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Alaska. These four, also running for reëlection in these conservative states, may face some attacks for their support. They are: Senators Claire McCaskill, Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu, and Mark Begich.

 
       
27 March 2014   The sad mystery of the missing airliner has gone on now for nineteen days. For awhile, the Malaysian government tried to pin the blame on the pilots, sullying their reputations with suggestions the disappearance was deliberate. But then, the pilot was a supporter of an opposition party and advocate for greater democracy in Malaysia. And this is a rather nasty government whose prime minister punished a political opponent by convicting him of "homosexual acts." I have felt, since shortly after the incident, that something — like the combustion of those lithium ion batteries in the cargo hold, leaving everybody on board unconscious or dead — left the pilots very little time (lithium ion battery technology is still imperfect and they're prone to smouldering and burning, which releases very deadly fumes). They would have strapped on their oxygen masks (the ones that drop down for passengers don't last very long) and done whatever they could until they could do no more — turn the plan toward the airport, and begin descent. It appears the 777's guidance systems took over before the pilots could finish, and the plane flew on, at a relatively low altitude and fairly high speed, until it ran out of fuel over the Indian Ocean. I have wondered why the press, and officials too, have dismissed the report of the engineer on an oil rig under the flight's normal route. He would watch Flight 370 every night, but this night, there was a small fire on the plane, which burned out as he watched. Being an engineer, his report was very specific and cited coordinates. There are apparent contradictions that can't be resolved until we have the data recorder. And that, to me, seems pretty improbable. 777s come equipped with equipment that tracks the plane's location constantly, but you have to pay for the tracking service, and Malaysian Airlines seems to be the only airline in the world that thought that service would be a swell place to save money. Maybe the new search area is right, who knows? The current there will not move debris very far. It's at the center of a powerful circular current that would have transported it far from the crash site by now. On the other hand, this central "eye" of the big currents collects a lot of junk, and it may be that none of it comes from Flight 370. I cannot imagine what it's like out there in the wind and waves and ice, trying to find any of what the satellite images show floating there as winter settles in to the southern hemisphere. And horrible for the families and friends of those lost.  
       
25 March 2014  

The United States Senate must not fall to the Teapublicans. Must not. Must not. Be allowed. To fall.

So it's campaign contribution season. Cannot keep up with the Koch Brothers but I have to do what I can, and so do you. So I'll keep you up to date on who I'm supporting. First, there are Senators Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire and Kay Hagan in North Carolina. And an extraordinary progressive candidate in Michigan — U.S. Rep. Gary Peters. The RNC is unleashing buckets of money to unseat Sen. Al Franken in Minnesota. They're also targetting Sen. Tom Udall in New Mexico. Our own fine senators here in Rhode Island and in Massachusetts, Jack Reed and Ed Markey, are in no real danger, but we cannot lose them. Really wanna see Senate Majority Leader McConnell (shudder)? More to come.

Re: the last entry. Yep, I still miss him. Always will, I'm sure.

 
       
22 January 2014  

Today, once they cleared the snow from my little street, I headed to Holyoke to say farewell to the best and dearest of friends. Mr Scooby (who’s lived with Steve in Holyoke since I sold the Westhampton place and came to Newport) is 14 — like, 100 in human years. His life is ebbing away quickly. He’s been blind for a couple of years but otherwise doing sensationally well until last summer. He’s been sheer joy for these 12 years that he’s been part of my life. Dr Watkins will relieve Scooby of his pain, and confusion, and sickness. And we will feel an enormous void. I'm here now, snuggling with this miraculous creature who has filled so many days with beauty and delight.

Scooby, at Westhampton

And here he is with Steve —

Steve & Scoooby at Westhampton

 
       
1 January 2014  

A warm New Year's greeting from my home to yours!

New Year hearth at 4 Johnson Terrace

And this, at the threshold of 2014: advancing science informs us that we stand at the threshold, too, of either a splendid new order, or cataclysm. A new insight: fewer clouds in a warmer world mean even more warming, and the choice is ours today. This very day, because there can be no more waiting. Look here. Please.

 
       
29 December 2014   Had a nice Christmas visit here with sister Pat from the Jersey Shore and brother Tim from Berkeley. We took a ride on what remains of the Old Colony & Newport Railway. Used to go 12 miles to the northern tip of Portsmouth and over a bridge into Fall River, and on to Boston. Now the creaky wooden cars go four miles, through and just beyond the Navy base, but a couple of engaging guides gave us a lot of history.Pat & Tim on the Old Colony  
       
14 December 2013   Today, spoke on the first anniversary of the horrors at Newtown, and what it requires of us. You can read my remarks here. Good crowd for a frigid (17˚ F) Saturday morning on the steps of Channing Memorial Church.  
       
5 December 2013   Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013Today a great light has gone out of our lives. Yet still it may shine in us, in our vision, our courage, our love, and illumine the world forever.  
       
3 December 2013  

A letter today to John Boehner:

Speaker Boehner:
Your failure to allow a vote on immigration reform is pathetic, indefensible, repulsive, cowardly, and deeply immoral.

Very sincerely yours, &tc.

 
       
17 November 2013  

After a deeply wonderful, heartening Sunday morning, I heard the news of the death of Doris Lessing. Her writing wasn't elegant, but it affected me greatly and I find myself quoting her. I felt the need to say the Mourner's Kaddish. Maybe because of the way it washes over me, like Doris Lessing's writing.

Which leaves me with — well, something like what Lessing is talking about here:

Your saying what you did that night began a remarkable process in me and this coincided with a similar process in a close friend of mine — and as we are beginning to see, in more than one of the people closest to us. Did some of them go away feeling as if they had been infused with a new sort of intelligence?

I was as if stung awake. I did not sleep. And I sat by the window that night and I thought: Don't let it go, don't forget it. Something extraordinary did happen. . . . I remembered things I had forgotten for years. Before those "prison shades" had come down. Before the trap had shut.

I was possessed with a low simmering fear that I would forget again, let go — but I was remembering.

 
       
2 November 2013  

Our news media don'jt like to talk much about the religious lives of political leaders. Think it's somehow inappropriate. There's something we'd better understand about Ted Cruz.

And it's that he's a Dominionist, son of a Dominionist preacher, Rafael Cruz. Who's described as a "Dallas-area pastor." Who has no theological training and has no church. But what he is, is a figure in the New Apostolic Reformation.

You should be asking, "what's a Dominionist? what's the New Apostolic Reformation?" Unless, of course, you know.

Let me get into this piece by piece. I first ran into the Dominionists in the 1960s, during my former life as a Pentecostal fundamentalist. I found them in Springfield, Missouri, where I'd betaken myself to study at an Assemblies of God Bible college. There was a small enclave of them, gathered in a house-church. They called themselves "apostolic." The idea: the age of the Apostles never ended. Of course, they boasted having apostles.

They were very, very obscure. Now, they are very, very big. And their beliefs have developed into the Dominionist variety of Pentecostalism. They run vast megachurches all over the world. They're governed loosely by a set of apostles. Their apostles and prophets have already announced God's preference that the United States be run by: Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry, and Ted Cruz (and in some cases already laid hands on them to ordain them to political power).

The old fundamentalist end-of-the-world scheme was Dispensationalism: a scheme (with a few variations) that proclaimed a Rapture event, when true believers would be lofted out of this dreadful world, followed by either three and a half or seven years, variously defined, of Tribulation, when Satan would be let loose on the world and everything goes to hell in a fiery handbasket. There's a moment when Jews are given another chance to convert, and then Jesus comes back and reigns with his saints, who finally get that delicious taste of power alongside their King Jesus. Well, some still hold to bits of that narrative, but mostly it's been replaced with this Dominionist schema:

Dominionists believe they're under divine orders to take over the world so that Jesus can come back and reign with them. Remember those sneaky stealth elections when candidates who appeared to be nice community members only interested in having the best schools possible — got elected to school boards and then turned out to be religious fanatics with a rather startling agenda? Now they're promoting their candidates as "Democrats"! They believe they must win by whatever means because that's what God demands. Dominionists powered Pat Robertson's presidential campaign. And the campaigns of Palin, Bachman, and Perry. I really thought they'd go farther, but neither Bachman nor Perry got terribly close to the Republican (of course) presidential nomination.

Oh, and the money bit. Their mission includes the transfer of wealth from the unbeliever and infidel to the Dominionists themselves. Notice anything you thought you might have been seeing?

Oh, and Israel. Not only must they talk the reigns of government, education, culture, finance, and all that before Jesus comes back. Israel must be restored to the glory and extensity of the kingdoms of David and Solomon. Never mind that scholars now doubt how big that was. Their ambitions are informed by premodern myth. So what looks like advocacy for Israel and friendship for Jews isn't quite that.

Now, does Ted Cruz make any more sense to you than he did? You may have wondered why his political moves look more like a putsch aimed at overthrowing the current government.

BTW, his dad is officially affiliated with something called Purifying Fire Ministries, which is headed by the wife, then ex-wife, and apparently now wife-again, of the scary TV evangelist Benny Hinn. (She is said to have left him after his torrid affair with some preacher-lady; he claims they're happily back together and blames the separation on her mental problems. At any rate, she hasn't kept her website up to date, and Cruz' name doesn't appear anywhere on it.) He's a Cuban who once supported Castro against the monster US-backed dictator Battista. He came to the US eventually and fell under the influence of born-again folks, and then Dominionists. He campaigns for his son and does some preaching; it's not awfully clear what else he does with the Dominionists.

There are thoroughgoing Dominionists, and there are fellow-travelers. The most prominent apostle is C. Peter Wagner, a Ph.D. former Fuller Theological Seminary professor who believes the reason Japan's economy is in such a mess is that the Emperor had an affair with the Sun-Goddess. I heard him tell Terry Gross that a couple of years ago — in a level, matter-of-fact sort of voice. Another biggie among the apostles is Kimberly Daniels, who last year got herself elected to the Jacksonville City Council as a Democrat. Talk about stealth.

Other outfits: the International Transformation Network (http://www.harvestevan.org/)
Charisma Magazine (http://www.charismamag.com/)
Peter Wagner's Global Spheres (http://globalspheres.org/)

So, Senator, tell us what you believe about the role of civil government vis a vis the "apostolic" church. And a few other matters. How about liberal Christians, Jews, atheists, holding office?

 
       
18 October 2013  

Received in today's mail: a retirement account statement from Metropolitan Life Insurance Company —

On June 26, 2013, in U.S. v. Windsor, Executor of the Estate of Spyer, et al, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. Accordingly, any Internal Revenue Code ("IRC") reference to "spouse" includes those persons who are married spouses under state law, regardless of sex. All contract provisions will be interpreted and administered in accordance with the requirements of the IRC.

The Teapublicans, meanwhile, continue to spew untruths about healthcare reform. Just heard Michelle Bachman assert that ACA will force people off commercial insurance and onto government coverage. Wish it were true. Surely she knows it isn't? How far from reality can one be carried by one's own ideology? Quite far. Meanwhile, the ACA website is a mess. And that's a big problem. The Daily Beast today points out that Obama's campaign site was brilliant, but the federal government's efforts are hobbled by some federal protocols and hiring-firing practices.

 
       
3 October 2013  

Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised. I wasn't entirely, but — this is more an outrage than I'd imagined. The New York Times today published a story headlined "Millions of Poor Are Left Uncovered by Health Law" reporting that two-thirds of poor black people and single mothers and more than half of low-wage workers who have no health insurance — the very people ACA is supposed to help — are being left out. And why? You know, of course. They live in states controlled by Teapublicans that have declined to participate in Obamacare's huge expansion of Medicaid. And those very states have treated their most vulnerable like crap all along. Here's the map:

Where the poor and uninsured live

 
       
3 October 2013  

Finally, after all this time in the yachting capitol of the East, on a perfect day (yesterday) — mid 80s in October! — I'm at the tiller of Dave Lussier's beautiful 32-foot cat. We reached a sailing speed of 18.4 knots! Here, we're off Beavertail Light, at the southwest extreme of Jamestown Island. Narragansett Bay is a grand place for sailing.

On Dave Lussier's cat off Beavertail Light

 
       
1 October 2013  

Just after midnight. Government shut down. Hardright teapulican putsch. Boehner, very small man, won't risk his speakership to do what's required. He who refused to appoint conference committee to negotiate with Dems, now, hour before shutdown, asks for conference committee. Desperation to prevent public discovering that ACA ("Obamacare") is quite a good thing. Which they will know if it's given a chance to function. Today, at least, the public gets to look at policies and prices, and controls kick in.

Maybe putsch is the wrong word. Putsch implies sudden. Teapubs have been dreaming of doing this, talking about it, promising it, for many months. But the 11th hour timing is genuinely putschlike, a move to overturn the government and take it over. See it this way, please. That's important.

ACA was a huge compromise for so many of us who wanted real public healthcare system like they have in civilized countries. So instead we get hybrid: commercial healthcare industry with public regulation and access to (somewhat) hold costs down and ensure you don't get denied coverage or get charged extra because you actually need it. But this massive compromise wasn't enough for teapubs.

I think this shutdown will be long-lasting. I cannot imagine what the fools in the House will come up with next but I cannot foresee any resolution.

This is the epic battle. It is not just another episode in the soap opera. Here will be determined who is in control of the government. Will it be Mr Cruz? No, no, but it will take a long time to resolve this and I cannot guess how that will be accomplished. Maybe Boehner will rise from his contorted posture.

 
       
25 September 2013   Well, now we've seen Ted Cruz' mad-dog marathon un-filibuster repeating every Republican argument to try, desperately, to prevent the Affordable Healthcare Act from taking effect. They've spent a fortune on TV ads, too (even on MSNBC). And why?

If they were certain of their arguments and meant them sincerely, it's very clear what they would do. They would let Obamacare take effect and be a catastrophe, and then they would proceed to make political hay out of it. And, when it turned out to be what they're saying it's going to be, they'd have plenty of broad national support to abolish it.

In fact, they're lying through their teeth and they know it. And they know they've got to stop it from happening so that the public never learns that they've been lied to when ACA turns out to benefit them in a very big way.

It ain't what I'd like to see. It isn't a publicly-owned national health system. It still relies on the greedy commercial health industry. Which is why it was a Republican proposal in the first place. But it imposes controls on that system, and negotiates policies and premiums with insurance companies that meet its requirements for care, coverage, and price.

So will the public remember the propaganda campaign of untruths, the ruses and shenanigans and crazy speeches, and send enough of these buffoons packing in the next election, and return a Democratic majority to the House? Maybe, if they go on to shut down the government. But the public pays so little attention that a rational outcome isn't assured.

 
       
22 September 2013   Dave & Larry, being married!Yesterday, a grand celebration. It was Newport's first legally-recognized same-sex marriage ceremony. I officiated with our Community Minister Rev Lark d'Helen at Channing Memorial. This, after 36 years' waiting for Larry and Dave. Their extended families came from far and wide, full of love and support. Dave's two nephews were best men; there were two 90ish flower girls. We've waited for this all our lives — but an uncounted multitude never lived to see this day. To us falls the honor of living through a change of age, an elevation of mind and spirit — and this day had to come, and will come for many others beyond our New England. If you haven't kept track, same-sex marriage became legal in Rhode Island on the first of August, after a 17-year struggle led by some gutsy legislators, some of them out, and led, too, by Marriage Equality RI. They did stupendous work this year. But you'll see more about that in earlier blog entries.Another one on the way out  
       
13 September 2013   Now Secretary Kerry negotiates with his Russian counterpart. The denied chemical weapons have been acknowledged and Monday we get the report of the UN inspectors. How likely is it that they will all be located, removed, and destroyed — when America's own chemical weapons haven't yet all been destroyed? But if that succeeds, it is still the case that something like 100,000 Syrians have been contemptuously massacred by their government, at least ninety-nine percent of them by non-chemical weapons — including napalm bombing. Now that a U.S. attack seems far less likely, the Syrian resistance is feeling scared and betrayed. A small comfort: this administration is proceeding carefully, waiting for actual facts instead of manufacturing them, engaging in diplomacy, willing to change course as the facts on the ground dictate. And holding out the possibility of a strike. I don't know what to hope for.  
       
13 September 2013  

Heartache. I wrote (below, with photos) of last October's devastation visited by Hurricane Sandy on my native Jersey Shore. So at the very end of this past August I spent some time there with my sister at her home in Island Heights. From the beach a couple of blocks from her house you see the Bay Bridge and Seaside Park and Heights, and, of course, we headed there. The boardwalk had been completely rebuilt. The south pier — Funtown — was still out, but the north Casino Pier was about two-thirds back, with crowds waiting to get on the brand-new high-tech high-thrill rides. The very outermost part, where the roller-coaster that wound up in the ocean had been, was still to be replaced, but the rest was there. I headed first for the southernmost of the Kohr's frozen custard stands. There are several of them along the boardwalk — Kohr's has been there for a hundred years, and Bruce Kohr still runs the company. I think I ingested three Kohr's cones this trip. We proceeded to the great old 1910 Dentzel carousel with its painted horses and Wurlitzer military band machine, near the Casino Pier, and found it in fine shape, and rode it.

So you probably saw the news today of the fire. It started at that very Kohr's and quickly spread through the tightly-packed shops and buildings with their tar roofs. I'd long wondered when such a disaster might come — one wondered why, say, metal roofs were not required in a place like that. Well, forty or fifty of the businesses are gone, and much of the boardwalk. Two sections were ripped away to stop the fire from moving northward; the second fire break worked.

A beautiful fifty year old carousel, painstakingly restored after Sandy ripped it up, was gutted. But not the 100-plus-year-old treasure to the north.

And the beaches are back, and last August, were looking marvelous. I have never seen the great Atlantic so beautiful and pure and radiant. But after just cleaning up, rebuilding and recovering, this blow must be beyond demoralizing.

