Testimony for National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service — END DRAFT REGISTRATION

I prepared the below testimony to present at a public meeting in Chicago before the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, a commission created by Congress to deal with questions of draft registration, most specifically, whether to end draft registration or expand it to women. The Commission designed the format for this meeting with severely restricted opportunities for general public input. I intend to submit this testimony in written form, but I do not anticipate that I will be able to present it in person. At the end of this testimony is a much shorter statement that I intend to present to the media in Chicago, and directly to the Commission, if possible.

FULL TESTIMONY

My name is Dan Rutt. I have traveled from Toledo, Ohio, to be here today. I have come from 250 miles away to testify to you about service. I am volunteering my time to testify about that which is involuntary: conscience. I have come much further than 250 miles to be here today…

My testimony is rooted in family history predating the existence of the United States of America.  I am 12th generation in this land now known as the United States of America. In the early 1700’s, my ancestors settled on land given to them by William Penn, on what would come to be known as Pennsylvania. My Mennonite ancestors fled Germany to escape conscription and war.

With that wave of German immigrants and refugees, those that occupied the land had much fear about them ruining life as they new it. Newly-arrived German males age 16 and older were forced to take a loyalty oath to the British crown. The English oath was administered roughshod over the newly arriving boys and men, most of whom spoke only German upon their arrival. Apparently, a nominal and blind oath provided some comfort to those fearful residents already occupying the land.

As the Philadelphia harbor bells rang, signaling new arrivals, people gathered to greet them. Many gathered to welcome family or provide strangers with much needed assistance, knowing what it is like to leave one’s home and arrive in a strange land with little or nothing. Others gathered to enlist indentured servants. Here is my most important question regarding service. Serving freely or serving under coercion — which is the greater service? I submit that serving freely is greater. In this particular case, the free service of hospitality and welcoming outsiders is greater than enlisting indentured servants. In the shared scripture of The People of The Book — Jews, Christians and Muslims — a similar exhortation is repeated multiple times: “You must love foreigners because you were foreigners in Egypt.” This service of what may be considered radical hospitality is a time-honored practice of Jews, Christians and Muslims. The humble practice is at the heart of every great faith worldwide. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love because you were first loved. My ancestors, yearning to be free, wanted neither to be the cause of war as soldiers nor the tragic effects of war in its wanton destruction. This was at the heart of my ancestors’ journeys in life. This is my heritage.

More recently, in relation to war and peace, my great-grandfather, during World War II, ran an alternative service camp for conscientious objectors. As for me, I was literally born into service. I was born in 1961 in Haiti, while my parents were serving as medical missionaries, a doctor and nurse, with Mennonite Central Committee. Mennonite Central Committee has long encouraged and empowered years-long terms of service, often overseas. For my Dad, this was also as an alternative service to military service.

In 1979, the year I graduated from high school, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. In response to this, President Jimmy Carter instituted draft registration of young men my age, ostensibly to send a message of military preparedness to Soviet leaders. I was in the first batch of young men required by U.S. law to register for the draft. However, the prospect of draft registration conflicted with a higher law, my conscience and ultimate commitments. I could not and cannot, in good conscience, participate in war-making. As the clarity of my conscience emerged, I could find no way to register for the military draft, whose sole purpose is preparedness for war. My conscience also dictated that if I was to disobey an unconscionable law, then I was to openly take full responsibly for my actions while I worked to change such a law. I began by writing letters to Selective Service and my elected representatives. I may not have had been well-schooled — yet, anyways — on the politics of waging war or peace, but I was intimately familiar with my conscience and the legal duty that my young male peers and I faced. I was a teenager facing obedience to my conscience. This obedience came at the legal threat of up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

