May I let my voice be a clarion call. I will use these words for justice. I will use these words for truth. And humour.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


World Happiness Map

 A couple years ago, a social psychologist composed this world map, showing the relative subjective happiness levels of countries around the globe.  A little more backstory is at link on the title.

I just thought I'd share it.

pax hominibus,
agape to all,

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Indictment. Seriously.

I am hesitant to despoil my beautiful blog with the visage of this man who has caused so much calamity in the U.S. and in the world, but I feel that for the purposes of bringing the world back to just and right relationship, some very serious crimes need to be accounted for.

Here is a man who lied and cheated his way into the presidency.  Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and then used that presidency to direct the taxpayers' money (including future taxes -- his administration borrowed HUGE sums of money, which will have to be paid back) into wars and into the pockets of the rich.  The list of atrocities commited upon the American people is almost too much to fathom.  (There are people good wholesome values and convictions who were so upset by his anti-American fearmongering, warmongering, and obstinacy -- and calling it "American" from the highest seat of power -- in the face of justice that they are pretty near suffering from PTSD.)

You can't just go and trump up a war, then commit war crimes, and loot hundreds of billions or trillions of dollars, and then go hang out at your ranch.  If you can do all that, and walk away free, what kind of precedent does that set?  It means that for crimes where hundreds of thousands of people are killed, and hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people's lives are adversely affected, there is nothing to be done on behalf of the perpetrator.  The president of a country should be responsible to everyone, not the other way around.  The president is given a lot of power (and freedom -- not to be confused with 'license', which is what Bush and company took), and to allow them to abuse that freedom in order to impose upon other peoples' freedoms is neglect of the first order.

I want to be clear that I am NOT asking for retributive justice, though I must admit that over the course of the last 8 years, the idea of some grisly form of capital punishment for their evils has crossed my mind.  What I am asking for is restorative justice.  Those who have made things wrong must fully recognize what they have done, and work to put things back to the way they ought to be, so this kind of injustice cannot be done again.  I do wonder though, are these men entirely incorrigible?  In that case, they should be removed from society as a form of safety for society, but not as a form of punishment.

This new case brought up by a Spanish court promises to be interesting, but doesn't go after Bush or Cheney, and is probably non-binding, since extradition will be difficult at best, unless any of those named in the suit happen to travel to a country that would apprehend them on behalf o Spain.  Now, if other countries were to join suit, eventually the folks named would be trapped in the U.S. (which admittedly is still a pretty big place to travel in).  I wonder what it would take to have charges actually pressed in the U.S. itself?

lyrics: "Indictment!"
From Indictment, by Antibalas

colors: The New Red, White, and Blue

mood: Time for restorative justice.

chant/prayer/mantra: Peace to all people.

pax hominibus,
agape to all,

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Friday, March 27, 2009


Stand with Dr. Dean; and Repower America

It's about time the United States joined other developed countries in taking care of the health of its citizens REGARDLESS of their economic/employment status.
A clean United States within ten years? Possible!

lyrics: "I'm going back. Would you like a snack?"
From Flamingo, by Joe Song and the Stickers

pax hominibus,
agape to all,

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Obama on Marijuana Legalization and the Economy?

So, today on the nation's first online question and answer session with President Obama, he took the time to address a question related to an issue that matters to many Americans.

His exact words were:
We took votes about which questions were going to be asked, and I think 3 million people voted, or 3.5 million voted.

I have to say that there was one question that was voted on that ranked fairly high, and that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy [note: the live in-studio audience all starts chuckling at this point], and job creation, and ah -- I don't know what this says about the online audience, but I just want -- I don't want people to think that ah -- this was a fairly popular question -- and we want to make sure that it was answered.

The answer is 'No, I don't think that is a good strategy to grow our economy.'
And here is a link to the actual questions,* and not Obama's paraphrasing of it. Wow, there is a lot that could be said regarding this. It's late, and I'm going to bed soon, so I'll only say about half of it, and I'm going to be sloppy about citing sources (sorry). If you want the information, it's out there at the few links I will be providing.

First, it is great that he is having online question and answer sessions, to address questions that a plurality of Americans want to know about. As evidenced by the Bush administration's method of hand-picking reporters allowed into the reporter room, and heavily penalizing those who don't ask appropriate slow-pitch softball style questions, Obama could get through the presidency without doing this.

Second, honestly there are much more important issues in the United States to deal with than marijuana reform. There are wars to end and peace to begin, there are homeless and hungry and unemployed people. There are civil rights to be won for those in the LGBT community, and civil rights to be secured for people of color, and for immigrants. There are environmental issues that need addressing, and medical care for all. The list goes on and on.

But, as was evidenced during that brief stint when John McCain wanted to pull out of the debates because of the "Emergency Bail Out" bill (that gave all that money to banks that had greedily overleveraged themselves out of any semblance of fiscal balance), a good president needs to be able to handle more than one thing at once. Therefore in addition to the things mentioned above, President Obama should devote some of his time in office ending the "drug war" and reforming national policy regarding marijuana. Despite the difficulty of his answer today, I still believe that a decriminalization of marijuana is one among many of the "change we can believe in."