 
       
5 September 2013  

More about Syria: It seems to me that the right approach to this is the United Nations: first, a vote in the Security Council, which will bring a Russian veto, and then, right away, to the General Assembly, where a sixty percent vote would override the Security Council. That could happen once the UN inspectors have reported (that could take two or three weeks). If you get the sixty percent, you'd have a united global community. If you don't, the answer has to be no intervention.

At the moment what we've got is the Obama Administration and France, pretty much alone. The French National Assembly will debate and vote, and the United States Congress will do the same. I don't think a Syrian military intervention can make it through either body.

Then what? At that point, should the President act anyway? A couple of considerations: 1) If he doesn't, the Republicans will ridicule him. 2) If he does, the Republicans will pillory him. 3) Outside that poisoned arena, the President's stature should not be diminished by his acceding to the unwillingness of the Congress, the public, the United Nations, and virtually every single nation to intervene in Syria. It would be tragic. And intervention would be tragic. No good news here.

The piece of the Administration's argument that seems the most dubious to me is the assertion that intervention could be limited and brief. I think that, the day after a "brief" intervention, we will find ourselves at war.

 
       
31 August 2013  

The world community stands aside impotently while the Syrian president orders the horrific deaths and inconceivable suffering of a large part of his country's population, and the destruction of Syria's cities. If you watch BBC News, you saw another horror — not nerve gas this time — when a Syrian fighter jet circled a community just looking for any gathering of people, and, seeing one — a bunch of kids coming out of a school — dispatched a rocket, with napalm. The BBC crew got there quickly and you saw people with horrible burns, twitching, screaming, staggering, dying. A British nurse was among the medical crew that quickly turned up. She was in tears. It was hard to watch, but it I had to witness this and not ignore it.

So what should the United States do? I don't know; not when the world community is paralyzed. I like what Ed Miliband, the Labour leader in the UK, was urging this week: take it to the Security Council, where intervention will be vetoed by Russia, and then take it, presumably the next day, to the General Assembly, and get a 60 percent vote. I'm glad Parliament heeded his plea to wait for the UN inspection team's report, but sorry the whole matter seems to have been dropped with the failure of Cameron's plan to intervene immediately.

So John Kerry makes a strong and useful statement, and the President advocates some kind of action (aimed at making Syria regret what it did, not at toppling Assad), and then asks for a Congressional debate and vote. Which is fine, and allows time for the UN inspectors to report (maybe). Except for this: Speaker Boehner tells us he'll conduct the debate and vote sometime after the House's normal date to reconvene, September 9! Simply perpetuating the House's pattern of obstructive uselessness. I wrote to him suggesting he might try making like he gives a damn and call the House back into session on the Monday holiday. Incredible.

The question of what a military attack would accomplish requires an answer. The Syrian opposition (and lots of other Syrians) can only hope that the proposed attack would seriously degrade Assad's military capacities, enough to save them from some of what they're undergoing now. But nobody knows. What if the Syria responds with something ugly? More attacks on its people? An attack on neighboring Israel? To say you're just going to attack somebody, just for a couple of days, then walk away, is a pretty dodgy proposition: once you attack them, you're at war with them, aren't you? So the world would have to hope, devoutly, that no significant response would come from the Syrians.

The mother of all sticky wickets, eh? If only the world community had, by now, figured out how to police itself.

 
       
22 August 2013   Horrific news from Syria. The regime has apparently unleased chemical weapons attacks in the Ghouta area of the capital, Damascus. Hundreds of people died; we saw large numbers of people suffering terribly with convulsions and other classic affects of chemical warfare. The stories on tonight's BBC news reduced me to tears. But what's of utmost urgency now is to get chemical warfare experts into the district now to determine the facts, something Syria is refusing. So the matter went to the United Nations, where Russia vetoed a vote to require access. If Bashar al-Assad gets away with this, no one can doubt that he will escalate the barbarism. I think somebody — a coalition of nations? — has got to go to Damascus and do it now. Let the delegation be led by the Secretary General, or the President, or some major world figure. Could Syria stop such an expedition? It would be dangerous. Somebody important could lose his/her life. If that happens, the Assad government is cooked. But it would be a costly act. Is there an alternative?  
       
22 August 2013   And today I may correct yesterday's post just a bit: Chelsea Manning. Important to get someone's name right! The anguish of these days might be brightened considerably for her if our government chooses to do the right thing and provide her with the hormone therapy and surgery.  
       
21 August 2013  

Herewith, a letter to the President:

My dear Mr President:

Though I voted for you twice, I am deeply disturbed at your embrace of Bush-era government secrecy, "anti-terrorism" excesses, intelligence-gathering overreach, invasion our privacy, and intimidation of journalists (as if journalism were terrorism, particularly when journalists expose government lies and wrongdoing).

I am particularly disconsolate over the treatment of the whistle-blowers Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden. No one has ever received a sentence for leaking information to the media even approximating the thirty-five years Bradley Manning got.

You must know that many Americans, like myself, are grateful to both of these for getting into our hands vital information about our nation's wrongdoing — information our government was withholding from us, lying to us about.

The truth is that nobody has been prosecuted for these wrongdoings. Indeed, even Bush Administration officials were not prosecuted for fabricating a case for a catastrophic war.

Yet now the messengers are sought and punished. And I am, frankly, deeply worried for the future of this country.

What Pfc. Manning deserves is freedom, and apology for the torture he suffered. And if you don't consider what he underwent torture, I guess I don't understand you at all.

You have an opportunity to restore some justice, and recover the confidence of many of us, by honoring his request for a pardon, now that the courtroom-and-media drama has been played out. Whatever point there was to make has been made. Please do not disappoint us again.

I understand that our nation faces real perils. I know that you are constantly learning of new threats. I understand that all of this weighs heavily upon you, and that the pressures you face are greater than I can imagine. But these two Americans are not the enemy. And if, in what they have done out of sense of duty, they have made mistakes, even bad ones, no good purpose is served by treating them as foes of American freedom and security.

The apparatus of our response to the threats we face, and to terrorism, has deep pockets of corruption. The best protection we have is a free press and the free exchange of vital information. That's what these two have tried to give to a public that really cannot survive and flourish without it.

 
       
28 July 2013  

Alright, that does it. Google's held a big fundraiser for maniac climate change denier James Inhofe (R-OK). Not to speak of antigay bigot. Now, several of the heroic climate scientists who've been personally attacked by Inhofe are responding. And environmentalists and others. He's got a long record of attacking climate science on behalf of carbon polluters and contemptuously belittling the most urgent issue of our time. Paraticularly egregious is his McCarthyite witch hunt, the "Climategate" smear campaign. He recommended the criminal investigation of 17 of the world's top climatologists based on deliberate misinterpretations of their hacked emails. Even though repeated investigations found that Inhofe's charges of fraud and misconduct were baseless, he has continued to promote such claims on the Senate floor. He has stood in the way of climate progress.

So that's it for Google. I just switched my browser's default search engine to Bing.

 
       
7 July 2013  

It's summer break for me, and how gratifying to turn up at Channing this morning and, rather than preaching, hear one of the more vital messages I think was likely heard anywhere on the planet this morning! In the tenth chapter of my book, about the climate emergency we face, I mentioned thorium — the astoundingly little known non-uranium nuclear energy source that could safely and fairly cheaply supply all the energy the world needs without emitting any carbon at all. It can't make weapons, either. And it turns out that Channing member and scientist Mike Armenia has been promoting thorium reactors, too. Except that he knows a whole lot more about the technology, and the politics, than I do. He's now engaging Senator Whitehouse — one of the best voices in Washington on climate and green tech — in a conversation about thorium. America's thorium program was halted by the public's fear of anything "nuclear" in the wake of Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl, and a popular movie about that time, and now the Obama Administration has given all this US-developed technology to China. And China is developing it. (If we couldn't sell the country on thorium energy as a new economic engine for America, maybe we can save life on the planet by giving it to somebody who'll make something of it.)

So here's Mike this morning, telling the story of some great humanist scientists, particularly Alvin Weinberg, developing thorium as the energy source that can literally save planetary life and power a pretty darned good future. So long as you don't count all the lives, and cities, that will be lost to the climate disaster we've already set in motion and can't reverse. But it can be a whole lot worse if we continue to neglect the Thorium Molten Salt Reactor.

Don't tell me you aren't likely to get around to listening to this. Listen to this, already. Click where it says "Listen to this already," already, and listen.

 
       
7 July 2013  

Terrific analysis of the big news from the Supreme Court in The New Yorker that just arrived (the July 8 & 15 issue). Justice Kennedy's powerful opinions on behalf of the majority "is a pleasure, even a thrill, to read," writes Jeffrey Toobin. The same Justice Kennedy who "has a blind spot when it comes to race" and in the decision to gut the Voting Rights Act "reflects the less salutary aspects of the Reagan legacy as well. . ." and sided with Roberts, Scalia, Alito and Thomas. Toobin reminds us that the Windsor case, and the Prop 8 case, have their roots in the 1986 midterm elections that finally won back the Senate after Ronald Reagan won the Presidency and had met with little vocal opposition (except, as I well remember, from Senator Edward M. Kennedy). So then, when Reagan nominated Robert Bork to the Court, there was serious pushback. Now Joe Biden was chair of the Judiciary Committee, and led by Biden the Democrats defeated Bork's nomination. Reagan had to choose somebody else: Anthony M. Kennedy. Kennedy also wrote the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case, ending criminal prosecution for consensual sex, and the 1996 Romer v. Evans majority opinion invalidated a Colorado law that preëmptively barred any attempt to protect the rights of gay people.

DOMA was a truly ugly piece of legislation. A popular President Clinton signed it, cravenly, I think, and when he ran for reëlection, I wrote in Barney Frank rather than vote for him again. (Of course, I lived in Massachusetts; had I been voting in a state where the outcome was less certain, I wouldn't have had that luxury.)

So the 1986 midterm made a massive difference, and so did the 2008 and 2012 Obama victories. If Kennedy retires within the next three years it will be Obama who names his replacement, and we can hope for a more reliably enlightened Court, one that won't give us another Voting Rights Act disgrace. Yet still, American voters unwilling to pay attention, think, and otherwise to attend to the responsibilities of citizenship, send to the House, and Senate, and too many state houses, hacks and demagogues and fools who have been making this country into something I'd abandon in a flash if I could.

We've got a way to go: the Court wasn't prepared to go all the way and require marriage equality nationwide, as it extended the right to interracial marriage nationwide in Loving v. Virginia in 1967. Which means it matters who is going to be on the Court in the years to come.

Here's Justice Kennedy's Windsor majority opinion.

 
       
6 July 2013  

Fourth of July weekend company!

Scooby & Steve on Johnson Terrace

 
       
12 June 2013   Last week I concluded "The Transcendentalisst Spirit and an Evolutionary Spirituality" — five Tuesday evenings and a Saturday — with a terrific group of folks, mostly (but not entirely) from Channing Church. It gets better every time I do it. Lectures, projected images, videos, and great discussions. But this time I've got it all online — audios of the sessions, the video images, the printed items. You can access it here.  
       
13 May 2013  

Today, pending the governor's promised signature on the bill, Minnesota becomes the 12th state to recognize same-sex marriage. Which makes it the third state in just eleven days to do so. It's the first midwestern state to do so legislatively.

But our own Rhode Island led the 11-day surge. I was there the day the Senate — which had long been the barricade against equality — voted. Senate President Paiva-Weed had promised us that the bill would be allowed to come to a vote. We expected something razor-thin, not sure we wouldn't lose. Then came the speeches, one senator after another professing their love and loyalty to the Catholic church but going on to say — in the words of one of them — that devout Catholics as they were, it was time to "stand on the side of love." Governor Chafee was on hand to greet everyone.

While a crowd of hispanic evangelicals massed under the dome sang loudly, as though the tide of history could be held back by really loud singing, the Senate voted 26-12 in our favor. A happy day indeed, the 24th of April. The following Thursday saw a final House vote to add a small Senate amendment, then Governor Chafee held a huge outdoor signing, followed by a party. It would have meant so much to be there, but it was budget meeting night, and rather a grim budget at that. Then there was Delaware, and now Minnesota, which means 56 million Americans will be covered by marriage equality when these laws kick in (ours on 1 August).

Some dying gasps of a dying order must be noted. Quoth Bishop Tobin, "I am profoundly disappointed that Rhode Island has approved legislation that seeks to legitimize 'same-sex marriage.' The Catholic Church has fought very hard to oppose this immoral and unnecessary proposition." And the law's passage "does not mean that we are free to endorse or ignore immoral or destructive behavior, whenever or however it occurs." And "it is important to affirm the teaching of the Church, based on God's word, that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered," (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2357) and always sinful. And because 'same-sex marriages' are clearly contrary to God's plan for the human family, and therefore objectively sinful, Catholics should examine their consciences very carefully before deciding whether or not to endorse same-sex relationships or attend same-sex ceremonies, realizing that to do so might harm their relationship with God and cause significant scandal to others." Lines from old Joe Ratzinger, who laid down the law with lots more archaic rhetoric like that.

 
       
17 April 2013  

A day of infamy and betrayal, and I am deeply ashamed to be an American today.

Nine votes were taken in the Senate today, on whether even to allow a vote on each of nine gun-related bills. Almost all won a healthy majority vote, but not a single one of them got the requisite sixty votes to surmount filibuster. So what the hell? Two hundred seventy Americans can go on being shot every day, every single day. Forty-five Senators, showing themselves as small as it is possible for a human being to be, care more about the profits, and favor, of gun manufacturers, and the approval of the NRA. There was a time when they could have believed there was something good, something defensible, about their vote. That time is past.

Patricia Maisch, the heroic woman who grabbed the assault rifle from the killer at the mass shooting in Tucson in 2011, spoke for many in the country when she shouted from the Senate gallery: "Shame on you."

This is what former Representative Gabby Giffords, who took a bullet in her head that day, said in Wednesday's New York Times:

Speaking is physically difficult for me. But my feelings are clear: I'm furious. I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We are trying to keep your children safe. We cannot allow the status quo — desperately protected by the gun lobby so that they can make more money by spreading fear and misinformation — to go on.

I am asking every reasonable American to help me tell the truth about the cowardice these senators demonstrated. I am asking for mothers to stop these lawmakers at the grocery store and tell them: You've lost my vote. I am asking activists to unsubscribe from these senators' e-mail lists and to stop giving them money. I'm asking citizens to go to their offices and say: You've disappointed me, and there will be consequences.

Here's some of what happened:

The Lautenberg-Blumenthal amendment would have imposed a limit of 10 rounds in ammunition magazines. Defeated 46-54

The assault weapons ban introduced by Senator Feinstein went down in flames 40-60. It was similar to the ban passed in 1994 that expired a decade later, and would have prohibited the manufacture, sale and importation of semi-automatic military-style assault weapons. It would have excluded from the ban 2,258 specifically named rifles as well as shotguns. It would have limited the capacity of gun magazines to 10 rounds each.

The Leahy-Collins amendment that would have imposed tougher penalties on gun trafficking and for straw purchasers (those who buy guns for individuals barred from legally owning firearms) failed 58-42.

Even the watered-down Manchin-Toomey amendment to extend background checks on guy buyers to some private sales failed to reach the required sixty votes: the vote was 54-46.

I admire the resolve of gun control advocates. They insisted that they are not going away, they will not allow this effort to fail. That we will prevail, even if not today. I am not so sure. The watered-down background check bill was opposed by only eight percent of the public. It had at least ninety percent support. Yet it couldn't even get a vote.

Gabby Giffords knows what it is that will spell the difference, that will bring to reality the promise that we will indeed prevail. It's right there in that excerpt from her op-ed column. The Senators named below must never be reëlected. Wherever they go, they must be confronted by disgusted citizens, whether they live in their state or not. They must know America's anger. I am writing to some of these pathetic "leaders," and I hope you will. To wit:

Lamar Alexander (R) TN, Kelly Ayotte (R) NH, John Barrasso (R) WY, Max Baucus (D) MT, Mark Begich (D) AK, Roy Blunt (R) MO, John Boozman (R) AR, Richard M. Burr (R) NC, Saxby Chambliss (R) GA, Daniel Coats (R) IN, Tom Coburn (R) OK, Thad Cochran (R) MS, Bob Corker (R) TN, John Cornyn (R) TX, Michael D. Crapo (R) ID, Ted Cruz (R) TX, Michael B. Enzi (R) WY, Deb Fischer (R) NE, Jeff Flake (R) AZ, Lindsey Graham (R) SC, Charles E. Grassley (R) IA, Orrin G. Hatch (R) UT, Heidi Heitkamp (D) ND, Dean Heller (R) NV, John Hoeven (R) ND, James M. Inhofe (R) OK, Johnny Isakson (R) GA, Mike Johanns (R) NE, Ron Johnson (R) WI, Mike Lee (R) UT, Mitch McConnell (R), KY, Jerry Moran (R) KS, Lisa Murkowski (R) AK, Rand Paul (R) KY, Rob Portman (R) OH, Mark Pryor (D) AR, Jim Risch (R) ID, Pat Roberts (R) KS, Marco Rubio (R) FL, Tim Scott (R) SC, Jeff Sessions (R) AL, Richard C. Shelby (R) AL, John Thune (R) SD, David Vitter (R) LA, Roger Wicker (R) MS.

Remember their cowardice, their betrayal of our common humanity, of simple decency. And ensure, to the extent of your power to do so, that none of them ever sits in the United States Senate again following their next election.