I quickly learned that my war resistance is not dependent on geopolitical circumstances, political pendulums, or legal threats. I am already opposed to the next war. Unlike in the pragmatism of war, my enemy’s enemy is not my friend. For me, war is the enemy. Nonetheless, the nearly 40 years since my initial confrontation with draft registration affords me a certain perspective as I have lived through a full cycle of history.  While I was a skinny teenager facing taking on the United States government, the U.S. government was backing the soon-enough-to-be-notorious Osama bin Laden as a so-called “freedom fighter,” leading the mujahadeen in Afghanistan against Soviet occupation.  Of course, our support of Osama bin Laden, our enemy’s enemy, turned out to be a deadly lessen in the futility of weaponizing violent radicals in the vain hope that it won’t blowback in further violence on virtually all fronts. Today’s “freedom fighter” is tomorrow’s terrorist. Today’s war seeds tomorrow’s terrorist. Gandhi spoke frequently of the seamless connection of means and ends. War IS terrorism. How can we expect it to produce anything else — with it many “means” and “ends”? In the end, I cannot view warmaking as service to this country, or any country for that madder, certainly not to humanity as a hole. I find warmaking incompatible with Jesus’ call to love our enemies and to be peacemakers, the children of God.

In speaking with hundreds of Americans over the years about draft registration resistance, I have found that people’s objections to my objections are of two basic types. One type of response is basically that draft registration is such a minimal requirement that it isn’t worth much fuss. If this is the case, then why don’t we just get rid of draft registration, without much fuss? The other type of response is about the utter graveness of our warmaking, and usually something about our national doody. If war is so grave, perhaps the concerns around someone refusing to go postal should receive more thoughtful and consequential consideration. To add insult to injury, in a surreal show of moral farce, war apologists routinely cite “necessary evil” as their moral foundation. This is not the God I serve. Straddling these two poles of minimal and supreme concern, are the tired questions that are asked pacifists, such as: “What would you do if someone was raping your grandmother in the ally?” I learned to answer such questions with: “I’d register for the draft.” If their perplexity persisted, they might suggest that I go back to Russia (where I’ve never been) or indicated their inclination to see me face time in jail; presumably, so I am not around to not protect them.

Mean wile, back in 1980, soon after winning the presidential election, Ronald Reagan broke his campaign promise to end draft registration. His campaign rhetoric about getting the government off the backs of people rang hollow, like a hollow bullet to my heart. The media wanted to do a story on this broken promise and how it affected the young men subject to the law, particularly those opposed to it. As it turned out, while there were millions of nonregistrants quietly in violation of the law, I was the only local public nonregistrant that they could track down, and I soon found myself highlighted in various media for years to come.

To make a long story shorter, in 1983, I was indicted for failure to register — I prefer refusal to register. In 1986, I was tried and convicted. My indiscriminate honesty more than compensated for their lack of investigatory skills. I served 107 days in the federal Community Corrections Center in Detroit, served two years probation, and served 200 hours of community service. I can’t help but note, today, since the theme is “service,” that the solution to my singular failure was to rip me from my community in order to integrate me back into my community. Plus, the court had to bean-count community service that you couldn’t have stopped me from serving anyway.

Of course, there were larger forces at work. I, and a select few others, had to be made examples of. I, for One, am proud of the example I served. In the case of The United States of America vs. Daniel A. Rutt, there was a focus on my failure/refusal. In the meantime, I had finished college, got married, finished graduate school, had a son, and got a job. I went on to serve in a public health career of almost two decades. I even got a national award from the feds for my work in health promotion — thanks for noticing, U.S. of A. For the last 16 years, I have run my own business promoting social justice.

I do not consider my time imprisoned or countless hours engaging in war resistance as any great burden. In fact, I consider this as service to my country and humanity. I do suspect that most any person who did a tour of active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan has suffered more than I.  Unfortunately, war is replete with suffering. Of course, suffering is of no great inherent value. Nonetheless, whatever we willingly suffer for is a good measure of what we truly value. I hope that more Americans, whether male or female, young or old, will volunteer to put more skin in the game and resist war in any way they can. I believe that the cost of freedom is found in not killing, rather than killing. As General Patton so infamously stated, “No dumb bastard ever won a war by going out and dying for his country. He won it by making some other dumb bastard die for his country.”