Third, I believe the audience was laughing partially from their own lack of comfort with this now-apparently-taboo topic, and also because to those who have not been on the front lines of the drug war, there is no context in which marijuana legalization actually makes sense, because there is no conversation or thought about it. Therefore the idea of legalization or decriminalization in order to boost the economy sounds like a tricky joke or something. But that question was indeed asked in earnest. Because MILLIONS of American lives depend on it. There are now millions of Americans who have been arrested for drug possession, and it affects their employability and their family life, and if they go to jail or prison, is a major DRAIN on the economy. Especially when prison or jail is NOT even an ethical answer for non-violent behavior. Those people could be working and paying money into the tax pool, rather than having their lives ruined behind bars while the prison system takes money out of the tax pool.

So, fourth, yes, there would be billions of dollars saved by eliminating the war on drugs*, so our taxes could go towards other things, instead of going toward: DEA raids on licensed medical cannabis dispensaries; state and federal prison population of non-violent drug offenders multiplied by $30k per prisoner; and toward militarized anti-drug operations at home and abroad, which have a way of smudging the lines and becoming dangerously close to military operations. So the above money could go toward other things. After all, it's not as if THIRTY YEARS of the drug war has really made much of a difference in anything other than us having less money, more people in prison, more racial discrimination, and pretty much the same amount of people trying drugs.
*note that this link is to a petition created by Nobel prize winning economist Milton Friedman and signed by hundreds of economists

Fifth, there would be billions of dollars earned by legalizing and taxing marijuana. There is no doubt in this. That money could go toward honest education programs, and toward drug (and alcohol) counseling. Instead of billions of dollars going toward armed drug cartels who are also bringing cocaine and heroin into our country, there would be a new sector of the economy. Compared to 700 billion dollars, it wouldn't be much, but then what does compare to 700 billion dollars, except for the entirety of the banking industry?

Sixth, even though it would help the economy, why should legalization/decriminalization be based on whether it would help grow the economy? Why make a decision such as this based on whether it would grow the economy when there are far more compelling reasons? For Christ's sake (and I do mean that literally), is the US now going to make ALL of its decisions based on whether there is money to be had? I DETEST that. I LOATHE that. I DESPISE that backward/myopic-principled way of thinking. It needs to be ushered to the exit door.

Seventh, here are some other reasons for decriminalization/legalization.
  • There really are people who are finding a variety of medical benefits from marijuana, and reliable studies have even verified this.
  • There are people whose lives are being destroyed, not by marijuana use directly, but by a penal system which follows biased and outdated ideologies, damning to jail those who use and distribute it.
  • Marijuana has been shown to be far less harmful to people than alcohol or tobacco, but those are legal, regulated, and (heavily) taxed. Simply put, that is double-think.
  • The drug war is class and race war -- blacks and latino/as are disproportionately represented among those who are put in prison (according to mandatory minimum sentences, even!) as a result of non-violent drug offenses.
  • Marijuana plants produce a lot of oxygen -- the planet needs more oxygen NOW, and these can grow a lot faster than forests (of course I would also recommend reforestation ASAP as well).
  • Finally, there is the issue of personal freedom to do as we choose. The United States has long been touted as "the land of the free." The war on drugs, coupled with peoples' continued desire to use them is a strong test against that notion -- because of prohibition, people are not free at all to use cannabis. Every argument I've heard from proponents for restriction on this freedom are either arbitrary or circular, frequently pointing to the illegality as the reason for itself.

Eighth, here are some things that hinder decriminalization/legalization, mainly corporate interests -- a few of which may have helped to get Obama into office. :(
  • The pharmaceutical industry doesn't want people to be able to grow their own pain relief.
  • If marijuana is legalized, there will be massive amounts of hemp fiber available for everything from clothing to rope, to sheets, to paper, to cooking oil, to insulation, to biodegradable plastics.
  • The tobacco, alcohol, and coffee industries don't want to have to give up their corner on the recreational drug market.
  • The prison and corrections industry has been enjoying a real boom lately, and the big box stores who hire prison labor at slavery wages also enjoy having locked-up non-violent drug offenders to help with their profit margins.** We, as shoppers, should take very careful heed of from where we buy our products.
  • Drug traffickers and dealers, despite the possibilities of getting caught, enjoy the immense profit they can make when they sell plants at 100x their natural cost to produce.
  • And V.P. Joe Biden and Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel have both been fairly well linked to -- and supportive of -- the war on drugs in the past.
My hope against hope, is that Obama, being the incredibly intelligent man that he is, is biding his time and waiting for the context to be ripe to introduce this. Decriminalization or legalization of marijuana is one of the many things that he needs to get done during his tenure in office. And if he is planning to wait until his second term to do this, it would certainly be a shame if he doesn't get re-elected, or ends up with a cantankerous Republican congress to deal in the future. The best time to do this is in the next two years.