 
       
6 April 2013   Wowie zowie. I've just read the first eighty pages of a book that has had me exhilarated, enlightened, astonished, and in tears, often — tears of sheer joy. So really, even if the rest of the 563 pages of text amount to turkey-turd, I'll be permanently grateful to Howard Bloom for this. It's his The God Problem: How a Godless Cosmos Creates. Promentheus published it last year. It's led me to redesign a section of the course I'm about to teach. Howard Bloom is an example of the astounding things the universe creates. He's a brilliant, acclaimed, eccentric scientist, recently a visiting scholar at NYU, a founder of hte Epic of Evolution Society, and widely read writer. Only I hadn't read any of his stuff before I heard him a couple of weeks ago in Boston. I felt that what I was hearing was probably not Bloom at his best, yet there was something particularly exhilarating about the presentation at the EnlightenNext "The Loft Sessions" series. Nobody contemplating an evolutionary spirituality should wait another minute. And if you aren't contemplating an evolutionary spirituality, do get with the program.  
       
2 April 2013  

Here's a letter I sent to Rhode Island Senate President Theresa Paiva-Weed just after it became clear that the Supreme Court will strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Sen. Paiva-Weed, a Democrat who represents part of Newport, has long stood in the way of marriage equality legislative initiatives, but this year she agreed to allow a vote. Her chief argument against same-sex marriage is that it would provide no more benefits for gay and lesbian couples in Rhode Island because the DOMA blocks federal recognition or benefits for same-sex couples even in states that recognize those marriages.

Dear Senator Paiva Weed:

It is clear now that DOMA will fall. And that makes all the difference for the efficaciousness of same-sex marriage. Once the Supreme Court issues its ruling, marriage will mean the extension of 1,100 federal protections and benefits to same-sex couples: it will mean the same thing for us as it does for heterosexuals. Marriage will be, simply, marriage. What the Rhode Island Senate does, matters supremely to gay and lesbian couples in our state.

 
       
2 April 2013  

Here's the letter I published in the Providence Journal the other day:

We now know that Adam Lanza fired off 154 bullets into the faces of the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in less than five minutes. He carried nine 30-round magazines. At home, he had an enormous armory of weapons designed solely to kill people. Having all this firepower was legal.

There are still those who, with breathtaking selfishness, care more about being able to own such weapons of mass death than about the safety and peace of America's people. This, even when it's clear that a gun kept in a home is 22 times more likely to be used in a crime, or in a suicide, or in an accident, than in protecting the home's occupants.

Those resisting meaningful gun-control legislation ground their case in the Second Amendment. If that confusing anachronism left over from a time before America had a standing army, to provide for an orderly militia to defend the country, does not describe the kind of nation, and the kind of people, we want to be, then we can, and we ought to, repeal it.

Do we want to be a barbaric land of terror? No civilized country has anything like our gun violence. Too many law-abiding citizens — given a moment of rage or despair and the easy availability of a gun— become criminals, killers, or suicides.
Wanting to amend it does not make one an enemy of the Constitution. Consider President Lincoln, facing the Constitution's original validation of slavery.

A far-right Supreme Court majority finds in the Second Amendment an individual right to own guns, though it isn't clear, not yet, what kind of guns. Nevertheless, their ruling is the law of the land, for now.

If the Second Amendment is standing in the way of sane controls on guns and ammunition, then we should repeal it, and halt the plunge toward more Newtowns, or Auroras, or Virginia Techs, or 12,000 smaller, less sensational killings by gun every year. Doing so would clear the ground for sane bans on automatic weapons of mass death and incomprehensibly enormous ammunition magazines. We can do this, and the vast majority of Americans will be grateful.

The Rev. F. Jay Deacon
Newport
The writer is minister of Channing Memorial Church, Newport.

 
       

1 March 2013

David Lammy, MP

 

Let me here insert the remarks of David Lammy, Labour MP from Tottenham & Westminster, in the House of Commons on the 5th of February, before the vote to expand marriage to include same-sex couples. Parliament that day voted for marriage equality by a lopsided 400 to 175. It had the support even of the leadership of the Conservative Party.

Here, in part, is what David Lammy said:

[I support this legislation]…Because it does respect religious freedom and tradition by permitting – rather than mandating – religious organisations to conduct the ceremonies.
…And because it is the end of an organic journey from criminality to equality for the gay community that began over half a century ago.
This change is right, this change is necessary and its time is now.
But there are still those that say that this is all unnecessary.
"Why do we need Gay Marriage when we already have Civil Partnerships", they say.
"They are the same — separate but equal", they claim.
Let me speak frankly.
"Separate but equal" is a fraud.
"Separate but equal" is the language that tried to push Rosa Parks to the back of the bus.
"Separate but equal" is the motif that determined that black and white could not possibly drink from the same water fountain, eat at the same table or use the same toilets.
"Separate but equal" are the words that justified sending black children to different schools from their white peers — schools that would fail them and condemn them to a life of poverty.
It is an excerpt from the phrasebook of the segregationists and the racists.
It is the same statement, the same ideas and the same delusion that we borrowed in this country to say that women could vote — but not until they were 30.
Let me be clear — I am proud that I voted for the introduction of Civil Partnerships.
It was an important step for LGBT rights in this country.
They enshrined gay couples with almost all of the rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples.
But they did not provide a parity of esteem.
Civil Partnerships were one step, now it is time for the next.

 
       
10 February  

I don't know when I've ever cancelled a service because of weather. Except today.

Channing's tower after storm Nemo

Meh.

House with snow.

 
       
21 January 2013  

"We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall . . ."

"We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it."

"We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. . . . [W]e are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well."

Terribly encouraging words in today's Inaugural Address.

 
       
14 December 2012  

Today a 20 year old man living with his mom used his mom's legally registered semiautomatic pistols, together with a tremendous supply of ammunition, and shot her in the face, dead. And then he drove to the local K-4 elementary school and somehow got through the locked doors, probably because he was the son of a kindergarten teacher, who wouldn't be coming in to work today or ever again. First he went to the administrative offices and shot the principal and the guidance counselor dead, and maybe a few others. Through the small school, the children heard the public address system come on for some kind of announcement, but they heard screams and shooting. The maddened young man proceeded into his mother's kindergarten classroom, it seems — precise details are yet to emerge — and shot twenty little children in the face as they looked on in horror. "Beautiful little kids between the ages of five and ten years old," said the President, as he dissolved into tears for a moment.

That's most of what we know tonight, but we do know more. We know that every day, 83 people die from gunshot every single day. Thirty-two of these are murders. No other country comes close to this mahem. There are 300 million guns in this country, more per capita than any other country. Number two? Yemen. But they're way behind us.

The story of these twenty-six or 27 deaths in Newtown, Connecticut has been shattering news. But more than 26 or 27 are murdered with guns every day in this country. Oh, did I mention? In the United Kingdom, where you can't easily get a gun, especially this kind of gun, there are about 51 gun deaths a year. In America you can go to a gun show and buy as many guns — ridiculously powerful guns — as you want, with no background check. The gun industry is the only industry not regulated by the Consumer Product Safety agency of the US government. Our Congress, owned and operated by the gun industry, protects the gun industry. And the National Rifle Association has thoroughly corrupted our government. Will it continue its thuggery? Or will it finally admit that it is wrong, deadly wrong? What will it take?

The mass shooting earlier this week in a suburban Portland, Oregon shopping mall resulted in "only" three deaths because the gunman (who maybe hadn't been to one of those handy NRA gun-training sessions) was stopped by the fact that he jammed the weapon.

Since Columbine there have been 180 school shootings in this country.

After every one of these sickening events, we are told "now is not the time to talk about gun laws." That line is getting more obscene by the day. Where has the President been? But today, maybe, maybe, something has shifted. Is that what the tears meant?

And understand. Background checks alone won't do it. The guns used today were legally bought and registered — to Adam Lanza's mother. And they were within the easy reach of Nancy Lanza's son Adam. The mall shooting earlier this week was perpetrated with an assault weapon taken from a friend.

There are too many guns and they are too easy to get. You can go to a gun show and buy a hundred assault weapons, no questions asked. You can go online and buy the ammunition. This is insane. And a country where you can that easily get all kinds of guns and ammunition, but you maybe can't get healthcare, cannot call itself a civilized country. We aren't. Madmen run the place. Madmen, and decent people in deadly fear of the madmen.

I hear them saying it on the news and opinion channels now: Nobody wants to take away your guns, don't worry. I want to. No private citizen should be able to own a gun that can't be intelligently justified for use in hunting. A Glock 9 millimeter semiautomatic cannot be justified as a hunting weapon.

The gun industry loves all this, and it's making enormous sums of money. Given the dominant mentality in America, when things like the Newtown massacre happen, people buy more guns. It's so easy! You should know this name: Cerberus Capital Management. They own a big share of the gun and ammunition industry, and keep buying more of it.

We will hear again about the Second Amendment. Now, I'm not a Constitutional lawyer, and you'd have to be a Constitutional lawyer to undertand how in hell you get, from a description of a well-ordered public militia, a private right to own guns. But I ask: does this describe the kind of country we want to be? If that's what the Second Amendment really means, then we can and should change it. Meanwhile, folks, quit acting like pushing your "right" to own guns, and now carry them in national parks and on Amtrak trains, is some patriotic duty.

So let your member of Congress, and the President, hear from you now. Because now is the time to talk about gun laws. Now.

 
       
4 December 2012   Just in case you haven't heard. 49% of Republicans believe the reason Obama won is that Acorn stole the election for him. Acorn, which the right wing drove out of existence.  
       
25 November 2012  

BIG NEWS. Now you can read
the entire Chapter 10 of my book
Magnificent Journey
online!
I think it's important enough
to make available now for free.
The chapter: "First Fire: The earth,
the human presence, and the future."
Click here to read it!

Magnificent Journey      
       
24 November 2012  

My new hometown at Thanksgiving weekend. Middletown shares Aquidneck Island with Newport, Rhode Island. And what a gorgeous weekend it was!

Out beach-walking

The surf at Sachuest Beach

Beach With Surf

Looking toward Newport

 
       

5 November 2012

David Cicillini

The evening before the election. So let me tell you why I am voting to reelect David Cicilline to represent the first Congressional District of Rhode Island. I remember well his first election as mayor of Providence, and how he cleaned the cesspool of corruption that City Hall had been (his predecessor, Buddy Cianci, went to prison). Some have been rather critical of his subsequent management of the city; but that's not very much to the point, because he isn't running for Mayor, but for Congress. And he has been a brilliant and very effective member of Congress, and he's been a strong voice for the progressive values I cherish. He's in a very tight contest with his mud-slinging opponent: so if you live in the district, be sure to give him your vote.  
       
30 October 2012  

I shed some bitter tears over these first images from Seaside Heights and Seaside Park on the barrier island, Island Beach, two or three miles from where I grew up on the Jersey Shore. I try to get there every summer — the great surf, the miles of perfect sand, the warm water, and where else can you get Kohr's Frozen Custard? A priority every trip: the circa-1900 antique carousel with its original mechanical military band machine. But now look:

Casino Pier ruins from sea

Casino pier from land

In the first view you see the ruins of the once-huge Casino Pier. In the lower right of the upper photo, note the giant roller coaster, now on the ocean floor. In the lower view, you see it from the beach.

Dangling thrill rideCasino Pier merry-go-round remains

Pier remains

Top left above shows ruins of the Wave Swinger in which the daring used to swing over the ocean — dangling futiley next to the ruined roller coaster. To its right, what remains of the Enterprise, in which you'd spin around and upside down, fast. Below those, an arial view of the stub of the once-expansive pier.

The southern Fun Town pier is pretty much gone as well, but the northern Casino Pool stretched far out over the breakers below. Much more was lost. Crowded streets of houses were washed over by the sea, which met the swollen Barnegat Bay on the western side of the island, leaving masses of soggy sand and wreckage. Broken gas lines fed fires in the striken houses and hotels.

Meanwhile. You do remember that the scientists told us to expect more extreme, more frequent storms? I deeply wish the President had reminded us of this as he addressed the nation about the oncoming storm. Because if people don't begin to understand what we're doing, the future will be grimmer. And it's time to debunk and disgrace the ethics-and-science-free politicians who would rather protect the interests of the fossil-fuel industry. Like Mitt Romney, who mocked the President for his (severely understated) intent to save the planet from this insanity. Now we have one week to do everything we can to keep these fools out of office.

Romney, of course, told a Republican candidates' debate that FEMA's emergency relief functions should be left to states and FEMA should be closed. Then today, on the other side of Hurrican Sandy, when his just-stated position made him look like a very dangerous fool, he insisted he supports FEMA and its funding, which of course would be impossible after the Romney-Ryan 20 percent tax cuts, which would mean the end of FEMA, the EPA, and an awful lot more of the public sphere. Does this man have any convictions at all? Is there anything he values, other than his own advancement?

My sister Pat lives across Barnegat Bay, two blocks from the beach from which you can see the barrier island and the bridge thereto. While I was talking to her the connection was lost Monday night. We wondered what was going on until my nephew David reached the cellphone of a rescuer in a boat, who took the boat to her house and found her, and the house, okay — and the old hometown, Island Heights, entirely surrounded by water. Her Sprint cellphone has no signal still. And the power isn't likely to be restored soon. But however extraordinary the means it took to learn it, she's okay.

 
       
26 October 2012  

For the past two weeks I've had my favorite houseguest!

Scooby, my houseguest!

 
       
17 October 2012  

So I'm listening to the presidential debate and I'm heartened that Mr Obama is handling this debate very nicely, and in a pointed, combative way. [Next day: network instant polls show a clear Obama win.]

But why can we not talk about the climate crisis? What declining to talk about it communicates to the public is that it's not a real issue to worry about. Instead I'm hearing, to my horror, two candidates who do not believe the science about global warming. The President actually boasted of increased coal and oil production! And while he spoke of new clean energy technologies, he couldn't bring himself to mention the greatest crisis we face. There's Romney promoting coal and oil, and I long to hear sanity brought to bear against this insanity. He made himself a giant target, one Obama never attacked. I am, seriously, beginning to doubt that the President is paying the least attention to climate science. Whatever future generations there are will despise ours.

 
       

3 October 2012, 11 pm
After the debate

 

Well, that was hard to watch. Obama was cool and intelligent and not much more. Romney presented a huge and vulnerable target, but Obama missed. Some observers thought Obama was tired, or hadn't enough recovered from his flight (he arrived in Denver this afternoon, whereas Romney's been prepping on-site in Denver for days).

The fact-checkers found Romney full of disinformation. But Obama didn't challenge a whole heck of a lot of the Romney malarkey. And when he challenged the $5 trillion cost of Romney's proposed 20 percent tax cuts, Romney got away with denying he'd ever proposed anything of the kind. His claim is that he'd make up the $5 trillion by ending unspecified loopholes, of which there aren't nearly enough to close. But all the viewer got was "Yes you did, No I didn't."

Here's the one that really got me, though. Early in the debate, Romney is calling for energy independence in the form of more oil, more coal. Why is it that Obama cannot sound an urgent alarm — or even seem to mention — the most urgent issue facing the world, the climate emergency we face? No mention of the catastrophe unfolding in the disappearing Artic ice cap? Why will he not counter Romney's willful ignorance about global warming? That's when I contemplated just not voting for anybody for president. Yet I know that a Republican win in 2012 cannot be allowed to happen. I will, with no great enthusiasm, vote for Mr Obama. But look — it's fine to talk about green energy as a fine source of new jobs. But your near silence on climate change, Mr President, is shameful.

Two more debates? They will have to be better. Romney got away with lots of deceptive rot. Like his approach to pre-existing conditions and health coverage. Obama managed to put out some clarity about what Obamacare, but neither Obama nor Lehrer pinned him on very much of the contradiction and untruth. Have to hope Obama at least reached a few viewers who'd been badly misinformed about Obamacare with a dose of reality, but I'm not sure Obama really illuminated the holes in what Romney was saying. The next few days' polls will tell. Maybe it went better than I think. Gotta hope. But the CBS snap poll says Romney walked away with it, by better than 2 to 1. That surveyed undecided voters. CNN polled broadly and had Obama coming out even worse. Obama transmitted no gut feeling about what's profoundly at stake in these issues. This has got to be a big wakeup call to the Prez and his advisors. Bad night.

 
       
3 October 2012   Videographer Peter Sinclair has produced another video for the Yale Forum on Climate Change — a video you ought to watch. It makes very clear the most alarming development in global warming, the rapid loss of sea ice. See it here: http://americablog.com/2012/10/loss-of-sea-ice-this-summer-is-a-stunning-example-of-how-the-climate-system-is-changing-before-our-eyes.html  
       
1 October 2012   Here we are in the middle of campaign season. Actually a really really important election, and it's been inundated with secretive corporate money thanks to a peculiar mentality driving a thin majority on the Supreme Court. So when I make my little campaign contributions, I have to identify myself, and my employer, too. But the big guys with their zillions of dollars can remain secretive. Why is that?
But I keep making those campaign contributions. Progressive people looking toward the possible future aren't going to match the superpacs. But we have to do well enough to get our message out, make it visible, reach the public effectively.We have to. This is the season, the time to write those checks, now. Do it.
 
       
25 August 2012  

Okay, finally, I've photographed the "Sower" window above the pulpit.

"The Sower" window at Channing Church

 
       
3 August 2012  

A day can begin with an utter jolt of wrenching sorrow, and yesterday did. My sweet sister Patricia, who has lived for some years in our old hometown by the Barnegat Bay on the Jersey Shore with her husband Al, called, sounding shaken. Al had been having some trouble sleeping, hadn't been feeling his usual self. Maybe time for a sleep study? But yesterday there were chest pains. Pat and Al had long volunteered on the Island Heights First Aid Squad, so they knew better than to try driving to the hospital. They called the ambulance, and the crew, who knew them, got them to the Toms River hospital. Al was having trouble getting comfortable and thought he might breathe more easily if he were sitting up, so the emergency room crew worked at rearranging him while continuing their exploration of what was happening with Al — when Al suddenly said "I think I'm losing it." And his eyes rolled upward, and he was gone. His heart had given out, and Al was gone.