It is impossible for me to separate my service from my conscience. Conscience is that small still voice that emanates from the foundation of our existence, that calls us, at the risk of trademark infringement, to be all that we can be. My war resistance is deeply rooted in following Jesus, The Prince of Peace. The Jesus I follow was executed as an enemy of the state. He was executed at the behest of the religious elite. Today, the religious elite dutifully save themselves and their clan, more faithfully blessing warmakers than counseling their youth to resist war, more conveniently blessing warmakers than counseling their youth to resist war. The first wave of martyrs in early Christendom were men who refused military service. The broader wave of martyrs were Jesus followers who refused idolatry, the literal and figurative “pinch of incense on the altar” to Caesar.

For me, draft registration is that “pinch of incense on the altar” of the state. When it comes to military service, in the great U.S.A., there is no “one nation under God.” When it comes to military service, The United States of America is God. Specifically, The United States of America, does not recognize ANY Constitutional right to refuse military service for ANY reason, including conscience or freedom of religion. As we all know, the U.S. Constitution provides for many rights, rights that cannot be infringed upon by the state. There are many constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to peaceably assemble, freedom to petition for redress of grievances, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and the right to equal protection under the law, among others. These are often referred to as natural rights or God-given rights. Such rights define the character of a state, and place limits on its sovereignty, recognizing a power greater than itself. The United States of America, does not recognize ANY natural or God-given right to refuse military service for ANY reason. If you are surprised by this, so was I. I count this as the singular lesson that I learned in my draft registration resistance. This sad and idolatrous reality was unmasked only by a federal judge citing a Supreme Court case in a legal opinion rejecting my motion for dismissal on the basis of religious freedom. Fortunately, I have found that God’s grace extends further than legislative grace or constitutional provision of this republic. I strongly suspect that tens of millions of Americans of faith recognize that holy obedience sometimes requires civil disobedience.

My male ancestors age 16 plus who arrived to this land so many years ago were forced to swear a loyalty oath to the government, even though most didn’t even speak the language in which the oath was administered. This didn’t even seem to matter to government officials. Why is this? I suspect that the nominal and incomprehensible oath was a “pinch of incense on the altar,” a ritual form of national worship needed by a resident populace afraid of strangers. The minimal content of the oath served as a safe and surefire way to maximize compliance and minimize resistance. Who would get back on the boat and return across the sea because they had to mouth or sign an incomprehensible swearing. Who would not submit their name and basic information to the Selective Service System? Well, most young men do not register when they first become legally required. Most young men, hoping to go somewhere, register when they need to secure a driver’s license, or when they reach the shore of an education, needing a student loan.

I suspect that the ritual obedience of a “pinch of incense on the altar” may be more important than an actually functioning, fair and equitable system of potential conscription. Conspicuously absent from the Selective Service annual report is the noncompliance rate with the requirement for registrants to update their address (within 10 days) every time they move. Every observant person knows that 18-25 year-old men move a lot. How many address updates do they get? How many address updates don’t they get? Surely, this can be estimated, and certainly it matters if one actually cares about being able to effectively and fairly enlist young men in a potential draft. The noncompliance rate for initial registration is 8% for all 18-25 year-old men. I strongly suspect that the noncompliance with current address is much higher than noncompliance with initial registration; probably, in combination, high enough to blow a hole in any contention that draft registration is effective and fair. By the way, those young men not complying with address updates are subject to the same legal penalties of up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. In FY 2017, 184,051 names and addresses of suspected violators to initial registration were provided to the Department of Justice. Does it strike anyone else as odd that the names and addresses of suspected violators are forwarded? If the Selective Service System has the names and addresses of potential enlistees, what else do they need?