*From, it appears that in 4 different categories, the questions about marijuana legalization were in the top ten most voted for the following constructed categories (I copy them here because information on the Internet has a way of vanishing overnight):

Health Care Reform (2 of top 10)

"Why is marijuana still illegal? Cigarettes and alcohol are far more harmful, and with the taxes put on the legal distribution of marijuana the US could make millions" Ben R, Washington, DC

"As a person with Multiple Sclerosis, I have many other MS friends who use marijuana just to feel some relief from their bodies. When can pressure be placed to reclassify Cannabis from a Schedule 1 drug (no medical benefit) to Schedule 5?" Marcia, Texas

Green Jobs and Energy (the top 2!)

""Will you consider decriminalizing the recreational/medical use of marijuana(hemp) so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and a multi-billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?”" Green Machine, Winchester,VA

"Has your administration given any serious thought to how legalizing marijuana could help solve the economic crisis? We could tax this green product and create an influx of cash while reducing violence created by the war of drugs & illegal trafficking" Ashley, Brooklyn, NY

Financial Stability (the top 4!)

"Would you support the bill currently going through the California legislation to legalize and tax marijuana, boosting the economy and reducing drug cartel related violence?" Anthony, Warrington, PA

"Has the administration given any thought to legalizing marijuana, as a cash crop to fuel the economy? Why not make available, regulate, and tax something that that about 10 million Americans use regularly and is less harmful than tobacco or alcohol." Sarah, Atlanta, GA

"Growing up I have noticed many around me always talk about legalization of marijuana, and I always thought, why not put a tax stamp on it. If marijuana was legalized it could really change a lot of things. America had the same problem with Alcohol." Peter McNamara, Minneapolis, MN

"Could legalizing marijuana and laying a tax on it, given restriction allow the government make back some of the glaring debt considering it's inelasticity and the history of economics of prohibition?" Andy Drake, New Brunswick, NJ

Jobs (2 of the top ten)

"What are your plans for the failing, "War on Drugs", thats sucking money from tax payers and putting non-violent people in prison longer than the violent criminals?" Matt B, West Bend, WI

"President Obama, Do you plan on letting Science end the failed "War" on Marijuana for personal and medical use thus taking the strain of our prisons and police forces so that we no longer have to arrest over 800,000 non violent drug offenders?" Phill, Georgetown,MA

Budget (the top 7!)

"With over 1 out of 30 Americans controlled by the penal system, why not legalize, control, and tax marijuana to change the failed war on drugs into a money making, money saving boost to the economy? Do we really need that many victimless criminals?" Ryan Palmer, Dallas, TX

"Mr. Obama, Thank you for allowing us to ask our questions to you, unfiltered. What is your stance on legalizing marijuana federally, taxing it and regulating much like alcohol and tobacco? I believe that the Drug War has failed, and needs overhaul." Brian, Minneapolis, MN

"I am not a marijuana user, but I do believe that making marijuana legal could provide some relief as to it could be heavily taxed and regulated. Legalization of marijuana will also be a detriment to the drug cartels in Latin America." Ryan McLaughlin, Rindge, NH / Quakertown, PA

"Have you considered legalizing marijuana and taxing/regulating it like alcohol? Marijuana is America's largest cash crop. The tax revenue from marijuana sales would provide a massive source of new revenue and cut the insane costs of the "Drug War."" Matt S, Huntsville, AL

"Mr. President, we the people continue to ask you this general question, please do not fail to respond: Will you allow science and common sense to reign and end this failed WAR ON DRUGS starting with the legalization and taxation of Marijuana?" Mark B, Sterling,VA

"Should the recreational use of marijuana be legalized and taxed if it will help California reduce its budget deficit? How will you and the federal government respond if such a law is passed by the California legislature?" JHawk, Santa Barbara, CA

"Are you willing to seriously consider the idea of curtailing the failed & expensive drug war in favor of a fair, responsible policy of decriminalization? With Mexican gangs, drug-related disease, & addicition going unchecked we need another solution." T.Kapanka, San Francisco, CA

That's a lot of questions (17 out of the top 110 questions), and I imagine that they got spread out across all of those categories because among the available categories, none of them seemed to jump out easily a social policy reform, or prison reform, or marijuana reform. Funny how lack of a category for something can be a form of inhibiting conversation about it, or making it seem awkwardly shoe-horned in. In retrospect, it's no wonder that the economic angle is where the question was built on that Obama chose to answer. After reading all these questions, I find it so sad that he ended up simply answering, "No," and it really is kind of infuriating that he was so cavalier and jocular about it.

**Here's an interesting/mortifying tidbit regarding humanity's propensity to enforce slave labor that I learned in a book I am reading for my Prisons and Punishment class (from page 39) -- "In the South, after the Civil War, former slaves were sentenced to prison and then leased out by the prison to work for local plantation owners."

lyrics: "I think you missed the point! Arresting for a joint?"
-F***king Hostile, by Pantera

colors: Red, White, Blue, Green

mood: Sleepy

chant/prayer/mantra: May the world get back to nature one day. And not the hard way.

pax hominibus,
agape to all,

Edit on March 29, 2009: Several people have stepped up and spoken out against Barack Obama's flippancy on the answer, including this heart-rending case study and this real-life case study about how serious marijuana legalization is as an issue, regarding medical treatment. In this post, the question is posed as to why Cannabis is still listed as a schedule one drug, when all indications are that it should be listed in a less dangerous class (in other words, it does not have a high potential for abuse, it is considered medically significant in several states, and 'safety for medical use' is not an issue), and recommends that the Attorney General could do so immediately.