Al's religion and politics were very different from mine. But his Jesus taught him that what's important is caring about people, befriending people who are undergoing a rough patch, being there for them. And that is what Al did, for numberless people.

Here they are, at Mount Desert Island.

Pat & Al at Mt Desert

 
       
1 August 2012  

Took a break from emptying boxes to pop into Channing Church and take this photo of the sanctuary before taking a bit of a walkabout down the hill at the wharves . . .

Channing Church sanctuary

 
       
22 July 2012  

I'm now a resident of Middletown, Rhode Island! The movers loaded up my possessions at the Westhampton house and barn last Wednesday, and on Thursday unloaded them here on Johnson Terrace. Gradually, the boxes are getting emptied and the bookcases and file drawers and cabinets and being filled.

Moving out . . .

Moving out of 39 Stage Road

Moving out of Westhampton

. . . and moving in

Moving in to Johnson Terrace, Middletown RI

 
       
22 July 2012  

This past Friday morning, just after midnight, 71 people were shot in Colorado, in Aurora, near Columbine. Colorado's gun laws and regulations (or lack of them) are among the most lax in the country.

The Second Amendment was written by guys who knew about muskets. You could not shoot 71 people in a theatre with a musket. And James Holmes didn't. He had an AR-15 assault weapon, as well as a couple of Glocks and a shotgun. All of which he bought with ease, and quite legally.

When the Second Amendment was written, nobody had anything like that. The United States military had muskets.

Now I don't understand how you get a right to private gun ownership out of the Second Amendment's language about a well-regulated militia (armed with muskets). So it isn't really about the Constitution, is it? It's about money, about profit. And a lot of self-deluded, gutless people, many of them Democrats cowering before the National Rifle Association, and Repubicans owned and operated by the National Rifle Association.

We have to stop the National Rifle Association. Most of its members don't support this total deregulation of guns. But the NRA doesn't actually represent their views. It represents the gun manufacturers, who finance it richly. Those gun manufactureres quite like getting rich off the total deregulation of guns. What regulations used to exist had pretty much expired by 2004. The Democrats now lie prostrate before the NRA because the gun manufacturers and gun-obsessed fanatics will pour money into campaigns against any politician who dares stand up to them. As a result, President Obama has done nothing, and in response to the terror in Aurora, Colorado, could only mouth syruppy platitudes about prayer and reflection and us all coming together in a time of tragedy. Not that there's anything wrong with coming together in a time of tragedy. But the sentimentality simply syrups over the greed and the violence and the utter craziness.

You do realize that the United States is a very violent country. There are, in this country, 90 guns for every 100 people. That makes us number one in gun saturation on the planet. Number two? You're wondering who that is? Yemen, with 64 guns per 100 people. I can take a gun on an Amtrak train, thanks to the Teapublican Congress, or into a national park.

The horror in Aurora could well lead to a worse tragedy: the spread of the idiocy that actually argues that there must be more guns, that if everybody just had a gun, those people wouldn't have died. Remember when President Reagan and James Brady were shot? They were surrounded by highly armed and trained security and it didn't help. It wouldn't have helped in a dark theatre with teargas and a well-armored gunman.

And today "leaders" will remain silent in the face of the NRA. No, we have to stop them, and dis-elect those "leaders" who cower before them.

 
       
28 June 2012  

What a day. The United States spends twice as much, two and a half times as much, as civilized countries do on healthcare per citizen. And what we get is something like 45 million people without health insurance and many more who, having health insurance, don't have access to health care because they have flawed health insurance.

Now, I must bear witness. When I went to Orlando to serve as Interim Minister, an insurance agency told me I qualified for no insurance policy because I have a preëxisting condition. I was asked all kinds of questions: about what medications I take, etc. I was at least able to get the UUA minister and staff policy, but it was (and is) extremely expensive.

When a hostile board at the Northampton congregation put me in a position where I found it wisest to resign (though I can see now that I shouldn't have bowed to the pressure, but that's another story), they agreed to provide health insurance for a limited time. And then it stopped, and I was without income or health insurance. And whaddaya know? That was the very month that MassHealth kicked in, after the Democratic Massachusetts legislature worked with the (as we now see) shape-shifting Republican governor to create a healthcare system which means that now, in Massachusetts, 98 percent of adults and 100 percent of children are covered. And I was covered by MassHealth's Commonwealth Care program. My diabetes pump supplies, and insulin, and the doctor's appointments, and the related eye care — was covered. Later, when working as Interim Minister at North Easton, Massachusetts — with a decent salary — I chose a health insurance plan from the Commonwealth Connector "menu" of policies, all negotiated by the state to meet the state's standards for adequate coverage, and got a BCBS policy essentially identical to the UUA plan, but for two-thirds the price of the very expensive UUA plan. And in Massachusetts, they can't ask about preëxisting conditions, or about what drugs you take.

Then my dear friend and housemate Steve got quite sick and was hospitalized for five days. He'd been out of work for some months, and he was covered by Commonwealth Care. His bills were paid. Because in Massachusetts, the healthcare you get doesn't depend on how many bucks you have in your pocket. Yet outside this sweet Commonwealth, it does. And that's immoral. And obscene. And a country that can do no better than that oughtn't to call itself civilized, because it isn't.

A year ago I began to be covered by Medicare. Not as good as Commonwealth Care, and you have to buy all sorts of supplemental policies, from private insurance companies, if you actually want the healthcare you need. But at least the premiums are way lower for these "Part F" and "Part D" policies, and for Medicare's own Part B. Still, I worry some about whether, in old age, when I'm not drawing a salary anymore, I'll be able to afford those premiums and co-pays. Especially in light of the appalling mentality that dominates our crazy House of Reprehensatives, oh sorry, Representatives. If I lived in the United Kingdom, I would not have this worry. What is the matter with us?

So the President cobbled together a weakened, compromised approach to health care reform that he thought he could get through Congress, and he succeeded. But it's based on what Massachusetts did, including the individual mandate that you've gotta buy health insurance — or qualify for MassHealth or Commonwealth Care. The Medicaid Extension component gives everyone with an income lower than 133 percent of the poverty line the equivalent of MassHealth or Commonwealth Care, though some states may refuse to participate and forgo the federal money that comes with it.

But you see the problem. We all saw the problem as ACA rolled toward the Supreme Court. Does the Commerce Clause allow Congress to tell you that you have to buy the product of a private insurance company? A problem that wouldn't have afflicted the better solution, a single-payer public healthcare system. There were many predictions, mostly involving Justice Kennedy siding with the right wing of the Court and ACA, or at least the individual mandate, being declared unconstitutional.

Somebody today suggested that a few pundits and political leaders ought to check the warranties on their crystal balls. What a surprise! Kennedy did as predicted. And the apparent right-wing ideologue Chief Justice Roberts sided with the liberals and saved the Affordable Care Act. He did so by saying No, the Commerce Clause doesn't allow the government to tell you you've got to buy health insurance; what it really is, is a tax imposed on you if you don't, because somebody's got to pay for the emergency room service you wind up needing, and Congress does get to impose taxes. I give him credit for consulting his conscience.

It was a last-minute switch of position. That's apparent reading the lengthy decision document. You know there's a dramatic story there. Maybe we'll learn just how it happened; maybe we won't. But today was a very important step forward.

The trouble is, conservadems forced the ACA to engage slowly. Over four years. So the don't-give-a-crap-about-your-neighbor kill healthcare reform and let the private healthcare and pharma industry get richer and richer factions — have lots of time to spend their secret superpac money on killing it before the people understand what they're losing, because they only have little bits of it now. Americans haven't experienced a civilized healthcare system. They've been inundated with propaganda and they've been — sorry — dumb enough to believe it. Tragic, but most people don't pay much attention, don't inform themselves. So the sooner aspects of ACA kick in, the better chance it has of surviving. Because the battle isn't over.

I've had plenty of gripes with the President (like my 19 June entry below, and like the treatment of Manning and Assange, also below). But let there be no misunderstanding. November's election will decide the fate of healthcare reform. And, for that matter, of the Supreme Court. And very much more. Fascinating to see the very peculiar position Mr Romney has placed himself in. You have to wonder if there's anybody in there. Or if what we have is a specially-designed android that will say whatever its proprietors wish it to say. Another mystery that may never be disclosed.

 
       
21 June 2012   Don't shoot the messengers: Free Manning, Assange  
       
19 June 2012  

Today I wrote to this White House about the Earth Summit:

My dear Mr President:

The Earth Summit has convened in Rio, and you are not there. I take this, and many other instances of action and inaction, to mean that you do not believe the chorus of scientists who are doing what they can to warn us about our climate emergency.

I am writing to condemn your insistence that whatever text emerges from the Earth Summit must not mention the necessity to prevent a warming of more than 2 degrees celsius, or any reference to the right to food, water, health, or equality. You insist that it not criticize our unsustainable consumption and production patterns.

If I am incorrect about any of this, I hope you will correct me.

This is not what I voted for. This is the United States again unilaterally derailing international action on this most urgent of our concerns.

Most startling to me is the fact that you have not sought to awaken the American people to what we are doing.
It surely seems that to you, I am supposed to think "Well, at least he's better than Romney." Merely "Better than Romney" will not prevent or ease the catastrophe we are preparing for ourselves, nor will it persuade Nature to be merciful.

It's twenty years since the first Earth Summit, also in Rio. The miserable truth is that then, George H.W. Bush's contribution was better than what we are getting from the Obama Administration now. Makes me shudder. That's the influence of the massive corporate pressure and the power of the billionaires. And that is why Democracy cannot stop with casting ballots on election day. We have got to be the "counterfriction to stop the machine" (Thoreau's words). Leaders whose perspective is fundamentally right, whose sentiments appeal to the best in us — must hear from us, continually.

So do it. Often. For the White House, it's easy: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/write-or-call#write

On the other hand. Today also, according to Climate Progress, the White House threatened to veto a Congressional Review Act repeal of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, if S.J. Res. 37 is presented to President Obama. The Executive Office of the President released a statement disapproving of Sen. Inhofe’s (R-OK) resolution that would prevent the EPA from limiting mercury and other air toxins from power plants. Inhofe’s bill would block the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards that protect children, seniors, the infirm, and everyone else from air pollutants from air pollution such as mercury and arsenic that are emitted from coal-burning power plants. The standards “will prevent as many as 11,000 avoidable premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks, annually. The annual value of these health benefits alone is estimated to be as much as $90 billion.” Obama's veto threat makes it easier for moderate Democrats and Republicans to oppose Inhofe’s resolution because they can argue that S.J. Res 37 will never become law. Wish I'd known that so I could have thanked the President for at least that.

 
       
6 June 2012   Last night was a preview of our post-"Citizens United" world. The Teapublicans and their deep-pocketed corporate friends saturated the airwaves (and people's mailboxes) beginning last December with, among other things, the idea that whatever you thought of Walker, it's just not right to recall somebody once elected. The Dems and unions, outspent 7 to 1, could only afford to unleash their message toward the end, when minds were long since made up. And while I had to identify myself and my employer when I made my small contribution, the super pacs could remain secret. The scale of the defeat should alert us that the Court's ruling is at least as effective at demolishing democracy as anyone feared.  
       
1 June 2012  

The price of answering the call is saying goodbye to the best place I'll ever live, and my very cool 1846 barn. But when I bought it in 2002, it was full of 156 years' junk. And the buyer wants it empty. Maybe he doesn't know what a barn is! Or maybe it's fair enough, and maybe I should have required the previous owner to empty it. Anyway, today, with the help of Mark Battey's "One Call Does It All And Then Some" service (three or four big dumpsters worth), I emptied it. Except, of course, for my stuff and Steve's. He's buying a house in Holyoke, near his work.

Emptying the barn

Emptying the barn, 2

 
       
8 May 2012   I'm honored to announce that the Congregation of Channing Memorial Church, Unitarian Universalist, at Newport, Rhode Island, voted Sunday, 6 May to call me as their minister beginning, officially, 1 August!  
       
23 March 2012  

Found in the archives:

Channing-bldg-notice-1880

 
       
20 March 2012  

Here's the thing: when will Democrats decide to stand up to the NRA? Because if they won't, a small minority of people will continue imposing laws like Florida's (and several other states') "Stand Your Ground" law. Florida had already adopted a law allowing concealed weapon permits, and thousands of people, including convicted felons, have them. Then they passed the NRA's and ALEC's newer contrivance, this law that says if you feel threatened by somebody, evidence or no, you can shoot them dead. Older law required that you avoid confrontation in such a case by getting out of the area, but the new law essentially says go ahead, shoot 'em. George Zimmerman was a local vigilante in Sanford, a northern suburb of Orlando, known for its exclusive gated communities. Zimmerman had anointed himself a sort of "neighborhood watch" leader and made frequent calls to the Sanford police about people he considered "suspicious." Usually they were black. Trayvon Martin was black, and 17, and on his way home from a convenience store with a candy bar and bottle of ice tea. Zimmerman followed him, talking to the Sanford police about what he was doing. Apparently he used a few expressions like "fucking coon." You can hear him asking young Trayvon what he's doing there, and you hear Trayvon screaming for quite awhile, and you hear the gunshot, and then no more screaming.

A witness tried to describe the scene for Sanford police but they wouldn't talk to her. Trayvon Martin had been talking to a girl friend on his cell phone, and when the police picked up the body, they picked up the cell phone, but they made no attempt to call any of the numbers in its phonebook to learn the identity of the dead boy. They held the body for several days without identifying it, while Trayvon's father searched hospitals for him.

And George Zimmerman wasn't arrested because he'd only had to assert that he felt threatened. By a kid 80 pounds smaller with no weapon, just out to picked up a couple of items and talking on his phone.

But consider this. The Sanford police had listened to the vigilante slime-man's pursuit of Trayvon and seemed to encourage his vigilantism. They made no serious effort to identify the victim. They refused to talk to the witness.

Now the FBI and Justice Department are getting involved. Good. But how can a police department operate like that? And those conceal-carry laws that are being passed, and now those "Stand Your Ground" laws — what civilized society can function on that basis? True, an oversized fear of crime is helping to drive passage of these laws, but the truth is that crime in the United States is at an all-time low since President Clinton beefed up policing in the U.S.

Here's another characteristic of civilized societies: the public accepts that the government holds a monopoly on firearms. Which works in a democracy where government operatives are accountable to an attentive public. But this is what you get with an armed public. And wouldn't you know: Alaska Senator Begich (remember him? he's a Democrat!) is sponsoring a bill in the U.S. Senate to allow those who have conceal-carry permits and operate at home under "Stand Your Ground" laws to carry their guns across state lines.

There's been no serious effort to get control of guns for years, not after twelve children and a teacher were shot dead at Columbine High School, not after thirty-two died at Virginia Tech, not after eight people died in the shootout in a St. Louis factory, not after eight more died in an Appomatox County, VA shootout, not after the incident at the Knoxville hospital or the Connecticut wine distributor, not after eight more died in an incident at Hartford Distributors, not after an armed 17-year-old student killed the vice principal and hurt others at an Omaha high school, not after the Chardon, Ohio high school shootout, not after Gabrielle Giffords and others were shot by a madman in Phoenix, not after a rampage killed ten in Samson, AL, not after thirteen students and workers died when a gunman burst into a Binghamton NY civic association, not after a gunman killed nine people at a Minnesota Indian school, not after six students were shot dead ata Northern Illinois University — geez, how many of these do I have to cite?

And the filthy law now introduced in the U.S. Senate was brought by a Democrat. Yeh, the Republicans cannot do enough for the NRA. But where are the Democrats? Will they make a case for gun control? Or have they given up, afraid of the NRA?

 
       
19 March 2012   Channing Memorial Church, exteriorI am quite delighted to announce that the Search Committee of Channing Memorial Church in Newport, Rhode Island has chosen me to be the candidate who will be presented to the Congregation to be their next minister! I spent a snowy weekend in January with the committee; the interview revealed a truly wonderful group of people with great sense of vision and spiritual purpose for Channing Church. Shortly I'll post an artefact that, in a splendidly synchronous manner, dropped out of the church archives in Manchester while I was trying to put them in order. But a hint: In 1879 or 1880 a fund was established to build a memorial church to Newport native William Ellery Channing, who was the central figure in the founding of American Unitarianism. The cornerstone was to be laid on the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Dr. Channing, 7 April 1880. If you want to see the result of their efforts, click here. Click on "Our Sacred Space." But that doesn't tell the story of the marvellous congregation assembled there!  
       
17 March 2012   My MINISo I was driving to Manchester on Thursday late afternoon, cruising across Route 2, just across the bridge into the town of Erving, in this light rain, when suddenly a very big box appeared in the roadway in front of me. So I veered around it, and my fine Swedish snowtires (well, it is March, isn't it?) lost their grip on the wet roadway, and my sweet silk green 2002 Mini Cooper spun out of control, finally winding up against the guardrail. A very kind motorist stopped and did what he could to help; another stopped and removed the box from the road. But the driver's side of my Mini looks pretty bad — both ends hit the rail, the front first, I think (but it all happened so fast I'm not sure). The hood and front bumper and fender and lights — wrecked. Both driver's side tires went flat. The State Police gave me a warning for leaving the travel lane! And they got me a flatbed towtruck, which carted Mr Mini off to Greenfield. Now I'm waiting for the insurance people to look at it and either bring it to Northampton for repairs, or total it. Mechanically it seems okay, but at ten years old and with almost 117,000 miles, with that damage I'll be surprised if it's repaired. Sniff.  
       