I contend that what Selective Service is largely after is your assent to civil obedience, participation in a national religion of warmaking, your “pinch of incense on the altar,” if you will. This seems to be a better characterization of Selective Service’s function than, in the case of a military draft, to “rapidly provide personnel in a fair and equitable manner.” Oddly, if you find yourself a male age 26 or older, beyond the age requirement to register, and you failed to register, you could still run into trouble by being denied eligibility for federal student financial aid, federal job training, federal employment, or U.S. citizenship; yet, you may be in the clear if your can “show by a preponderance of evidence” that your failure to register was not knowing and willful. Just don’t be too conscientious; that is, until you have to prove that you were not conscientious. Apparently, the true crime is conscientiousness in not registering, more so than simply not registering. The selective prosecution of a few conscientious and public resisters while millions are noncompliant speaks volumes to this.  Certainly, a system where obliviousness is excusable and objecting conscientiously is a crime is a system that distorts our nation’s highest values.  I don’t object to Selective Service being shot full of holes regarding compliance. I do object to Selective Service dishonoring or punishing conscientiousness. As there is no way for a registrant to officially indicate any intent at conscientious objection, I would be very curious to see what would happen if conscientious objector status were a checkbox in the registration process. We might learn a lot about the state of conscientious objection in America. Of course, if Selective Service noncompliance is largely about non-conscientiousness, then I have to ask: What would such a level of non-conscientiousness say about what we might be fighting for and who might be fighting for it?

The draft registration system cannot account for true conscientiousness. The draft registration system cannot muster enough compliance, conscientious or not, to claim fairness and equitability. The honorable course of action, in both cases, is to end draft registration.

In truth, the actual practice of draft registration ignores conscientious objection. While there is no apparent constitutional right to refuse military conscription, there are some legislative provisions for what are called conscientious objectors. Unfortunately, there is no mechanism to indicate conscientious objection during the current draft registration process. This is objectionable to many conscientiously opposed to war. Somewhat oddly, the only legal way to make such a claim is to submit to a system, the Selective Service System, whose sole purpose is preparing for war, which you must reject completely. Plus, conscientious objector status is only possible as a military service classification, if and when a draft may occur. The longer a registrant is unrecognized as conscientiously opposed to war, the further the objection. Further, conscientious objector status can only be recognized for those who are opposed to all wars. If you in good conscience object to whatever current war in which you are subject to serve, this is oddly irrelevant. You could, in fact, turn out to conscientiously object to every actual war that comes down the pike in your lifetime and this is deemed irrelevant if you are not opposed to every theoretical war (or past war). This renders conscientious objection to a meaningless idea for what is perhaps the vast bulk of being conscientiously opposed to war. Finally, there is no real mechanism to truly count or officially value the service of conscientious objectors, meaning that men will be drafted until the military need is met, whether ten or ten million men have conscientious objection. The service of a conscientious objector is superfluous to the determining aim of the Selective Service System. This itself is offensive to many persons of conscience opposed to war-making. Let’s end the criminalization of conscience.

In truth, the actual practice of warmaking habitually runs roughshod over international law and human rights. The promise of some possible future alternative service as a noncombatant is little comfort to my conscience, and of many others. In a warring world, the distinction between combatants and noncombatants offers fantastical sanitization rather than actual sanity. The fact is that across time and across a myriad of modern armed conflicts, over ten so-called “noncombatants” are killed for every “combatant.” The first casualty of war is the truth; most of the rest are noncombatants. My duty is to oppose war, not escape military service. This is my service to humanity. This service is regardless of combatant status. Plus, the best way to serve warriors happens to be ending war.

In the age of terrorism, some will claim that we live in new era of war, not subject to the old rules of war. We do live in a different time than in the 1980’s, the decade when draft registration was initiated. I can testify to a profound shift toward anti-war sentiment since then. During the first Gulf war, in the early 1990’s, I never felt so isolated as an American, confronting palpable resistance even from liberals. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, our local peace network, the Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition, initiated weekly Sunday demonstrations at busy intersections around town. These demonstrations for peace and against war occurred weekly for 15 years (and continue twice each month). In the early years, most of the feedback we had from passing motorists was angry yelling, middle fingers, and expletives flying. Over the years, this angry response has become rare, perhaps a couple a week, and the overwhelming positive responses are represented by hundreds of “honks for peace,” peace signs and thumbs up. Americans in the heartland of Ohio are tired of war and welcome peace. Draft registration is a relic of ages past. Why have draft registration when even the military cites no scenarios where they would want a draft?