And this question directed at Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, all three of whom have admitted to using drugs in the past and were not give the same treatment as the victims in the war on drugs. And there's this post by Dan Sweeney, where he makes some cogent arguments parallel to mine, but perhaps more focused and better worded.

And here is the Obama administration's earlier response to questions on the Internet about marijuana legalization: On 12/15/08, "President-elect Obama is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana." What exactly does that mean? It means that they crafted that answer specifically not to say that he is opposed to it. It also does not say that he is not in favor of the currently criminalized state of marijuana, and it also does not say whether or not he is in favor of decriminalization of marijuana. A subtle difference, but if we recall the context of Washington politics, one of our recent past presidents tried to redefine the meaning of "is," and another tried to redefine the meaning of "mission accomplished," so something like this wouldn't be out of the ken of possibility.

Also, Nirvana's Krist Novoselic weighed in on the co-op model used for cannabis clubs, and how a similar model could be used for health care. Good job thinking outside the box there.

It's interesting to note that in 1972, the editors for Consumer Reports magazine did a wide review of histories and effects of various drugs, including Cannabis.

And to close, here's a beauty from Italy. A lonesome shepherd should be allowed marijuana for personal use, because he's out in nature all alone with his sheep.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009


Breakfast Cereal from UAE


About a month ago, I went shopping at the local Grocery Outlet, and saw some sugar frosted flakes in a box on one of the aisles. It caught my attention because it had an interesting looking guy (a la Buzz Lightyear) on the front of the box. I turned the box around, and on the other side, it had the same picture, but with all Arabic writing on it, probably saying something like "Sugar Frosted Flakes."

(View full - makes a great desktop background!)

So I bought it, and I just finished eating it (Yes, I still sometimes indulge in sugar cereal), and I took pictures of it, and then I went to visit their website, (beware the loud cheesy music that accompanies the intro video).

Upon bopping around the site, it seems like NMC is a major UAE conglomerate, and an economic empire. Just the thought of a major corporate giant in the Muslim world gives me a lot to ponder upon. I don't get much warm fuzzies from Western corporate giants, and neither do I get the warm fuzzies from NMC, even though they have the slogan, "Together we smile."

The Muslim world has resisted the secularizing forces of capitalism, and perhaps for good reason. Yet does the existence of a corporate conglomerate like this in the Muslim world bring our cultures closer together? Or is this an example of them becoming compromised, or infected with capitalism? Or perhaps the Muslims will know how to do capitalism compassionately, basing their decisions off of Muslim principles, most notably Zakat. It makes me wonder if there are different human natures -- human natures based off of different worldviews and religious practices. Could capitalism work with a different worldview and different religion?

I also wonder what does the average person in a Muslim nation think of a large company such as NMC? Are they also subject to public relations efforts, to bias their views, as are people in the United States?

Anyway, reading about their chairman on the Corporate Governance page, I am surprised to see words written in English pushing the limits of my vocabulary, used in hyperbole, even.

"His variegated experiences in conceiving and fostering entrepreneurial initiatives found matching synergy of enthalpy in the business acumen and rectitude of Dr. B. R. Shetty, to signal the beginning of a relationship as a business mentor, trusted partner and close friend, as Chairman of NMC. Thereafter, the power of exponentials has marked the growth graph to speak the language of business, as new stars were born, littering the business firmament of NMC."

Yikes! The Muslims have learned marketing-speak! That leans toward answering the question of what kind of company NMC might be. I just had a scary thought. Perhaps this is just a front for American investments, trying to push into new markets. I'm not going to believe that thought I had (sometimes it's possible to have a thought and dispel it), preferring to believe that the people who the site says are in charge actually are in charge.

Well, they made some tasty cereal that made its way to Oakland. So they must be doing something right. Then again, I just checked out their "Hotline" page, and it seems to have gone cold to the tune of 4 years without an update. Hmmmm....

Well, as long as all the people are fed and have clothes and homes, then they're all right by my book. And I would love to hear the thoughts of my Muslim friends or from people in the general NMC marketing area, concerning their thoughts on this cereal.

chant/prayer/mantra: La ila ha illal-Lah.

pax hominibus,
agape to all,

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009


On Wealth vs. Poverty



The last year has shown us more about the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor than I can remember.

Here are a few things people have to say:

In this interview, Jared Diamond explains how the societies that do best are those where the well-being of the common people and the well-being of the rulers are tied together. In simplified terms, in the Netherlands, where everybody -- both rich and poor -- live below sea level, the rich ruling class made sure to have really good dikes. In New Orleans, where the ruling rich people live up on the hill, and the poor neighborhoods are flood risks, they sat around for 10 years without really upgrading the dikes.

From the comments, awesome quote #1: "Retention of power is the primary motivation of power." [Joel adds: it may be the case that it is, but is very much not the case that it should be.]