5 March 2012   It would be an inconceivable folly for Israel — which continues to stoke the embers of the Mideast tensions by continuing to occupy Palestine and treating Palestinians with contempt — to launch an attack on Iran. The Iranian government is one of the worst on the planet, and the recent election made it worse, putting the parliament in the hands of a bloc so fanatical that it makes Ahmadinejad look like a moderate. But ending that occupation would remove the vast grievance fueling hatred of Israel and leave Israel's enemies without this long-simmering justification for their hostility. They would be without excuse. Agreed, a nuclear-armed Iran would be a very bad thing. But Iran has not taken a decision to proceed in that direction. And it's hard, when you have an Israel that in defiance of international agreements does have nuclear weapons, to tell other powers in the region that they can't. The United States must not be drawn into a Mideast cataclysm. Another reminder of the urgency of ridding the planet of atomic weapons.  
       

29 February 2012

 

 

Bush House, longtime home of BBC World Service, London

Wow. A free day. I mean, one does have to work, but the extra day comes free every fourth year.

And it's a very big anniversary: the 80th anniversary of the BBC World Service. I really can't think of any greater institution on the planet than the BBC. The World Service used to broadcast on shortwave and that is how I would listen. Now it's in 27 languages. And the rest of the BBC has grown up around it. It would be reason enough to live in the UK, where you can get all of its television channels. But you can listen to virtually all of its radio services — including the World Service — on the Internet. For a long time it was based at Bush House, on an arc of land where Kingsway, Aldwych, The Strand and Fleet Street converge — a very grand structure built to be some sort of a palatial resort hotel, which never materialized. So in 1941, after a German bomb destroyed their old studios at Broadcasting House, the BBC rented it for £30 (!) a month, then bought it. A British Unitarian friend who had been a BBC World producer once gave me a tour, and I was in heaven. In the last couple of years, tightened budgets have meant moving some BBC operations and studios out of London to cities like Manchester and Birmingham, and the World Service is moving back into Broadcasting House, vacated by those operations and studios. That's in another part of central London. But the celebrations today are at Bush House. Most of the BBC is funded by the annual license you have to buy to watch television (a brilliant arrangement, I think — for about £100, you get all this remarkable programming, on both the "tellie" and radio, all commercial free, and quite obviously very independent of government pressure and propaganda. But the World Service is funded by the Foreign Office and is directed not at the UK, but to the rest of the world, in some areas providing the only source of real news. The BBC has come up with a television version, BBC World, which recently got included in my cable TV package, to my great delight. Now I can watch the same 24-hour television news operation the Brits watch. Maybe more important, the people of Iran can hear the BBC Persian Service, whose audience has doubled since 2009 to better than six million. Throughout these eighty years, "The Beeb" has performed heroic service.

 
       
27 February 2012  

Another kid is dead in an American school, shot by a fellow student, and two others are in critical condition. In the coverage comes the repeated question, Did they miss warning signs about the shooter's mental health? Well, that's a worthy question for schools and communities. But I heard no mention of where the kid got the gun. And I want to know: How is it that nearly any kid who wants a handgun (or worse) can get one? Why do we go on allowing these guns to proliferate? Will any political leader have the guts to challenge the NRA?

In European countries, there's a fundamental understanding that governments get to have a monopoly on the possession of firearms. Citizens don't expect access to them. And, being democracies, these governments are the people, acting together, for the common good. And see how the "common good" differs! Violent crimes and particularly gun violence are vastly higher in the United States than just about anywhere in the civilized world, excepting only those not-so-civilized countries that look more like the world of a few centuries ago when violence was far more widespread.

KJ Dell'Antonia gets it right in her 27 February "Motherlode" blog in the New York Times when she says: "I find the combination of the powerful, poorly controlled impulses of a teenager with the fast and permanent damage a gun can inflict terrifying, whether the result is homicide or suicide."

 
       
24 January 2012  

The President has presented his State of the Union address in which, with millions listening and watching, he reassures the world that climate change is no serious problem. He does this by not even mentioning — except to say we can't do anything about it this year — the most critical issue the world faces, the reality of which fewer and fewer Americans believe. And why do they not grasp its monumental significance? Because people like this president treat it as not something urgent, and people won't believe in nasty things they don't have to believe in. They'll take silence as permission to ignore.

Instead we heard that massive new territory is being opened up for oil drilling. And unless I misunderstood, they heard the president promote fracking for natural gas. He's apparently going to push domestic hydrocarbon production but not a price on carbon. It is very hard to comprehend why I should vote for that. Future generations will not forgive it. I don't think I can, either.

In other respects, it was good work. He hit pretty hard, with a lot of skill, on economic issues. That's good, and I was heartened by that. But I'm not at all sure I can vote for him. If I lived in a state that's in contention, I suppose I would hold my nose, for the sake of the Supreme Court, if nothing else. The Teapublican maniacs cannot be permitted anywhere near the White House. But I live in Massachusetts, and its electoral votes are not in question.

 
       
12 January 2012  

Romney, in his 10 January victory speech after New Hampshire primary, at Manchester:

President Obama wants to fundamentally transform America. We want to restore America to the founding principles that made this country great. He wants to turn America into a European-style social welfare state. We want to ensure that we remain a free and prosperous land of opportunity. This president takes his inspiration from the capitals of Europe. We look to the cities and towns across America for our inspiration.

Yeh, uh huh. Except that the "land of opportunity" is Europe and certainly no longer America. Lots of evidence for this. This is from the 4 January New York Times ["Harder for Americans to Rise From Lower Rungs," by Jason DeParle]:

But many researchers have reached a conclusion that turns conventional wisdom on its head: Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe. The mobility gap has been widely discussed in academic circles, but a sour season of mass unemployment and street protests has moved the discussion toward center stage.

One reason for the mobility gap may be the depth of American poverty, which leaves poor children starting especially far behind. Another may be the unusually large premiums that American employers pay for college degrees. Since children generally follow their parents' educational trajectory, that premium increases the importance of family background and stymies people with less schooling.

At least five large studies in recent years have found the United States to be less mobile than comparable nations. A project led by Markus Jantti, an economist at a Swedish university, found that 42 percent of American men raised in the bottom fifth of incomes stay there as adults. That shows a level of persistent disadvantage much higher than in Denmark (25 percent) and Britain (30 percent) — a country famous for its class constraints.

Meanwhile, just 8 percent of American men at the bottom rose to the top fifth. That compares with 12 percent of the British and 14 percent of the Danes.

And I would add health care as another important factor because, in the U.S., it's tied to what job you have or don't have; so people stay stuck in work that isn't meaningful to them because they have to in order to keep health benefits. They cannot launch out into work that may be more satisfying, or more profitable; they certainly cannot attempt a new business startup.

 
       
9 January 2012  

Just back from Manchester—where the Republican presidential campaigns have converged, joined by lots of very dedicated Occupy folks! So our UU Church of Manchester was the only house of worship to house them and serve as venue for some of their programming, and a training session. They came from near and far. On Saturday afternoon they staged a gay pride march from the main downtown park on Elm Street within sight of the Radisson Hotel, where the candidates and media people are holed up, to another park in front of the library. I joined them. I walked near a fabulous band made up of saxophones, trumpets, and drums, and near a giant elephant wheeled along by Occupy Boston. The march made a point of going via the big Bank of America on Bridge and Elm, and the chanting there couldn't have pleased the BOA. But I joined it with conviction. Marching with us was Lt. Dan Choi. I stood at the park near the library to watch the marchers I hadn't seen behind me—a very big crowd. Throughout the week, Occupiers have been pinning down the candidates and demanding answers. And getting press attention. On Sunday morning, I used Henry Thoreau's phrase "A Counter Friction to Stop the Machine," as the theme of my sermon (you can hear the audio on the sermon page), and lots of Occupiers joined us for the service.

Meanwhile, it's a very fine thing to see the other Teapublicans round on Mr Romney. A bitter Newt Gingrich, who'd expected to be adored as America's intellectual hero and political savior, is pouring lots of money into the assault on Romney, running ads showing people who'd worked for companies taken over by Romney's Bain Capital, telling how Bain had sucked the life (and large fortunes) out of the companies and dumped throngs of employees in the trash. Oh, it's been lovely. The Obama campaign is having much of its work done for it by the ruthless ambition of the Republican candidates.

 
       

30 December 2011

Dale Tuller, 1990

  I learned today that a long-time friend, Dale Tuller, has died at his home in Florida. I met Dale sometime after arriving in Chicago in 1978 to serve Good Shepherd Parish Metropolitan Community Church. I don't remember just when Dale showed up and became involved. He was a graduate of McCormick Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian institution in Chicago where I earned my doctorate. Dale was running the printing operation at Shure Brothers microphone. Soon he was deeply involved as a Deacon, and his talent and commitment made so much possible. In 1982 I left Chicago and that denomination and relocated to Boston as part of transferring my ministerial credentials to the Unitarian Universalist Association; I didn't return to Chicago until 1993 when I became minister of what soon became Unity Temple UU Congregation. It was good to be near Dale again, and he became enthusiastically involved at UTUUC. It was time to launch a website, and Dale taught himself to be a skilled webmaster. He produced a gorgeous website, which he kept consistently up to date. In 2002 I relocated to Western Massachusetts, and then Dale retired to Florida. We talked by phone often, though neither of us had the means to travel and visit. (We're both dog lovers, and Dale's beloved Ruby had recently been joined by a titanic Husky.) Before Christmas he'd sent me, to borrow and listen, two audio books "narrated" by dogs — one, a Chet & Bernie mystery, and the other the powerful novel The Art of Racing in the Rain. I listened to both on my drives between here and Manchester, and then packaged them up and posted them back. I called to thank him and tell him how much I'd enjoyed them, but nobody answered. I tried again, and thought he must be away, though that would have been unusual. Another old friend from Chicago tried calling him at Christmas, and after repeated, futile calls, called the local police. Dale died from a heart attack, apparently on the 13th of December. When neighbors noticed no movement for a few days they called the Police, who found his lifeless body. He'd be comforted to know that his beloved dogs Ruby and Joey have been found homes. I'll miss Dale, and so will others, far and near. Just got this photo from 1990 from a great friend of his in Michigan.  
       
17 December 2011  

Scooby sunning in my back field

It's cold, but the sun is warm, and our champ lymphoma-survivor is quite comfortable, thank you.
Scooby!

Scooby!

 
       
16 December 2011  

Tomorrow is Bradley Manning's 24th birthday. It will be his second birthday spent as a pretrial prisoner in a military prison, and the second day of his Pretrial Hearing. This for of alerting us all to great wrongs that were being done in our name. Today I wrote the President imploring him to free Pvt. Manning, and — should he be convicted of anything, to issue a pardon. This week, after far too many years, the war has been declared over, at least the Iraq bit. So let our government close its war on Bradley Manning. Click here for the Bradley Manning Support Network.

Bradley Manning

 
       
6 December 2011  

Maybe, reading this blog, you'll take the hint to check Joe Romm's "Climate Progress" site. Today he marks the anniversary of Pearl Harbor by asking a pretty pointed question: "What Are the Near-Term Climate Pearl Harbors? What Will Take Us from Procrastination to Action?"

What will it take? Romm lists nine things:

  1. Arctic goes [virtually] ice free before 2020. It would be a big, visible global shock.
  2. Rapid warming over next decade, as recent Nature and Science articles suggest is quite possible
  3. Continued (unexpected) surge in methane
  4. A [multi-year] megadrought hitting the SW comparable to what has hit southern Australia.
  5. More superstorms, like Katrina.
  6. A heatwave as bad as Europe’s 2003 one [Russia's in 2010 hitting the U.S. breadbasket].
  7. Something unpredicted but clearly linked to climate, like the bark beetle devastation.
  8. Accelerated mass loss in Greenland and/or Antarctica, perhaps with another huge ice shelf breaking off, but in any case coupled with another measurable rise in the rate of sea level rise.
  9. The Fifth Assessment Report (2012-2013) really spelling out what we face with no punches pulled.

It's not that we don't already know the dire situation and the certain consequences. It's not that we aren't, right now, perfectly capable of changing course and halting the madness—and creating a brilliant future for this world of life. It's that we go on deluding ourselves. It's that we have one entire political party devoted to madness and anti-science climate denial, and that we have another political party that professes to get it, but is gutless and without conviction.

Pearl Harbor got the nation on the same page in a hurry, feeling the reality of the moment in a way that evokes heroic action. Maybe Pearl Harbor didn't have to happen, but the day before, America slept. The day after, America was roused. The kind of "Pearl Harbor" Joe Romm is contemplating would be far worse, exponentially more catastrophic. How damning, then, the failure of the press and political leadership. And the pulpits afraid of making anybody nervous with inconvenient truth.

 
       
9 November 2011  

Here is a story in today's Guardian. And not in the New York Times. The headline: "World headed for irreversible climate change in five years, IEA warns
If fossil fuel infrastructure is not rapidly changed, the world will 'lose for ever' the chance to avoid dangerous climate change"

It was accompanied by a second story: "The science of global warming is clear and so are the solutions, yet the world is moving in reverse. Why?"

You can find more on this at Joe Romm's "Climate Progress" site, including today's lead story, "IEA's bombshell warning: We're headed toward 11ºF global warming and "Delaying action is a false economy"

This is particularly significant because, in the past, the IEA (International Energy Agency) has been so conservative in its projections that nobody much paid attention to them. But the IEA is, as Romm puts it, "one of the few organizations in the world with a sophisticated enough global energy model to do credible projections of the cost of different emissions pathways and the costs of delaying efforts to achieve them." And now this bombshell.

Could there be a more urgent story, a headline more worthy of page one, above the fold? So why isn't it in the New York Times? Why is Obama leasing drilling rights in the Arctic? This, in a country where one of the two political parties has devoted itself to contorting the facts and misleading the public on this matter? For their endangerment of all humanity, is there no penalty?

But my point. How are ordinary people who don't like facing hard things to face this when our leaders and our greatest newspaper won't take it seriously? What do they think all those thousands of scientists are doing? Why do they think that they can just choose to ignore them? It's a different situation in Europe, where this juggernaut denialist industry isn't so thoroughly established. Here, even "progressive" "leaders" are cowed into adject silence or pathetic half-acknowledgement. And we've got to do something about it.

Do check out those stories.

 
       

24 September 2011

Magnificent Journey

 

At last—my book! It comes out in a week or two. The official date is 3 October but there are many details twixt here and there, particularly one of the printers, who will get the book everywhere but Amazon (that's the other printer, which seems to be on time). The challenge now is to promote it very well, not that easy when you're fairly shy.

So the President has made his speech at the U.N. Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, an right-wing extremist, loved it so much he said he could sign it with both hands. You have to wonder why Mr Obama doesn't just appoint the Israeli cabinet as his own. Not a critical word about the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Not even a mention.

The Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, took hold of an opportunity and appealed for United Nations recognition of Palestine as a state. Israel would have been wise to support it. And so, of course, would the United States. We'll see what comes of this. Can it be worse than twenty pointless years of "negotiating." Deeply disturbing. And Rick Perry says Obama betrayed Israel in his speech. Amazing, except when you consider that the very crazy New Apostolic Reformation religious movement, of which Perry and Palin and Bachmann are part, fervently believes that Jesus will only come back once Israel reclaims its full biblical geographical dimensions. And, until the true believers seize control of the "seven mountains"—government, religion, business, education, family, entertainment, and media. Which, by the way, are currently in the grip of Satan and his demons.

It's a moment of great, maybe unlimited, possibility, but someone, somewhere, is going to have to see that, and believe it, and lay new tracks into new territory for human culture.

Good news: Mr Scooby (see below!) is still doing spectacularly well. I'm grateful for every day we have with him.

 
       
27 July 2011  

The lunatic fanaticism of the Teapublican Party is a bit hard to take in. But they mean to shape the debate and shape public consciousness, and I wish our President saw his role that way. He is not leading public thought, but crumbling before it appears to be at the moment: the austerity nuttiness. Austerity — in the depth of a big economic sinkhole — equals death for the economy. It simply shuts the economic machine down. No stimulus, the removal of money from the economy, joblessness. Sometimes (awfully often) we're told the country has got to manage its budget the same way a family must manage theirs. Not so. When the economy is working, you try to reduce the deficit or eliminate it. But at times like this, government has to get its engines running. Meanwhile there are urgent projects: urgent mitigation of, and adaptation to, global warming, to begin with.

But the President seems to have begun by adopting the Tearepublican premise: gotta cut the deficit, gotta cut spending. He has not shaped public consciousness in a better direction, or really shaped it at all; merely come across as calm and cool and compromising. Right now, it doesn't look good. I would have expected that all this lunacy would have destroyed any remaining Republican credibility. And it is eating away at it, but not the way it ought to be doing. The Prez's giving away the store hasn't moved anybody much. And the Teapublicans didn't even say thank you. It may be that their own craziness will yet destroy them. We'll see. Meanwhile there are too few of Bernie Sanders.

The Teapublicans are using the crisis to try to gut environmental regulations, tossing something like 70 anti-environmental measures into appropriations bills. The House Financial Services Committee isn't chaired any longer by Barney Frank, but by an anti-environmental Teapublican, who is leading the fight on the planet's health. There are efforts to kneecap the EPA. And lots more, coming from every direction.

So the outlook is bad, really bad. No, it's worse than that. The 2012 election may turn this around. Or it may not, and even if it does, too much precious time will have been lost.

But there is good news, here on this micro-scale at 39 Stage Road. Scooby is still doing fabulously well. My champ.

Hope you'll take a look at the new Groundwave Publishing site and its page on my upcoming book.

 
       
26 June 2011  

The effect of the chemo, steroids, and pain pills has been — well, I don't like to use the word miraculous, but something like that. Scooby is his old self — for now, at least. This so far exceeds our best hopes! But he needs lots of attention. The steroids make him very thirsty so he needs frequent outings to pee surprisingly large quantities. So I worry about next week when I have jury duty, and devoutly hope I won't be needed. I postponed it once when I knew something was wrong. Massachusetts used to allow three postponements, but now allows only one, not a very civilized policy, I would have thought.