One issue at the heart of draft registration and military conscription is what is the proper role of women in warmaking and peacemaking. I am delighted to see that women serve as 5 of the 11 commissioners. Surely, it is women who should determine what is the proper role of women, in this case, concerning warmaking and peacemaking. In my lifelong work across a wide range of social justice movements, I have found women to be the most reliable and most inspiring leaders and laborers for social justice. I strongly suspect that women will take up the mantle of even greater war resistance if they become subject to military conscription. I take inspiration to serve as a war resister from Julia Ward Howe. She, most famously known as the composer of the Battle Hymn of The Republic, was the founder of Mother’s Day, originally a day of war resistance. She issued this Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870:

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly: “We will not have questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience. We women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says “Disarm! Disarm!” The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.

As men have forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his time the sacred impress not of Caesar, but of God.

 In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

I would much prefer entrusting my conscience and fate to such “a general congress of women without limit of nationality,” rather than the currently constituted National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.

Perhaps somewhat ironic, given my heritage, Germany now has a constitutional right to conscientious objection while the United States does not. When Germany ended conscription in 2011, the majority of those serving were conscientious objectors, and the debate had shifted from conscience to whether they should give up a huge pool of cheap labor. I believe that forced national service is incongruent with our nation’s highest ideals. I believe that volunteerism is at the core of authentic service. I suspect that lowering our ideals by forcing service is a poor way to nurture true service. Let us lead by example. This is why I am here today. If you want to gauge both the heart and the cutting edge of service in this country and for this country, look to those who volunteer, willingly, without pay, to live out their deepest values. This is the clearest view of our highest ideals incarnate, that service, that work, which cannot be bought and sold.

I appreciate the opportunity to testify before the Commission. From your bios, I can see that you are exemplary leaders in service. Unfortunately, I think that you may have an impossible job. I appreciate that Selective Service is technically considered under civilian control. Still, I can’t help but notice that both Selective Service and this Commission are heavily represented by persons from the military or traditional national security apparatus. This does not fairly represent America in the civilian service necessary to make for peace in the world. Also, about 4 in 10 Americans are persons of color, including many of those in the military. Why is this Commission even whiter than the overly white Congress who appointed it? This is not a service to America, and raises the question of whether white supremacy is part and parcel to your work. In tandem, the Commission’s overwhelmingly militarized representation and unduly whiteness, inspires little confidence that your recommendations can represent America. Perhaps it would be more honest to call this Commission an Omission. I suspect that this failure is rooted in the failure and cowardice of Congress to deal with draft registration in a changing world, that is, a world that recognizes women as equals. Congress punted on the politically unpopular choices of just ending draft registration or expanding it to women. Instead, Congress kicked the can down the road for a couple of years by creating a Commission to address this question for them. Unfortunately, This Congress-created Commission is so couched in generic service rhetoric that it is hamstrung in dealing straightforwardly with the singular issue that triggered its creation: draft registration. Until the Commission owns up to addressing the issue of draft registration as its core reason for existing, any hopes of sparking a national conversation on service will be sparks falling on damp firewood.  Further complicating the credibility of the Commission is the tightly controlled and choreographed public meetings in conjunction with severely limited open public testimony. A responsive democratic process would have began with generous opportunities for open public testimony, and then using this input to shape additional “invited” testimony. This may already be too late to remedy. The chasm between the nature of “invited” testimony and uninvited testimony betrays a characterization of the Commission’s work to date as democratic or representative. In my years of public service, both as a community planner and as a citizen participant in many public forums, I think that it is fairer to characterize the Commission’s public meetings to date more as “dog and pony shows” than as an open and responsive democratic process. For this Commission’s work to claim legitimacy, there is a lot of changes that need to be made. Lastly, having to make FOIA requests to find out about the basic public functioning of the Commission does not bode well for a culture of transparent, accountable public service by the Commission. I hope that you have found worthwhile input in my testimony to move toward a peace-loving democracy in which every one of us finds ample opportunities, free of compulsion, for self-sacrificial service for the good of all.