Awesome quote #2: "As far as the uber rich goes, until someone gives me a reason why I should care about people who don’t give a damn if people have food on their table, I’ll always be on the side that says ‘Fuck them’." [I would use non-expletives here, and would say that the reason to care about them is that they're humans. Horribly misguided and masked from the horrors, but human nonetheless. How far should we go in caring? That is another question entirely, partially answered by the quote below.]

Super-amazing quote #3:
"Somehow it’s always reasonable to hurt the poor as a way to make them shape up. Tougher bankruptcy laws, welfare reform, it’s all good social engineering.

But if you talk about hurting the rich to make them reform, it’s terrible. Taking money away from a guy with plenty more to spare is worse then taking money away from a person with none left.

You know, in the Aztec Empire, if you were a peasant convicted of public drunkenness, they’d shave your head to show people you’re an ass. If you were a noble convicted of public drunkenness, they’d just kill you, because they thought that people who were accorded great power and respect should behave themselves in a way befitting their station.

Here in America we’ve hit the point where the rich deserve to be rich because they are rich. They don’t have to be useful or polite or interesting or classy."

I'm with the equality now camp. I have a feeling that unfettered free-market capitalism will not give us that. Unfettered free-market capitalism gets us rich inheritees with diamond-encrusted dashboards, while other people are waking up on Christmas morning next to their shopping carts.

pax hominibus,
agape to all,

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Monday, March 23, 2009


Immigrants being held in privately run detention facilities

Our country puts people in prison to work for pennies on the dollar. It helps the privately run prisons turn a profit. Please view this map, and article attached to it for more information.

I'm glad this issue is getting coverage by the New York Times.

Here's a quote from the article: " industry that detains half a million people a year, up from a few thousand just 15 years ago. The system operates without the rules that protect criminal suspects, and has grown up with little oversight, often in the backyards of communities desperate for any source of money and work."

pax hominibus,
agape to all,

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John Mellencamp on the State of the Music Industry

While this piece does provide some great insight about what has happened to the music industry, it doesn't seem to have answers.  I wonder if there even are any, other than to just make music and do your best to get it out there?

Here is a quote for the ages:
Nora Guthrie, Woody's daughter, once told me a story about a reception she was at where Bob Dylan was in attendance. The business people there were quietly commenting on how unsociable Dylan seemed to them, not what they imagined an encounter with Dylan would be like. When that observation about Dylan's behavior and disposition were mentioned to Nora, the response was very profound. She said that Bob Dylan was not put on this earth to participate in cocktail chatter with strangers. Bob Dylan's purpose in life is to write great songs like "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times They Are A' Changin'."

And another quote:
"There is no street for the music to rise up from. There is no time for the music to develop in a natural way that we can all embrace when it ripens and matures. That's why the general public doesn't really care. It's not that the people don't still love music; of course they do. It's just the way it is presented to them that ignores their humanity."

lyrics: "I see your face and you tempt my dreams."
From Photograph by Def Leppard

pax hominibus,
agape to all,

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Stunning and Abstract Dream for Justice

What follows are my notes from the wee hours this morning.

I just woke up at 4:00 a.m. after hitting the sack with restless sleep, and had the most stunning anti racist, anti classist justice dream. 

The dream seemed to be set at the Great Dane brewpub, during its grand opening, and also a few years later.  In addition to the beer and restaurant, it was an avant garde speakeasy/burlesque playhouse, as if back in the 1920's.  The play starred an African American man and an African American MTF transsexual in love, and it didn't go over well with everybody in the audience.  As part of the avant garde show, that people were walking by, shaking their heads, including white gay men who were holding hands, because the show had a mixed black couple in love.  I recall the crew joking afterwards, about a socially conservative woman so incensed by the material that the pulled out her hair pin and threw it.  They said, "I've never seen blood run more quickly."  (I'm not sure, was this referring to her withdrawing the pin so quickly and throwing it at the performers that she cut herself, or that she drew blood with the pin?)

Anyway, the playhouse had this awesome back room / green room, that was totally arted up, and I had the job of working on the crew for renovating it a year or so after the play had come and gone, and there was this balcony area on the second level with slats along ropes, that was like the kids' bridges at play-yards, but it was super-dangerous because it had no railing, and slanted downward from the wall, and would send people falling.  When I brought this condition up to mgmt, they said that "Why, it seems like you weren't paying attention back when we wrote the play and showed it.  You've got to wear shoes with better traction."  In my dream, I had been on way too intoxicated during the months of the opening and performances, to remember the details very clearly at all.

And later, I was also waiting tables, as a server.*  The servers at the restaurants were actually justice ministers.  Wow.  There was so much from the play that I had forgotten in the dream.  I remember Sheila and Eric were in the dream.  Agness and David and Bil were in the dream.  And our dog Maggie was part of the play, but she was a show poodle, not a Jack Russell Terrier.

Also, when I was working on the renovation crew some time later (with the scary slat-bridge on the second floor, and other awkward stuff, with nails laying around and drywall bits, as from construction), I recall that the *other side* of the business had a constnat XM-type radio stream going, and we had just somebody flipping old tapes on a tape deck (a tapedeck that didn't even flip the tape), so we had to manually change it every 45 minutes.

Overall, the dream had a very lucid quality to it, so I had to get it down before it faded.