Meanwhile, the State of New York has joined the civilized world on same-sex marriage. The Assembly had passed a marriage equality bill before; a Democratic-controlled Senate voted it down, by a lot, in 2009. Then Andrew Cuomo became Governor, and he vowed to make it happen. With great determination and skill, he did, and five Republicans were won over, leading to a 33-29 vote. That's leadership. A night or two before, HRC had a big fundraiser in Manhattan. Speaker: the hapless Barack Obama. Why they invited him, I cannot tell. He couldn't bring himself to offer a word of support for the bill, at that moment hanging in the balance. Officially he still opposes marriage equality. At a moment like this, that is no friend of GLBTQ people. Pathetic.

But I'd sure like to be in NYC today, Pride Day! I've enjoyed New York's Pride many times, but poverty and other circumstances intervened . . . still, a happy day.

 
       
22 June 2011  

Yesterday we drove to Grafton, near Worcester, to the Tufts University Animal Hospital — not sure if we were going to say farewell to the best of friends. We'd taken Scooby there the day before for tests, fairly certain he had a lesion on his spine. Meeting the good dog neurologist doc at 6, we saw the MRIs, with the lesion taking over most of a short space in his spinal column. The pressure is why he can barely control his left legs. She explained what was happening, and told us that we could take him home and treat him with chemotherapy and steroids and see if this might reduce the lesion and give him some quality of life for awhile. Better news that we expected! He is home now, with areas of his black coat shaved off where the spinal tap was, and the IV was attached, and god knows what else. What gratitude I feel for every day Mr Scooby lives on with us! It may be a few days, or weeks, or even months. He needs a ramp to get into the house now, and cannot go up stairs; but he can run and play all he likes. His little falls when those legs of his don't cooperate aren't going to hurt him, 'cause he's only got a foot to fall.

Scooby, home again

 
       
17 June 2011  

Good Lord, somehow I got to be 65. Happened sometime overnight, like early Tuesday morning. Mainly, I've discovered that Medicare is complicated, and more expensive than I expected.

I haven't posted for awhile — from the looks of things, mainly the date of the last post, more than two months. Sorry.

Excuses: There was all that research to do about various Medicare options. There was the end of the program year at the church in Manchester, which finished Sunday (not that the work is finished; there's all the planning to do for next year, for one thing). The MINI required some major repairs (I, of course, had to have one the first ones sold in America, so my 2002 is version 1.0 with a few bugs). But mostly, it's been Scooby the Dog. Something has been going wrong for this best of companions. Less than two weeks ago, on Monday the 13th, I took him for his usual mid-day walk, with a swim in the creek. That night, maybe 2 a.m., Steve woke me up because something was wrong (Scooby sleeps in his room). Scooby's back was hunched and he was making little hiccup-y sounds with his breathing. We thought he couldn't breathe, and we carried him down to Steve's car and headed up highway 91 for the Deerfield 24-hour animal hospital. It had been a hot day but the night was cool, and Steve opened a window. I was in the back with Scooby. He put his nose close to the open window and soon was breathing deeply, and returning to normal. We watched him awhile and walked him, and he seemed fine — so we turned around and went home. Next day I took him to the vet, who thought it was a spasm of the larynx. The following night it happened again so we took him to the animal hospital. The doc thought it was paralysis of the larynx. Many more vet trips, x-rays, &tc later, it seems that his larynx is fine; it seems to be his neck, his spine. Inflammation, some sort of injury, maybe a tumor. So one of us stays with him downstairs all night, and he's got to rest and take anti-inflammatory drugs. If he gets better, hoorah. If not, it will be off to dog-neurologist and spine expert vets at Tufts or Angell. If only they could tell you where it hurts.

So — no special 65th doings, but the great present of having Mr Dog still with us. At 11 or 12, which, in dog-years, is older even than me.

Meanwhile, I've got the Index pretty much done, and the Permissions mostly resolved. Groundwave Publishing has a little more setting up to do, and I've got to engineer a successful launch for the book, soon! Each step brings some degree of anxiety, which is especially keen when you're working alone. Getting reviews and endorsements is the next and maybe most challenging bit.

But which logo to use? or how to make it stronger?

Groundwave Publishing logoGroundwave logo2

groundwave logo5groundwave logo6

The image comes from the way terrestrial radio waves travel, btw. Soon I'll put the cover up, too, for you examination. Feedback invited! I'm learning Adobe Illustrator while I learn a lot more about Dreamweaver.

 
       
12 April 2011  

Tomorrow — Wednesday, 13 April 2011 — the House of Representatives takes up the Ryan budget proposal. It is iniquitous. I do not easily use the word "evil." No, I do not use the word at all. This budget is evil.

At a time when the economy urgently needs stimulus and public spending, only one thing gets an increase in this budget: the military! Really? Just as we face a climate emergency more urgent than anything — any war, anything — humans have ever faced — the EPA gets a 16% cut? Really?

When the richest two percent of us are paying less tax than almost ever — when our society is being made very, very sick by the gaping inequalities we've built into it — this budget is going to give the richest another tax cut? Really? Our current deficit is the result of the Bush tax cuts. Do you remember that? It is the Bush tax cuts for the rich that created the deficit. Do you understand that? Does the Congress? Really?

Cut the ground out from under Medicare and senior citizens? Replace Medicare with a voucher system and other changes that place our health even more seriously in the hands of a greedy health-insurance industry? Really?

I could go on — about cuts in public transit and rail projects, infrastructure projects, public welfare, and on and on and on. But here is what I want to know. Where are the Democrats? Did I not vote for a more or less progressive Democrat for president? Where did he go?

Why are the Democrats not making a case for stimulus? Why have they accepted the Tea-Republican argument that the problem is the deficit, or that Tea-Republican solutions will correct the deficit? Why do they not argue that the climate emergency requires action? Why cut air safety and air traffic controllers? Why, when we've got to build a truly viable passenger rail system, fail to do so? Why take up the Tea-Republican agenda as our own?

I have urged our good U.S. Representative John Olver to fight back, to vote no on the Tea-Republican agenda at every opportunity.

It is hard now, very hard, to be proud of this country, and I am not proud of it. If I could, I would trade my citizenship for a European country, or the United Kingdom. I can't. You can't either. We are here, stuck with this disgrace. It still has potential for greatness and that is what we have got to demand now. We haven't got any alternative. Maybe 2012 will re-establish and re-assert the sanity and morality of the American people. Don't know. But for God's sake, let the leaders of the Democratic Party begin re-establishing and re-asserting their own sanity and morality — tomorrow in the House of Representatives. And let the President do so in his address tomorrow evening. Please. I would like to be able to vote for him again.

 
       
5 April 2011  

James Lovelock, the great scientist who conceived the Gaia Hypothesis, thinks we must turn to nuclear energy — a view he shares with James Hansen, the NASA scientist who first warned us about global warming. He proposes a renewal of development of fourth-generation “fast” reactors that use 99 percent of the uranium as well as the very dangerous transuranic actinides that remain dangerous for 10,000 years. They leave far less waste, waste that can’t be turned into weapons of mass destruction. By 1994 the Argonne National Laboratory had completed all the essential tests, and “fast” reactors might have become a reality, but in the wake of anti-nuclear sentiment following Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the Clinton Administration killed the program entirely. Better, safer nuclear reactors may be the only way to halt the mining and burning of coal. But that new generation of reactors doesn’t yet exist.

Then, last month, a 9.0-scale earthquake and resultant tsunami catastrophically destroyed the first-generation 1960s-era Fukushima Daiichi six-reactor plant on the northeast coast of Japan. The weeks of uncontrolled radioctive emissions shattered the recovery of faith in nuclear power. The fear was only intensified by a compendium of studies published by the New York Annals of Science, just out, that had concluded that the 1986 meltdown at Chernobyl in then-Soviet Ukraine had killed nearly a million people (though the official death toll is fifty-four). It moved China to cancel thirty-five new reactors, with the likely consequence that China will replace them with coal-burning plants — coal, the one fuel unquestionably, and infinitely, more destructive than nuclear. And that just after China approved a new technology, the pebble-bed reactor, less prone to overheating and meltdown, cooled not by water but by nonexplosive helium gas. Meanwhile it’s developing a more advanced approach: the “thorium-based molten salt reactor system” whose liquid fuel would be one thousandth as hazardous as uranium. Unlike uranium, thorium is as common as lead, and the U.S. Geological Survey says the largest reserves are here. And there’s no out-of-control chain reaction because fission happens only as long as the thorium is bombarded with neutrons. Switch it off and it stops. If, instead of signalling a switch to coal, the hold on new plants means China is preparing to unveil technologies are are vastly safer and more efficient, the news is good. Pebble-bed and thorium-based reactor systems are among six classes of Generation IV reactors.

The Fukushima plant was a copy of the General Electric Mark 1 boiling water design, one so flawed that a safety official with the Atomic Energy Commission recommended in 1972 that the Mark 1 system be discontinued, one so flawed that three members of the design team resigned in 1976 in disgust, particularly because of what they knew would happen if the plant lost the capacity to cool both the active and spent fuel rods. And this one was built in a geologically unsafe fault zone on a tsunami-prone coast. Thirty-two of them are currently operating, twenty-three in the United States; one is located down Barnegat Bay from the town where I grew up.

We face a climate emergency unlike any peril humans have ever faced and we don't have much time. Halting the quickening warming of the planet will require nuclear power. It had better not come from outmoded and discredited technology like Fukushima Daiichi, or Vermont Yankee.

 
       
3 March 2011  

A villain and a hero to note this week. The hero first: a UU named Tim DeChristopher. Here's what 350.0rg says about him:

Why Tim DeChristopher Is So Important

For anyone who hasn’t heard, an American activist named Tim DeChristopher is on trial in the Rocky Mountain state of Utah. His crime? Bidding for some oil and gas leases that the Bush administration was trying to auction off to big energy companies so that they could produce more fossil fuel. Tim—in an act of deep, spontaneous, creative protest—raised his hand and bid more than a million dollars, winning a couple of the leases. But he didn’t actually have a million dollars, and once the federal government found that out, they went crazy, charging him with disrupting the auction. He faces as much as ten years in prison.

He's 29, and a member of First Unitarian in Salt Lake City. He's messed up fourteen leases for 22,000 acres for oil and gas exploration. This, I'm convinced now, is what it's going to take. The Obama administration may be way better than Bush's, but it isn't prepared to do what's now required. DeChristopher has founded something called Peaceful Uprising.

Now the villain. Actually, he's only representative of the real villain, which is a filthy system that puts profit-grubbing insurance companies between people and their health. The USA is the only modern nation that gives for-profit insurance companies in that position (others that involve insurers require that they be not-for-profits). This guy is Cleve Killingsworth, the outgoing CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Massachusetts, walking off with an $8.6 million severance. He'll also be paid $1.8 million more for 2011 and another million for 2012. Massachusetts actually requires health insurers here to operate as not-for-profits. Our good Attorney General, Martha Coakley, is questioning how BCBS's operations resemble a not-for-profit.

Now, nobody, nobody, is that much smarter, meritorious, or harder working, than the mass of working people as to deserve compensation like that. The gaping inequality unique to American society has made American culture very, very sick.

 
       
28 January 2011  

Well well well. Well. Another uprising against another U.S.-supported dictator (which includes $1.3 billion in military aid every year), and we don't find ourselves in a very admirable position. What now can President Obama say? Call on Mubarak to reform? Egyptians won't go for that. Mubarak has to go. Not that he will. Not clear how long Hosni Mubarak can hang on, hated as he is. He promises a new government, tries to reassure the Egyptian people that he has fired the nasty old government. Trouble with that is that Mubarak is the Egyptian government, has been for thirty years — anything he may replace is just a rubber-stamp for himself, so what's the difference? Egyptians are enraged with the United States, and some American reporters found that no one would talk to them. What would replace Mubarak's dictatorship? We've been warned, for years: support Mubarak, or the dreaded Muslim Brotherhood will take power. Personally, I'm not very worried about the Muslim Brotherhood. But where no democratic institutions have been able to put in roots and mature, the power vacuum could be filled with — what? Can Mohammed el-Baradei help guide a peaceful transition? I have to hope so. Remember el-Baradei? He was the UN weapons inspector who said there were no weapons of mass destruction, whom George W. Bush chose to ignore and insult.

But think what we've gotten in the deal: an ally in our dubious military adventures that have enraged the people of how many other nations?

 
       
25 January 2011   Cold, snowy winter. A few mornings ago it was -14 fahrenheit here, which is -25.5 celsius. The snows keep coming. And I keep driving back and forth between home and Manchester, New Hampshire, where my course,The Transcendentalist Spirit and an Evolutionary Spirituality, is going very nicely. I've begun with five Thursday evenings — about 45 have been showing up — and then there will be a long Saturday and part of Sunday afternoon, concentrating on Evolutionary Enlightenment and the farthest reachest of possibility for congregational life. This, as much as anything, is my work, my best gift.  
       
8 January 2011  

How long could it have taken to happen? There was Sharron Angle's call for "second-amendment remedies" and there were Tea Partiers showing up armed at political rallies. There was the Red State Blog frothing "At what point do the people . . . march down to their state legislator's house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp?" There was Sarah Palin's ad for her campaign to unseat 20 selected Democrats last November featuring a U.S. map with gun cross-hairs tranposed over those 20 districts, including that of Rep. Giffords. There is Glen Beck's unending rhetoric of inflammatory misrepresentation aimed at scaring and enraging his listeners. Listen to them — whether Tea/Republican elected officials or talk-radio hosts or Fox hosts — doing what they can, with significant success, to persuade their hearers that Barack Obama is some kind of alien occupier who has ambushed the country, that he intends to appoint death panels that will order the deaths of unworthy old people, perhaps your mother. There is John Boehner on NBC allowing as how Obama really is a citizen but he won't tell his troops to cut out the birther crap because who is he to tell them what to say? There was Gabrielle Giffords' nearly successful opponent in November — here, this is from the ad for his campaign event: "Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly" (that's her Tea/Republican Party opponent). Or have you heard Mr Limbaugh lately? But the radio stations are making money, so who cares if it's true or if it starts a ignites a bit of a domestic bloodbath?

Well, it has. Jared Lee Loughner turned up at Rep. Giffords' public event with a concealed Glock automatic weapon, fully legally under Arizona's brand-new law that says you don't even need a permit to carry a concealed weapon. And in the context of all this rhetoric far more suitable for a war than for political discourse.

It seems the right moment to underline all this, to hammer away at this far-right campaign of explosive destructiveness. Now, even the Democrats hardly dare challenge the NRA (Rep. Giffords herself had taken up their line on "gun rights"). And the poison rhetoric — will it change? The Arizona head of the Tea Party promises that No, it won't change. But maybe those broadcast executives will have a brief attack of morality. Maybe the poison political voices will sense a rapid decline in public esteem and trust. I would bet that it takes more than this.

The best commentary I've seen on the Tuscon incident and what it means is — no surprise — from The Guardian, by Michael Tomasky.

 
       
6 January 2011  

I am not, at the moment, proud of this country. Not even a little. So, the House of Representatives is now in the hands of the Tea/Republican Party. Run by people who avidly disregard science and disparage scientists. People who have promoted a number of serious lies — like the death panels. (Will they now offer legislation to revoke the nonexistent panels?) At a time when we — the inhabitants of the planet — have maybe three to five years to reverse climate change — now the Tea Party/Republican climate-emergency deniers are in charge.

They claim this nation already has the best healthcare system in the world — even though the facts speak otherwise, and 50 million Americans have no insurance, and millions more are underinsured and/or paying far too much for their insurance and care, and Americans' life expectancy is lagging behind other, more civilized, nations'. The Congressional Budget Office says this modest reform of healthcare — primarily a modest application of regulation to a greedy insurance industry — will save $230 billion, but the Tea/Republican Party's new rules mean ignoring the CBO and making up their own facts! And there's the Tea/Republican Party opposition to regulation of America's corporations and financial empires. And efforts to undermine Social Security and Medicare. And — but you know the rest. Many state governments are now in those same foolish, fanatical hands (Massachusetts and Vermont, thankfully, rejected the Tea/Republican propaganda; but Maine and New Hampshire swallowed it). And what can we say about that?

Does it mean that the public, who elected them, is stupid? Well, it says, irrefutably, that the public hasn't been paying attention. And Democracy cannot work where the public isn't paying attention. How could so many seniors have believed the Tea/Republican propaganda machine's fantasy that it's the Democrats are the threat to Medicare and Social Security? Why did young voters sit this past election out?

And the younger voters, who stayed home: progressive-minded people have felt deeply betrayed by what happened during the two years when Democrats had the power to fulfil the hopes, dreams, and values that got them elected. If Mr Obama is "primaried," I'll vote for a credible progressive alternative. I found his approach to the presidency incomprehensible. You cannot crank up the hopes of people, excite their sense of the possible, and trumpet their best dreams, and then govern as he has governed. But young voters' dropping out of the last election is not thereby excused. If the President and the Democratic Party failed, the public — and especially the progressive public — failed more damningly.

Now, honestly, I don't know if the human experiment on earth can make it. We cannot negotiate with the science. Gaia isn't amused. Emerson understood this in his first book Nature and he never ceased to hammer that theme. We are responsible, and we can't invent our own facts.

I am, remarkably, an optimist. I believe in human possibility. But if you believe in human possibility you've got to be relentless about the betrayal of human possibility.

Next, we'll see if the Senate Democrats have the integrity, the guts, and the political skill to end the pathetic disgrace of the filibuster rules.

I believe we can yet create a brilliant future. Each of us individually, and communally as well, will have to find the ways in which we can be effective. But the outcome isn't guaranteed. Never was. Certainly isn't now. What we do now matters more than we can know.

 
       
19 December 2010  

Why I meditate

Since I shared in the EnlightenNext Meditation Marathon, for which many of you sponsored me, I want to answer the question. BTW, we [400 meditators at various locations around the world] also raised over $150,000. As of my latest info, our Boston group of 25 or so had raised just short of $10,000. But that's an incidental benefit. Here is why I meditate:

I meditate because I want to be free from the conditioned, “karma”-laden ego with its fears and wants, its pretenses and defenses, its limitations. I want to sink deeply into the interiority of Being Itself and of my being, into the essence of what I am, where my own individual existence meets the boundary with the One of which I am part & parcel.

I meditate because being still is a stance of freedom in which I freely refuse to be driven this way and that from one form of busy-ness to another distraction. More than that: when I identify with that larger Self beyond the surface trivia and tumult, I rest on solid ground where no wind can shake me nor tide move me.

I meditate because meditation takes me to zero, to this place before I was ever hurt, ever defeated, ever frightened; before I ever won or lost, ever was disappointed or exulted, before ever I was poisoned with flattery or humiliation;

Before I crossed the threshold from infinite unmanifested potential and turned down the corridor of struggle into the din of time and space and experience to try, to want, to hope and do and feel;
Before my first hope was truncated and made small, before walls falsified the horizon, before I could not see the Goal and began to choose between substitutes.

I meditate because the future is in our hands, and this return to zero alone opens the space for creation, for the new — even as it is from the “vacuum state,” the apparent emptiness where we had thought there was nothing, that the Universe never ceases to create, even as being emerged from emptiness 14 billion years ago. I meditate, I say again, because the future is in our hands, and we must be its creators.

 
       
10 December 2010   This coming Sunday, beginning at midnight, I'm joining 300 people worldwide in a 24-hours meditation marathon. It's to raise funds for a really transformative organization/community I've been a part of since 2006, EnlightenNext — but it's also a spiritual journey, pushing our limits, deepening our roots in Spirit beyond the unceasing noise-machine in our minds, beyond the wants and fears of ego. As one of those meditators puts it, "meditation enables each of us to let go of everything in the way of change, to make the room inside of ourselves to become agents of cultural evolution."
        I am committed to continue for at least 12 hours. Many others have pledged to remain for the full 24 — with short breaks for snacks and stretching but not sleep.
        As for EnlightenNext, its EnlightenNext magazine (formerly known as What Is Enlightenment?) is a beacon light for many spiritual leaders and seekers in an era when the old answers and presumptive authority of premodern traditions can't guide us into territory where no one has yet gone. I believe in its work and, as you know, have been profoundly affected through its gatherings and retreats, and the mutual commitment to create "a higher We". It's made me a far more worthwhile Unitarian Universalist minister, too. (I'll be running my Transcendentalist Spirit and an Evolutionary Spirituality course at the Manchester, NH UU congregation in January and February — info at http://www.uumanchester.org/).
        And the marathon? Well, you don't get a lot of chances like this to share the profoundest of experiences in the shared silence that speaks more deeply and more truly than our words. I'll be joining with my friends in the Boston E/N group on this piece of the magnificent journey to the possible future. (Intrigued? You are welcome to come along — you can register at http://www.enlightennext.org/marathon/ and join a group of meditators near you, or do it on your own.) More about EnlightenNext here.
        I would be honored to have your sponsorship for any amount, large or small! Your contribution through this website: http://www.firstgiving.com/jaydeacon is simple, fast and totally secure, and, of course, tax-deductible.
 
       
16 November 2010  

The hills behind my property a few days ago

November hills in mist

 
       
   

Tomorrow morning it's back to Manchester for a few days. On the way, a UU ministers' meeting at Concord, where I'll promote my winter course in The Transcendentalists Spirit and an Evolutionary Spirituality and leave some brochures. But wait . . . is there something under this chair?

Scooby under my chair!

 
       
12 October 2010  

A big, ugly, rusty air conditioner used to be here. Steve is repairing the second-floor opening and the clapboard on the exterior.

Steve repairs the old air-conditioner opening.

 
       
19 August 2010   Massachusetts is led by a courageous progressive governor. And there's a high-power campaign (actually three campaigns) to unseat him. I want to see Deval Patrick reëlected. You can help: https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/entity/13863  
       
18 August 2010  

Beginning work at the Unitarian Universalist Church at Manchester, New Hampshire!

UU Church, Union Street, Manchester, NH

 
       
18 August 2010  

Out for a walk.

Scooby out for a walk.

 
       
4 August 2010  

What, ultimately, will be the consequences of the Wikileaks revelations about the tragically misguided war in Afghanistan? At the time — last week — it didn't look as though the exposed logs had shaken anything up very much. But I knew they had shaken me. Now, two brilliant assessments of their impact — one in last Sunday's Times, and the other in The New Yorker out today. I urge you to read them. Here they are:

Frank Rich, "Kiss This War Goodbye," in Sunday's Times

Amy Davidson's lead piece in "Talk of the Town," "Leaks," in The New Yorker

 
       
4 August 2010  

Yesterday, a driver for a beer distributor who'd been called in for a discliplinary chat and told to resign showed up with a bunch of guns and murdered eight people, then killed himself. Which prompted Connecticut Governor Rell (it happened in Manchester, CT) to ask, "How could someone do this? Why did they do this?"

WIth all due respect, Governor, it's a stupid question. Human beings — including the driver in yesterday's incident, someone with no criminal record and described as having "not a mean bone in his body" — get desperate, and explode in rage, and, having handy access to deadly weapons, do things like this. So the question for the governor and the rest of us, especially our very strangeCongress, is — how could you do it? How could you allow yourselves to be mowed down by the National Rifle Association? What will it take for us to remove this deadly plague of guns? Why are there so many millions of them out there, and why are they so easy to get, and how is it that the gunman in yesterday's incident had quite a number of legally-registered guns? This is insanity. Remember: what happened yesterday illustrates this definition of a "criminal" — a law-abiding citizen the moment after, in a moment of rage or desperation, and with easy access to a gun, he or she fires the gun.

If you'd like to read an insightful piece critiquing the recent Supreme Court majority decisions on this question, do see this — by one of the four dissenters from that decision, Justice Stephen Breyer. It's in The New York Review of Books, which arrived here today.

 
       
26 July 2010  

After an incredibly long time, I'm very satisfied with the book manuscript! A couple of chapters will require minor revisions right up to publication because they have to do with the climate emergency and with "faith-based hate," each of which topics provides new headlines daily. Now the very big question looms: how to get it published. I can try more proposals to agents and publishers, but when you're not a celebrity or published author, it's likely to come down to self-publishing — for which there are several options. You can go through the steps of becoming a tiny publisher yourself, and handling all the very many details yourself, or you can turn to a self-publishing company. Some of the better ones still have a disadvantage the I found annoying: just look at the religion and spirituality titles! Totally vomitous.

There is still some possibility that a particularly sympathetic independent publisher might want it. One way or another, it's time to do this. And then it has to be promoted, which is a huge undertaking. If my "The Transcendentalist Spirit and an Evolutionary Spirituality" seminar/retreats get any traction, I'll have a venue. There are UU events and Evolutionary Enlightenment and Integral Spirituality events, and it ought to have some interest for queer folks on a spiritual quest.

It all looks very daunting now, and I'm aware that one on one's own cannot begin to do what a community of committed people can accomplish.

Meantime, shortly, I'll be sharing the fire with a terrific bunch of people who have asked me to serve half-time as their parish minister — in Manchester, New Hampshire. While I'm in Manchester I'll be lodging with the magnificent people at Sunpoint Sanctuary in nearby Derry. Paul and Patricia are Unitarian Universalist pillars whose vision and action reaches deeply into social justice and the wider possibilities of evolving consciousness. Funny how things work out.

 
       
26 July 2010  

While I enjoy the quiet of a perfect summer day at Westhampton, I'm reading the stunning disclosures obtained by Wikileak and published today in my two favorite newspapers, the Guardian (London) and the New York Times. I think the Guardian has done a particularly excellent job with this. It comes from 90,000 actual military logs of the war in Afghanistan and it contradicts what we've been told is going on. The logs all come from the Bush presidency, but don't therefore dismiss the implications for what is happening now. You can see the reports at:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2010/jul/26/afghanistan-war-logs-wikileaks
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/world/war-logs.html

 
       
25 June 2010   I've been sitting with this since first reading it last night and it's time I put the link here — the best to-the-point commentary on the horror in the Gulf of Mexico. It's from London's The Independent, a column by Johann Hari. Read it!  
       
15 June MMX  

The President has just addressed the nation. Speaking from the Oval Office. Should have been standing in oily sands in Louisiana or Alabama, but that's a small matter of style. I was expecting something serious. That's a big matter.

Early on he assured us that in "the coming days and weeks" 90 percent of the surging oil will be captured. Oh? Did you get that from BP, too, sir?

There are a few things I expected to hear, and didn't:

1. Deployment of a take-charge goverment intervention: with a place for scientists, the military, and serious direct management of the situation. So the government knows how much oil is coming out down there and what the condition of the well actually is; knows what exists below the waves; gleans all the best available wisdom, science, and possible solutions. Lay out how this is being structured.

2. Announce those working near the oil and doing the clear-up operation will wear proper equipment like respirators, and announce that you are overriding BP's self-serving image-protecting orders that this equipment not be used (or employees using them will be fired). Announce access — overriding BP's ban on photography and journalists' access, and access for others who want to help or just to see for themselves.

3. Tell us what energy policy and environmental policy must now follow and that you are going to fight for. Be specific and unbending. Respond to the climate science as though you believe it. Demand that the Senate pass at least this wimpy piece of climate legislation — so that if the Congress resists, it will be their failure and disgrace. Tell us that from this moment on, you can't do offshore drilling or operate an offshore well without at least two additional relief wells, as some European countries and the UK require. We shouldn't be waiting for those wells to be drilled. We don't even know that the first or second attempt will hit the target.

4. Go easy on the platitudes. We don't want platitudes. Platitudes make us wretch just now.

5. Addressing the greatness of America isn't entirely appropriate when Europe has already done so many of the things you seem to be saying only the American spirit can do, which it hasn't done. This is a moment for a little preaching and a clarion call to repentance. Tell us how we have to change and how we might learn from others.

6. You seemed to be telling us about some restructuring of MMS. Weak stuff. Tell us what the Bush Administration did. Really — don't mince words. Tell us how you're going to dismantle that and put something specific and just and effective in its place.

I think this crisis has got the man down. One isn't getting that Harry Truman or FDR feeling from this. I note my own internal reaction and it isn't pretty. I think the speech was pretty much pious malarkey. Why did you approve offshore drilling, accepting the assurances and promises of the industry? Aren't you sorry? Tell us the mistake — don't have to dwell on that — and then do the Commander-In-Chief thing.

And then, tell us about the Manhattan-Project-style national energy retrofit you're undertaking.

 
       
13 June MMX   Good-bye, sixty-third year of my life! Funny, after all the struggle, to feel such affection for you. Well, I carry you on with me now. Yet every step is new. May I be attentive to the highest future possibility more than I am attentive to the familiar habits and comfort-zones. There is a future to be created. Oh, now, midnight has passed, and with it, you. (How can I be sixty-four?)  
       
11 June MMX  

For progressive people driven by an evolutionary vision of human possibility, this has to be a moment of painful disappointment. We believed him when he promised a new progressive government, and change we could believe in. Not so.

If you want a particularly revealing, particularly pertinent case in point, I refer you to Tim Dickinson's piece in the current Rolling Stone titled "The Spill, the Scandal, and the President." A couple of weeks ago I wrote the President (I do this a lot: you can do it too at http://www.whitehouse.gov/CONTACT/ ) urging him to replace the Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, whose career to date had demonstrated a significant fondness for offshore oil drilling and who not made good on the promise to reform the MMS — the Minerals Management Service — which was set up during the Bush administration to promote offshore drilling, and which is supposed to manage it, ensure compliance with environmental law and policy, grant (or withhold) permits to drill, and collect the "royalty" fees. At first, Salazar made some changes and announced "there's a new sheriff in town." But he proceeded to put 53 million new Gulf offshore acres up for lease, more than had ever been opened to drilling in a single year. The lawlessness in the agency continued. The 27 May post below tells the too-familiar story from there. There are employees at Salazar's Interior Department (of which MMS is a component) who describe their experience there as "the third Bush term."

Now, no one these days much likes BP. The behemouth company is a legitimate object of wrath. And no one bears more responsibility for the current catastrophe than the Bush-Cheney administration, which defined the terms and conditions under which the oil giants would operate and the values to be served by those terms and conditions. We knew that.

What we didn't want to know is that we had been lured into a regime of same ole' same ole' corporatism and get-alongism — by thrilling rhetoric that turns out to have been halfhearted window-dressing. If Mr Obama actually believes the scientists, what in hell is going on in the Gulf? Where is the Manhattan-Project-like national conversion to sustainable energy? Where are the new passenger rail lines? Why are solar and wind component companies like Evergreen sinking? Does he mean it?

Why is Larry Summers and fellow corporatists and banksters running the economy while progressive economists like Krugman and Reich and Stiglitz left out in the cold? Why is the Defense of Marriage Act still in place? Why are we left with a healthcare system that puts for-profit insurers between you and your health? Why is the United States still supporting the occupation of Palestian lands and, indeed, the blockade of Gaza?

There's something particularly dangerous about exciting people with empty promises. Hearing Barack Obama, throngs of young Americans and throngs more older ones who had been cynical about the political process allowed themselves to hope and believe. Can they hope and believe again? They don't now, and now, their renewed cynicism is deeper. It has to be described as a tragedy. In Mr Obama, there's evidence of many fine qualities and capacities. But he is in over his head, challenged with crises beyond his wisdom.

Indisputably, there have been policy shifts for the better. Manifestly, the cast of characters in this administration is to be preferred to the last. But what we've gotten are the kind of halfway measures the don't quite work. Now the looney right can make its case that the Gulf catastrophe and the economy (and on and on) are the fault of the left. It's hard to see how Mr Obama can be reëlected (remembering that his margin of victory over such low-quality, frequently off-the-wall opponents was appalingly small in 2008).

Which all begs the difficult question: does the progressive movement need to find a new leader?

 
       
28 May MMX   The good people of the Unitarian Universalist Church at Manchester, New Hampshire, have asked me to be their minister — half-time — and I will begin in the Fall. With the remainder of my time I mean to get the book published and to conduct seminars in The Transcendentalist Spirit and an Evolutionary Spirituality — if I get some invitations from other UU congregations to do that. I know at least one congregation whose minister will schedule me in! Hint: it's in New Hampshire. I'll be doing some occasional substituting in the pulpit at West Hartford, too. I'll post the dates on the main page of the website. More news on all this to come! Here's the Manchester website: http://www.uumanchester.org/  
       
27 May MMX  

On the night of April 20, an offshore oil rig called Deepwater Horizon — so named because it was drilling for oil under 5,000 feet, or nearly a mile, of seawater in the Gulf of Mexico — exploded. The rig had drilled a further 13,000 feet — altogether, three miles — pushing the limits of both technology and safety. Water at 5,000 feet is under tremendous pressure, something like 2,000 pounds per square inch. Oil and gas even deeper surges upward under more extreme pressure.

A month before the explosion, there’d been a series of accidents. One resulted in the destruction (undisclosed by BP) of the blowout preventer, or BOP, device near the seabed. It’s used to seal the well shut once it’s been drilled so as to test the well’s pressure and integrity. In the event of a blowout, a rubber gasket called the “annular” is supposed to close around the drill pipe. The BOP had other malfunctions, including dead batteries and a leaky seal. Now the well couldn’t actually be tested, and there was no working blowout prevention device.

Then it came time to seal the well. Deepwater Horizon would be removed and another rig would be moved into place to pump the oil. And BP, which leased the Horizon from Tranocean, had decided the procedure was taking too long, and cut some corners, despite Transocean ’s protests. The sealing with concrete plugs was fast-tracked, with catastrophic consequences. Two hours before the explosion a pressure test showed “a very large abnormality” and was ignored. I’ve mentioned the deposits of methane in the earth’s surface. A vast cloud of methane — natural gas — rippled up from the bottom and settled over the area around the rig. The methane made the rig’s diesel engines rev wildly. There was an almighty explosion and inferno that incinerated eleven men.

British Petroleum had once rebranded itself as Beyond Petroleum. That was in the days when the company was run by John Browne, who from 1997 tried to rebrand BP as a “green” energy company. He may have been part visionary, but the company was already cutting corners, and Lord Browne lost his job after a 2005 Texas BP refinery fire that killed fifteen workers and for which BP was found willfully negligent.

But — that 2010 incident. For weeks the oil flowed into the Gulf. BP’s early public estimate was 1,000 barrels a day, but the number was revised upward: 5,000, 30,000, 80,000. How could anyone measure accurately at such great depth? As vast plumes of oil formed below the surface and oil began to flow into the critical Gulf Stream, the public got a revelation about what President Obama would call the “cozy relationship” between the oil companies and the government agencies that were meant to regulate them. The Bush-appointed head of the Minerals Management Service, Chris Oynes — an old friend of former Vice President Cheney — announced that he was going into “retirement.” Many might have wondered whether he should have beeing going into prison. BP, it turned out, had been given a waiver from having to conduct the required environmental assessments prior to undertaking the project. MMS is a division of the Interior Department. Sixteen months into the Obama Administration, Oynes was still there. The corruption-plagued Interior Department had changed too little. President Obama had just announced his support for offshore oil drilling, insisting that America needs the oil. The Republican Party, together with its “Tea Party Movement,” had already distinguished themselves with the phrase “Drill, Baby, Drill,” and now the GOP blocked efforts to raise limits on oil companies’ liabilities for oil spills, while mustering not a single sponsor for climate legislation (like the severely anemic Kerry-Lieberman bill, currently under debate).