*I still have dreams that I'm waiting tables, probably at least once a month.  I hate them, because when I wake up in the morning, it's like I've been working for eight hours, in a really stressful environment.  I haven't waited tables since 1997, and am still having these dreams twelve years later.

pax hominibus,
agape to all,

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Sunday, March 22, 2009


Tyranny of Freedom?

I have to go to bed soon, so can't develop this nearly as much as I'd like, but wonder how many readers of this little blog have had the opportunity to suffer freedom in the round. The few times where I've been in a situation where I had freedom to explore and do what I wanted were good for a while, but after an extended period, I needed to get a script, a plan, and some structure.

I came across an interesting article someone wrote about how the U.S. will move into tyranny, though I am hopeful that the Obama tyranny will be of a noticeably better variety than the Bush tyranny, with a different bent to it.

Essentially, according to Plato in his Republic, a true democracy breeds atomistic freedom units, individuals, and eventually that leads to the worship/glorification of freedom at the expense of communal actions. Then some people exercise their freedoms to develop tyrannies. That can take the form of corporate monopolies or government, or "free-market" advocates (I'm a fair-market advocate, BTW), NGO's, etc, that by way of having so much freedom that it turns to license, and it falls out of balance. I'm sure if you read the article, you'll get something different from it.

lyrics: "Bye bye baby. Baby bye bye" by the Bay City Rollers.

chant/prayer/mantra: which is most desirable: structured freedom, or freedomed structure? what do those look like?

pax hominibus,
agape to all,

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Saturday, March 21, 2009


Russell and Copleston Debate the Existence of God

I haven't listened to this one yet, but it's one for the bookmarks. You can download and listen to the .mp3 from here.

pax hominibus,
agape to all,

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Friday, March 20, 2009


School for Champions

Last night, I was thinking about gravity-powered spaceship design*, and realized I need to brush up on my physics.

While doing a search for gravity, force, and energy, I came across this great site, called School-for-Champions, which seems to have lots of great info for first time learners, and long-rusty reviewers.

lyrics: "Build me a mountain, lord. High enough to climb to the top, so I can reach for you."
From Psyche-Out, by Meat Beat Manifesto

*The basics of the design are a massive (10 km long, 2 km wide) toroidal hull that operates like a jet engine, with gravity as its force The front side of the toroid is pulling, and there's a gravity gradient within the hole of the toroid that leads to the rear side of the toroid which is anti-gravity. The good thing about this design is that people will live inside the torus, along the spindle (toward the higher gravity end), so not only does the gravity propel the ship, it also provides a way for people and plants to know which end is "up." Once we figure out how gravity and electromagnetism are related, and put more research into magnetic levitation trains (and their offshoots), and learn more about how the Earth's sweep around the Sun is a form of gravitational curvature, we'll be well on our way toward this technology. Eventually, these drives will approach warp one, if not exceed it somehow. The other things we'll need to figure out are how to successfully design a closed biosystem, so that we take into account all of the matter and energy within the ship.

In the meantime, Earth is our ship, in this elliptical path, and we need to understand and appreciate this closed biosystem, so we can better maintain it.

pax hominibus,
agape to all,

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Thursday, March 19, 2009


How Much Water?

Something has been on my mind for the last few years, and I'm finally doing a little research. Fortunately, it's easy.

I wanted to know how much water does it take to make certain products, so that I can make better decisions when choosing. Here are a few that I want to know:
  1. How much to make a computer, desktop or laptop? Or even just how much to make a circuit board or chip...
  2. How much to make a 1 Liter plastic bottle to put a liter of water into?
  3. How much to make a 500 sheet ream of paper from scratch? And from recycled materials? And therefore, how much water to make a single sheet of paper?
  4. How much water to make a hammer, or a saw?
  5. How much water to make all sorts of plastic doo-dads?
  6. How much to make clothes from natural fabrics? From synthetics?
  7. How much for a paper bag or plastic bag at the grocery store?
Let's see what comes up.
Here's a quiz.

Here's the answers to the quiz, because they make you go through heck and high water just to get this important information.

Water required to make one pair of jeans: 1800 gallons
Water required to make one loaf of store bought bread: 1000 gallons
Water required to make one cotton T-shirt: 400 gallons
Water required to make one ounce glass of milk: 48 gallons
Water required to make one pound of plastic: 24 gallons
Water required to make one keg of beer: 1500 gallons
Water required to make one new car: 39,090 gallons

Here's another little one, to figure out how much fresh water it actually takes to make your FOOD.

chant/prayer/mantra: I think Blogger lost my most recent edits for this post. I had some more answers, but here's a picture of some...

Song Lyrics:
From "Story of my life" by Mary Livermore, p. 254

Oh, brethren pray, for cloudy is my way;
Go send dem angels down!
Dere's a fire in de East, an' a fire in de West;
Go send dem angels down!
Ole Satan's mad, an' I am glad;
Go send dem angels down!
He'll miss one soul he t'ought he had;
Go send dem angels down!
I tell yo' now, as I told yo' befo';
Go send dem angels down!
T' de promi' lan' I'm boun' t' go;
Go send dem angels down!

pax hominibus,
agape to all,

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Indoor Skydiving

 I've been skydiving one time, and it was one of the most intense things I've ever done.  But it took a lot of training and had the possibility of serious injury.

Looking at this site, apparently one can do freefall simulations in a wind tunnel for $50. 

I'm right now imagining spending an hour a day at a local community rec center, doing stretches, yoga poses, etc, all while buoyed up on air.  And if the fan was operating off of solar power, all the better.

chant/prayer/mantra: Take some time out for fun.

pax hominibus,
agape to all,

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Monday, March 16, 2009


Deforestation in Ariquernes, Brazil

Here is a satellite's eye view of the deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest.

I just thought I'd leave a note here on my blog that I saw it. It looks like one helluva scar, 100 miles wide by 400 miles long. One big scar, about the size of Kentucky!

And another view of an area called Ruropolis (I wonder who named it that?)

Where does all that wood GO TO??? Is the land usable after it's been clear-cut?

chant/prayer/mantra: For our home, Earth. May we see fit to bless it and save it and all its creatures from ourselves, before it pays us back.

pax hominibus,
agape to all,

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Saturday, March 14, 2009


Political Process and the Development of Black Insurgency

Political Process and the Development of Black Insurgency, by Doug McAdam is a book which I have been meaning to add it to my reading list. I recommend it to anybody interested in being a change-agent. For one of my classes, we read chapter three, and I was really impressed with the way he exposes new ground for political leverage.

If you know me, and like me, feel free to order me a copy.

pax hominibus,
agape to all,

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Friday, March 13, 2009


Speaking of slow --> The Anatomy of a Snail

Click here, and see if you can guess where the various organs of a snail actually reside.

I could not. At first, I was even thinking that the head was on the left, which really made it difficult.

"It's conditional
Not for free
There are strings attached
Tied to me
I'll want something back
If you agree
To be in love with me."
From Conditional, by Tracy Chapman

Oh, and regarding the "Speaking of slow" comment in the title. I was referring to the previous post's sermon, where I was referring to photons of light from the Sun's core.

pax hominibus,
agape to all,

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Monday, March 9, 2009


Tomorrow's Sermon

Multithetical Manifesto: Hardcore Angel Power

There is a practice in Unitarian Universalism where the youths spend a year studying a wide variety of religious beliefs. Then they get an opportunity to get up in front of the congregation and make their individual statements of belief. Not having grown up in the tradition, I'd like to now share my faith statement, after a fashion. And yes, I do still plan for it to fit within the parameters of the actual assignment of preaching prophetically.

Here, now, please let’s take a quick journey out into the solar system. It takes about 8 minutes for light to travel from the Sun to the Earth. And it actually takes over 100,000 years for the photons produced in the sun's core to travel the 700,000 kilometers John 3:17, metaphor, Multitheticalism, personal religion, renewable energy, salvation, theology, sefrom the core to its surface, and then for those final eight minutes, it travels to Earth at the speed of light. This parallels how our ideas and communication work. Our collective ideas gestate for a long time before they're ready. Then we communicate them orally and they are delivered at the speed of sound, or we can type them and they end up halfway across the world in seconds.

Growing up, math, along with spelling, was always my favorite subject. Now, it informs my theology in fundamental ways. One primary way is through set theory. For example, imagine the set of whole numbers between 1 and 5, inclusive. The subset of all odd numbers is 1, 3, and 5. The subset of all even numbers is 2 and 4. 1 by itself is a subset. So is 2 by itself, and on and on. The largest “subset” is all five numbers, and then there is the empty set, which includes nothing at all, but still qualifies as a set.

I wonder: Do you see where I'm going with this, theologically? To put a word to it, I'm a multitheticalist. That means I'm an atheist, including Buddhism and Humanism – either a system of religious belief that doesn't consider any god, or a religious belief that specifically denies that a god exists. And I'm a theist. And a monotheist at that – including each of the various descriptions of “the one God” written by leaders such as Moses, Zoroaster, Jesus, Paul of Tarsus, and Mohammad. And I’m a polytheist, to the degree that I can learn about the many Hindu gods, and the pantheons of Greek and Roman deities. And I'm a pantheist, a panentheist, and even an animist.

“But which of those do you believe,” I hear my 20 year old fundamentalist self demand of me. “You have to believe something!” And I do. I believe that it's impossible to know anything about the divine, so that might lead one to label me as an agnostic. But agnostic is too simple a term, without sufficient examination of the complexity of meaning at play here.

In a fluid bedrock kind of way, I've come to appreciate that anything carried with words is metaphor – it's meaning attributed to physical happenings and existences. But in telling stories about the world, by necessity, we are mapping from the ultimate reality into stories that we believe, to help us make sense of the world. That mapping simplifies complex things however. It distorts events to fit into recognizable frameworks. This mapping deletes things because telling the whole truth in all its complexity would mean recreating the whole universe. And the mapping that accompanies systems of belief also generalizes things, turning them into archetypes, stereotypes, and symbols within our stories.

Knowing all that, choosing just one belief is like being stranded on an island and choosing only one book, or one album, or one type of food. Or one thing for my mind and spirit to ingest. Therefore, I'm a multitheticalist (from “multi-thesis”) – or holding several theses in balance all at once, and keeping them open for critical evaluation. My free and responsible search for truth and meaning demands this of me.