Meanwhile, the world learned that BP had been operating another deepwater rig since 2007, The massive BP Atlantis platform, without proper up-to-date and engineer-approved documentation. Its location: 150 miles out of New Orleans, in an area known as “hurricane alley.” The water depth is 7,000 feet — 2,000 deeper than the Deepwater horizon. Most subsea piping and instrument diagrams, critical documents for operating the platform, were never approved by engineers.

It came out that an MMS scientist had complained to his bosses of catastrophic safety and environmental violations, but MMS had already granted at least five final approval permits for new Gulf drilling as recently as the time of the Deepwater explosion. Despite warnings from whistleblowers and members of Congress about BP Atlantis, MMS refused to act.

To mitigate the mess, both BP and the government are employing two types of a “dispersant” brand called Corexit, a chemical that was originally developed by Exxon and is now manufactured by Nalco Holding Company, a company in which BP has a financial interest. EPA data seems to say the dispersants are more toxic and less effective on South Louisiana crude than other available dispersants. More than a decade ago, both were removed from a list of dispersants approved for use in the United Kingdom, according to Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Chair of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. The precise chemistry of the product is “proprietary,” but it’s known to contain 2-butoxyethanol, a harmful toxic. Corexit was used after the Exxon Valdez incident, resulting in public health problems including resperatory, nervous system, liver, kidney and blood disorders. But it comes with EPA approval. Many experts are concerned about this use, which adds additional toxins to the ocean and may lead to longer-term ecological problems. As of this writing about a 750,000 gallons of toxic dispersant have been pumped into the Gulf waters — on top of the millions of gallons of oil.

If dispersants protect the coastline and its ecosystems, the chemicals and the oil remnants will damage sea life, poisoning virtually everything that lives in the sea, and depriving it of oxygen. The combination of dispersed oil and chemicals is more toxic than the oil alone, and it can also spread out farther in the Gulf, according to Jacqueline Savitz, director of pollution campaigns at the oceans advocacy group Oceana. A 2005 National Academy of Sciences report on oil spills and dispersant chemicals found that the combination can kill fish eggs and impair development of surviving fish, and accumulate in shellfish like mussels.

Oh, and the Times, did I mention? Here it is, in the May 16, 2010 Auto section: a rave review of the Twin-Turbo Ford Flex SUV, “blissfully turbocharged, 355-horsepower EcoBoost V-6.” Reviewer Lawrence Ulrich gushes that the “federal mileage rating of the Flex with EcoBoost, 16 miles per gallon in town and 22 on the highway,” allows Ford to boast that “the power lunch is free, at least at the pump.” EcoBoost? The lunch is free?

If that is why the President thinks there must be offshore oil drilling, the soul of the nation is very, very sick indeed. It would be hard to say much more for the President’s moral clarity.

I used to regard BP as the most ecologically friendly oil company, as if any oil company can be seen that way. At the time of the Exxon Valdez outrage, I'd publicly destroyed by ExxonMobil credit card. Ever since I've bought not an ounce of Exxon or Mobil petrol. I will run out of gas before I'll do that. I'll now be driving past all BP stations, too. You and I get to decide whether or not to reward the parasites who run these corporations. Our money is an extension of ourselves.

So are our votes. In the United States, I've generally regarded third-party votes as wasted votes. I'm re-thinking that. Corporations driven by a culture of reckless greed don't have an awful lot to fear from our political leadership, who seem to be owned and operated by those corporations. And all of this is fed by the demands of a public that seems to have decided not to believe the science — science which is better reported, and more urgency, in the British and European press (I daily read The Guardian and The Independent) than in ours. Even the Times, which, most of the time, keeps the news about our climate emergency off the area above the fold on page one and hides it well inside. To a public that doesn't want to think this is real or important, such downplaying of "environmental" news is a comforting narcotic,

Tonight, the "top kill" procedure is underway. There's a fair chance it will stop the flow of oil that has gone on now for 38 days. The ruined marshes, the young salmon that will eat the globules created by the dispersant and oil and die, the Gulf coast seafood industry, — this list could go on, and on — we will need a way to mourn all these, intentionally and seriously. And when we have done that, to undertake a change of course. And that change will have to be one we, and those who come after us, can believe in.

 
       
11-12 May MMX   But there is good news coming . . . a chance to work with a wonderful congregation and still have time for writing and leading workshops. More to come. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, 12 May, I'm a guest on an EnlightenNext webcast on "Inspired Evolutionaries," when I'll talk about the intimate connection between the UU Transcendentalist connection and the still-flowing stream of evolutionary spirituality. Already I've heard from two UU colleagues who share the vision and want our UU movement to be an engine of conscious evolution. Who knows who else will be listening.  
       
April 17, MMX  

A genuine apology for the long time lapse since February. To amplify the effect of my having disappeared, this website went down for a few days (oop, missed deadline to renew the domain name, an expensive mistake).

It's been a tough time, one of disappointed hopes. A month ago I learned from the search committee of a wonderful congregation I was quite excited about that I'm not their choice. Pre-candidating weekend went splendidly well, as it has for four years running. And for four years running, no cigar.

Some of you served as references, and some of your have done that repeatedly during these four frustrating years of the UUA's brutal search process -- and for this, I'm extremely grateful.

It doesn't seem to me that it makes sense to go through this again (or to keep asking you to serve as references!). And if I did, it would be as someone who, a year from now, will have been out of work for way too long. Interim ministry doesn't make a lot of sense, either, not for me. I've undergone the hair-raising, underfunded uprootings necessary to serve interims at North Easton and at Orlando — which I'm certainly capable of doing, but my best gifts aren't what's called for there, and "hit-n'-run" isn't how I want to work. The tasks now would seem to me to get that book published, and to take my workshop on the road — "The Transcendentalist Spirit and an Evolutionary Spirituality." Maybe I'll resume "Spirit," my radio show (though that doesn't pay anything!). And who knows — maybe form a new congregation somewhere. Maybe here. It's come increasingly to look like a good idea.

It's tempting to feel keen disappointment. But that's a construction of reality I don't have to choose. It's easy because what has been denied is something recognizable — I know what it is, I can imagine it. It's harder to recognize the patterns in the light radiating from between the familiar dark. But I remember what the great cultural philosopher Jean Gebser said of a very early experience in his life — a plunge into the unknown that took his fear away so that for the remainder of his life he faced the unknown with confidence. Then, years later, a profound experience of meditation and enlightenment filled him with a sense of "invulnerability, a primal trust." Which reminds me of Emerson, in the Divinity School Address, who spoke of the person who has awakened to their deepest, highest, m
ost essential identity beyond ego. If you know, as the Chandogya Upanishad puts it, that "Thou Art That," that is, you are not other than or separate from the Divine, then it is that "the safety of God" enters into you. I'd always been struck by Emerson's statement but only in recent days has its significance become clear to me. Sometimes I feel awfully exposed. But I get to interpret the reality that is before me. Face it, avoid nothing, and choose not to see it darkly, see in it something foreboding. I can't promise I'll always succeed at that, but it's my intention.

 
       
April 15, MMX  

It's been way too long since the last post — as illustrated by today's view of the same tree. Few dead limbs . . .

The old maple in front comes to life in April.

 
       
February 28, MMX  

Apologies for neglecting the blog — lots going on!

Meanwhile it's been snowing again. You're looking west up Stage Road:

Up Stage Road in the snow

 
       
January 1, MMX  

You have to agree that the Roman rendition of 2010 looks very cool. I believe I shall write it on all my checks this year. Wonder if anybody will know MMX is 2010?

Well, we've had another bomb attempt on an airliner. So, to prevent further attacks, we do what? Thom Hartmann suggests it will be just as effective to make everybody get naked at airport security, and hand them a towel to wear until the last your of the flight, when the towels would be collected. You get it back to walk through the airport.

And he points out that daily, somebody is taking substantial quantities of drugs through security, hidden somewhere in their body. They can do it with explosives, too, and even the expensive machines won't find it. Still, the machines are better than some of the silly procedures we're hearing about.

After 9/11, I said we must have the courage to ask why they hate us out there; what is behind the rage. This is not to dignify the violence, no, not at all. But desperate people do desperate things, most of them stupid.

And we have to ask why this rage. But we know the answer, don't we? It's time we stopped fueling the rage with our own stupidity. Get the American military out of Saudi Arabia, home of Mecca. Let Afghanistan be its miserable self because we cannot bring it into the 21st century, or even the 18th. And face our own addiction to consumerism and especially oil. We will have to change. Maybe we will have to lead the change in global perspective. That takes courage.

The ordinary people on the street holding signs about "No Blood for Oil" were right. Are right. If we have to will to change, we will find exhilarating things to do and to employ our people. High-speed trains. Hell, any trains. Massive conversion to sustainable energy. Adjusted expectations of what it is we have "every right" to do and have. I am not proposing reversion to an earlier, simpler world. I am proposing that we leave behind a world that could never work, and create the possible future. The brilliant possible future, because humanity possesses almost inconceivable powers to do this.

We could make of this MMX a marvel, a joy, and a triumph. But not by pursuing the same wretched means that have gotten us to this precipice. Let us not have another 2007, 2008, 2009. May we all have a blessed MMX.

 
       
December 13, 2009The old maple in snow  

Just heard, on BBC Radio 3, a climate-emergency drama worth listening to. "The Contingency Plan."

You can watch videos streaming from the Copenhagen conference at One Climate.net. You can follow the conference at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) website. The Conference section has a link to watch web streaming.

Also excellent:Yale's Environment360 site, There are dispatches from Copenhagen.

Astounding (or maybe not), but almost no daily newscast is originating there but Democracy Now is, and Amy Goodman is using her daily hour well to keep you informed.

As usual, the British newspapers are doing circles around American reporting. The Independent is always good on environmental reporting, but on Copenhagen, the Guardian has a clear edge. Here's a link to the Guardian's Environmental reporting.

A few others: Climate Progress, 350.org, the website of the Society of Environmental Journalists, the site of the Columbia University Earth Institute, and, of course, Friends of the Earth, which offers videos from Copenhagen.

Meanwhile, from the front window, while the snow falls again today, my old maple tree.

 

 
       
December 11, 2009  

Snow on house & barn

Snow! On the roofs (above) and the view from the dining room (below).

Looking at the property southwest from the dining-room.

Meanwhile, in Copenhagen. The nations of the world (and many of its scientists) are gathered for what is probably the most important — the most urgent — gathering ever. Low-lying lands (far-flung places like the Nile Delta where most of Egypt's people live, Bangladesh, the East Coast of the United States among them) will be under water before the century is out — unless. What? Science says our carbon emissions have to drop something like 80 percent. The European Union is offering, for starts, a 30 percent cut by 2020, but they don't want to be alone in putting out. China, where they can't see much beyond their block because the air is so bad, is offering 45 percent and has opened a vast technological front on its carbon footprint. Every nation of the world is basing its figures on a comparison with 1990 levels. Except one.

President Obama has the unhappy disgrace of having to offer, on behalf of the U.S., a measly 17 percent reduction — based on a comparison with 2005. What that comes out to when figured back into the 1990 base of comparison is pathetic 4 percent. And that's before the inevitable fudging and finessing the numbers. I have to believe he must have yearned for something better to offer.

We will have to change. We will have to take this seriously, and right away. Of course, we know how. The technology is either already here or not too much for human brilliance to achieve. That's not the problem. It's a spiritual crisis, isn't it?

See how they lie. See how we, ourselves, hedge and pretend.

And today, more Americans believe they're protected by angels than believe we're causing global warming.

Meanwhile, observed changes are way outstripping the scientists' predictions. And we know this process isn't something slow & smooth & gradual. No, it hits tipping points and the situation plunges into something more dire and irreversible. Humans have an enormous capacity for changing the subject. Still you hear people talking about how "last summer was really chilly so obviously this isn't happening." Well, if you want to base your climate science on what happens in your own hometown, you might think so. The facts say there has been no cooling — speaking globally — over the past decade. Only warming. 2010 will probably set a new heat record. It's very cold and very windy out there tonight. But even tonight, inhabited lands are sinking under the waves, and the glaciers go on shrinking and the sea ice goes on thinning; and crop zones are moving north, leaving vast regions of scorched earth cannot produce crops.

So the United States has an announcement. It is prepared to contribute $1.4 billion to an international climate change fund! Even while we lavish $30-$40 billion on a very foolish war in Afghanistan. Did you get that? The bill for the Iraq war is probably going to come to $3 trillion. The Obama Defense budget request is $687 billion. This new Afghanistan surge comes to $30-$40 billion. A million bucks a year for each soldier. Is anybody figuring the ongoing costs of the horrible injuries and mutilations that will result?

Where are the high-speed trains? the massive national conversion to sustainable energy sources? Where are they? Does any of this disturb you? Ring a little phony? Have they no shame? Apparently not.

 
       
December 9, 2009  

Deep in snow; wet, heavy snow that was a bit too much for my poor snow-blower. So I spent a lot of time shoveling today and will no doubt be quite sore tomorrow. Warmed up a bit later on today and the snow turned to rain. Tonight it all freezes very hard. Oh oh. But Scooby had such a good time tramping about in it today that it's all worth it.

But what's going on with healthcare "reform"? Does anybody know? It looks to me like this: despite tireless effort by progressives, the Democratic Party has failed the public badly. The Republican Party has cemented its new identity as a deeply poisonous factor in public life. We began with a huge compromise on progressives' part: the real solution to our healthcare scandal, single-payer, wasn't even on the table. Now, a meaningful, robust public option appears to have been defeated. Getting creative, Democrats have come up with something almost good: expanding Medicare to those 55 and up. Could be brilliant, since that would seem to be a return to the single-payer concept. But.

There's nothing for you if you're under 55, and, oop, nothing until sometime in 2011 for those over 55, and — don't fail to note this — there's no premium subidy until the "exchange" kicks in, when? 2013? 2014? Ever? Result: participation by those under 65 will, meantime, be very expensive, and certainly pose no competition to the greedy, abusive insurance industry. Instead we'll get a Christmas present for the industry that deserves no present. Of course, that's how it looks at the moment. And then the conservadems will join Maine's useless senators to kill it anyway, at least if there's anything like expanded Medicare in it.

I'm disgusted, as you might possibly have guessed. The United States Senate has distinguished itself as a pretty much useless institution that cannot bring itself to give up its precious filibuster. Couldn't even bring itself to bring the threshold down to 55. Many feel betrayed by this, by the continued reliance on militarism, by the Administration's failure to deliver on the President's profession to be a "fierce advocate" for gay people. By an economic policy that left the brains and vision the nation needed — Krugman, Stiglitz, Reich, Shiller — out in the cold and instead placed stewardship of the economy in the hands of some of the very fools who got us into this crisis. The ironic result? The latest poll shows Obama's popularity tied with Sarah Palin's.

Meanwhile, far more importantly, the nations have gathered at Copenhagen. And besides Saudi Arabia, there seems no greater obstacle to urgent action than — still — the U.S.A. This is depraved. And the Washington Post decides to run an op-ed piece on climate science by Sarah Palin. The press has, of course, contributed to our climate emergency. It is no coincidence that more Americans believe in angels than believe humans are responsible for global warming. Why is the American public so deluded? We all delude ourselves when we can, when the truth is inconvenient. And when the press buries the most important story of our time below the fold on page one (if it ever even makes page one), people can reassure themselves that it isn't really so important. Certainly not as important as the affairs of a popular athlete. So — the New York Times editorializes correctly, and you can find at least some of the reporting in its pages. But it doesn't turn up in the headlines — quite unlike what Brits see when they pick up, say, the Guardian or The Independent.

So far, this is going to have read rather depressingly. What's missing? Well, read the sermon (from the main jaydeacon.net page, click on Sermons), "Context: A Higher We — The Farthest Possibilities of Congregational Life." In times like these, the essential factor is going to be spiritual communities like that. The future depends on it. And our own meaningful, passionate, ecstatic, and joyous living depends on it.

 
       
November 4, 2009  

Last night I was up very late following the numbers from Maine as they came in on the website of the Bangor Daily News. The issue, of course, was the new law extending the right to marry to same-sex couples — and the Roman Catholic Church's deceptive, bigoted campaign to defeat it by getting it on the ballot for public vote. Let the majority vote on the rights of a minority — yeh, right. Finally it was clear that 52.7 percent had voted to repeal the right to marry, to 47.2 percent to keep it. That, on top of the defeat of a wonderful (if not at all charismatic) governor in my state of origin, New Jersey by a fairly shady right-wing Republican — had me down.

I spent some time in Bangor in the mid-80s, serving the Unitarian Church in Bangor. They'd called me after one of their members was murdered in a queer-bating hate crime. His name was, of course, Charlie Howard. The anti-gay hate thundered from many quarters there, most especially the Bangor Baptist Church, founded by its pastor Buddy Frankland, who was later found to be having an affair with a married choir member whose wedding he'd once refused to perform inside the church because she'd once had a divorce. The story is far jucier than that, but that will have to do. When Charlie was murdered by three Bangor High School students, the Bangor Daily News ran a mind-numbing editorial titled "Not a Martyr." I remember writing a response, driving down to the newspaper, and marching in to the editor's office, pressing my piece into his hand and uttering something bitter.

So I looked again at the numbers. And I thought: yes, and the Bangor Daily News editorialized in favor of same-sex marriage and against Proposition 1. And the vote in Bangor went in favor of same-sex marriage. Meanwhile Portland affirmed same-sex marriage 20,085 to 7,242. And Belfast, and Camden, and Bar Harbor, and Saco, and many more communities. Yeh, the Catholic Church did what it does — it lent its spokesman to be the voice of the anti-gay campaign. (Why do any self-respecting gay people remain in that institution?) Yeh, the inland little towns aren't there yet. But great god — how far we've come since the mid-80s! And of that, I am very glad indeed.

 
       
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