But it's not just about belief. It's about the heart. When I first got into this, God told me that it was going to be my heart on the line. But like Jonah, I escaped for a while. I escaped into concepts and theories, and reveled in wonderment at the opportunity to examine the “Big Picture,” (whatever size that actually is). But going beyond means coming back. That's the responsible part of the search. Even with all the angels and demons I’ve collected along my journey, I still feel inadequate to tell my prophetic story. All I know is that for everyone out there with messages (either to deliver from your mind through your voice, or to your mind from your senses), we're cut from the same cloth as those other prophets, especially when we can see beyond the boundaries of our cultural contexts. With all my agnosticism, that is a story I do know.

But what's a prophet to tell? Ideally, I'd light up a cigarette, strap on a guitar, and sing for you, about you, and with you. Why use this gracious gift of breath just to expound on so much theology, or to craft something that compels people to action, but what action? There are SO MANY of them!

There's the age-old practice of taking moral stances on issues:

Or budgetary concerns like:

I feel like I could (and very well might) speak to these things from the pulpit every week. It just goes round and round, like wheels in icy slush in March in Minnesota. I want to put sand down under the tires. I want to dig out to the concrete below the ice and get some traction! I want to be primal, to recognize it's not just about squeezing out words as breath flows out past my vocal cords. Text and speech is necessary, but so insufficient. I want to put out that all-too-necessary barbaric “yop” -- I'm ALIVE!!!!! And I hope you do too.

I have to do that. When my God speaks (all of them, and none of them, and one of them), it's through me. See, I'm one of those Multithetical Universalists who believes in radical uncertainty. Our salvation is all tied up together in this boat named Earth, and there is no fate but that which we make. This world is so beautiful, and yet so fragile. One of my versions of God is where I am the creator born into creation to walk upon this beautiful blue-green planet I have made, and I weep and marvel all at once at the horror and the beauty of the upside-downness side by side with the right-side-upness. Because like it or not, humanity has declared dominion here. Now, they/we will get credit or blame for whatever is to come. The blame or credit goes not to God, or ancient prophecies – only to humanity's insistence in those gods and prophecies. Demanding that theirs be the true version, and arguing over details in their stories of divinity and prophecy.

Because we have a preponderance of new prophets, telling the story clearly and honestly, from really recent and accurate knowledge about this world and our relationship within it. Yet there is almost no need for prophets now. The story of the condition of our cultures and our planet now comes to us ever more clearly. Humans have to close their ears, eyes, and minds to avoid the trumpets call. In Zoroastrianism, the job of the Saoshyant, or final judge at the end of the age or world, is simply to point that out. In essence saying “Open your eyes. Look around you! There is your prophecy, and my work is done here.” But its not as easy as that, since peoples' frames mask the full truth, until truth's complexities start to pull open the frames. But the process is soooo slow. After all, wasn't it 2000 years ago that Jesus said, “Those who have ears, let them hear...”? It's slow, but it's coming.

There's more to the story. In my rear-view mirror, I have all these memories of the heavens and hells my mind has visited, to bring me here. In my dreams, I've seen chariots and thrones, and so many apocalyptic futures, like the beatific utopian heaven-on-earth that my inner voice compels me to co-create. I do hope one day to write a utopian sci-fi drama. On the other hand, some of those memories of potential futures are outright hellish. I won't go into detail, but those dreams had people in the grayest darkest cavernous pits, stepping on those below them to try to climb out, but always being stepped on from above by someone else. Even those highest up were still in the pit. With nobody ever reaching down to lend a hand. And then there's the bittersweet end, somewhere in between. Where the world plods through, suffering for centuries or millennia because of the damage we've done to our planet and each other.

So, what saves us? Our actions do. Which are influenced by the thoughts and words that compose our world-views. Our actions influenced by our beliefs, with all their tendencies to distort, delete, and generalize. That is why I'm preaching multitheticalism today. It seeks to open wide to any possibility, evaluating it while finding ways to enrich worldviews. But it has one big drawback. It takes a lot of time. It's heavy, and it's slow to come into the light.

It's slow, like the photons inside the sun.

chant/prayer/mantra: For energy to deliver this well.

pax hominibus,
agape to all,

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Thursday, March 5, 2009


Ladies: Are you a tetrachromat?

Check out this optical test to find out.  If you have fathers, brothers, or sons who are red/green color blind, your chances of having tetrachromatic vision is actually higher.  

pax hominibus,
agape to all,


Encouraging Stories: Gravitational Waves, Net Neutrality, and Flashlights

This one is about how a guy actually discovered gravitational waves back in 1987.

This one is about the new FCC chief.

This one is about wind-up LED flashlights that last for 17 minutes after 2 minutes of hand-cranking.

lyrics: "Oh this burning beard, I have come undone." 
from Burning Beard, by Clutch.

colors: red, white, and blue

mood: ready for bed.

chant/prayer/mantra: what holds us separate? what keeps us separated? as we walk the streets, what still connects us? (faithful fools mantra)

pax hominibus,
agape to all,

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