###

PRESS STATEMENT

My name is Dan Rutt. I have traveled from Toledo, Ohio, about 250 miles away, to be here today. I am one of the select few prosecuted and imprisoned for refusing to register for the draft, back in the 1980’s. We are here today for one reason, and one reason alone: Congress punted on the politically unpopular choices of just ending draft registration or expanding it to women. Congress punted by appointing a Commission to provide recommendations regarding draft registration a couple years down the road. That Commission is the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service. Unfortunately, This Commission’s work is so couched in generic service rhetoric that it is hamstrung in dealing straightforwardly with the singular issue that triggered its creation: draft registration. Until the Commission owns up to honestly and openly addressing the issue of draft registration as its core reason for existing, the Commission will be a failure. Draft registration continues to have no mechanism to accommodate conscientious objection. Draft registration is fraught with noncompliance by young men either not registering at all, registering late, or not updating their addresses. The military cites no scenarios where they would want a draft. This is no time to expand draft registration, whether to women or persons with select skills the military might want. Now is the time to end draft registration. Voluntary service is true service. Let’s keep it that way.

Today’s public meeting in particular highlights the failing credibility of the Commission. Previous public meetings around the country have had very limited opportunity for open testimony from the general public. Today’s meeting has even less opportunity. Previous public meetings have been billed as having opportunities to speak directly to the Commission; and when people get there they find out that there is a scheduled two minutes per citizen. This meeting is being billed as an opportunity for Q&A, not even to the Commission but to their invited speakers. Furthermore, the overall time for the public to even participate in this insular Q&A has been cut down to “20 or 30 minutes.” From the experience of previous public meetings, the chasm between the nature of “invited” testimony and uninvited testimony betrays a characterization of the Commission’s work to date as democratic. The Commission is moving in the wrong direction. A responsive democratic process would have began with generous opportunities for open public testimony, and then used this input to shape additional “invited” testimony as needed. This may already be too late to remedy.

Unfortunately, the Commission has other credibility problems that may very well make their job impossible. This Commission is dominated by members from the military or traditional national security apparatus, all the while trying to couch their work in a broader, more generic view of service. This Commission is extremely white, in a nation where people of color are about 4 of 10 Americans. This Commission is poorly designed to represent America. To make matters worse, the Commission has chosen to conduct its business in such a manner that citizens have had to make FOIA requests to find out about the basic public functioning of the Commission. This does not bode well for a culture of transparent, accountable public service by the Commission.

Originally, I planned my trip from Toledo to Chicago, for this public meeting, to deliver testimony to the Commission, offering a story of conscience and how draft registration fails to meet a broad range of America’s ideals. Because this public meeting cannot accommodate such open testimony, I stand before you, hoping that a free press will shine a light on the ill-conceived and poorly executed work of The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.

###

COMMUNITY FORUM REMARKS: Need to address the main driver of criminal and criminalized behavior, substance abuse, and that the failed law enforcement model needs to be supplanted by a public health model driven by evidence and community benefit

The Community Solidarity Response Network of Toledo (CSRN), our local Black Lives Matter group, and the ACLU hosted a forum on “What Does a Safer Toledo Look Like?” This forum was in response to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ National Public Safety Partnership aimed at “fighting violent crime.” This initiative has been vague with little transparency, and has not included robust public input, let alone “partnership.” CSRN and the ACLU have good reason to suspect that this initiative is a further clamping down of traditional law enforcement, a “tough on crime” effort, and a revamping of the war on drugs. Such efforts will predictably make some people less safe, notably communities of color and the poor. Below are the remarks I prepared for this community forum, addressing the need to deal with the main driver of criminal and criminalized behavior, substance abuse, and that the failed law enforcement model needs to be supplanted by a public health model driven by evidence and community benefit:

A safe community is one where we demonstrate a willingness and competency in caring for one another rather than hurting or punishing each other. A safe community is one where all who seek or need help with substance abuse have easy access to help. The United States has less than 5% of the world’s population; we consume two-thirds of the world’s illegal drugs; we incarcerate almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners. Locking people up with substance abuse problems is a terrible approach to addressing its ravages on society, including criminal behavior, unstable housing, social ostracism, poverty and unemployment. Punishing substance abusers has not and cannot work in creating a safe community for all.

The overwhelming majority of persons under the care of the criminal justice system are persons with substance abuse, mental health problems, or both. About 85% of persons under the care of the criminal justice system are there because of offenses related to substance abuse. The criminal justice system does a very poor job dealing with the underlying issue of substance abuse and addiction. Less than 20% receive treatment. Much more commonly, the criminal justice system exacerbates substance abuse and mental health problems. The criminal justice system supplies further trauma, separates people from their communities and social support systems, saddles people with criminal records and social ostracism, and is a terrible way to provide services that would help people live fuller lives in their community — services that would address stable housing, complicated health issues, and poverty and unemployment. The criminal justice system may serve as a way to screen people for enmeshment in socially destructive behavior. However, the criminal justice system fails as an effective or humane way to deal with the overwhelming majority of people whose underlying issue driving socially destructive behavior is substance abuse. This failure comes at great human and financial cost.

Further, the war on drugs, relying on a law enforcement model, has been a miserable failure in reducing substance abuse or its societal harms. A new model is needed for dealing with substance abuse. The best, evidence-driven model is a public health model of prevention, nonjudgmental harm reduction, and community-based treatment and support services. This public health approach is more humane and more effective, a winning combination for a safer community. We need to profoundly shift our focus, priorities and resources away from the law enforcement approach to a public health model and approach. For instance, providing treatment is cost-effective, saving between $2 and $6 for every $1 spent on it, which in part reflects reductions in criminal behavior and re-incarceration. Fortunately, a public health approach will actually reduce socially destructive behavior and better meet the objectives of the criminal justice system. One key shift needs to be redefining of substance abuse as a public health problem rather than a criminal justice matter. This includes decriminalizing the use and possession of drugs.

The criminal justice system can play an important role in this public health approach, by proper law enforcement dealings, assessment and treatment of persons with substance abuse and mental health problems, particularly partnering with community-based treatment services as alternative sentencing to incarceration. In preparation for release from the criminal justice system, it should prepare people to best face the many challenges to successful reentry into the community, such as lack of health care, stable housing, job skills, education, and connection to other support services to minimize their probability of relapse and re-arrest. We already have the resources to do much better. We can get much more for much less. This is a great opportunity.

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Trump Calls For Death of Drug Dealers – Pharmaceutical Companies As Corporate Persons?

Prez Donald Trump has called for death to drug dealers. He has been inspired by the war on drugs in the Philippines and China, where drug dealers are executed. I am opposed to the death penalty for anyone, except for corporate persons. Perhaps we should consider revoking the corporate charters of pharmaceutical companies when their drugs kill thousands of people. Killing “corporate persons” was a common practice earlier in American history, when corporations did not meet the public good enshrined in their corporate charter, which allowed for their existence as legal entities. Currently, the opioid epidemic kills tens of thousands of Americans each year and this can be traced directly back to corporate malfeasance.

Our public health would be much better served by nonjudgmental and easily accessible drug treatment for addicts than by returning to failed drug war policies which criminalize and militarize drug war policies. Huge profits in both the legal and illegal drug markets drive the death and destruction wreaked by drug use. Holding pharmaceutical companies accountable for their malfeasance would be a good start, since legal drugs drive the killing of far more Americans than illegal drugs. Then, legalizing drug use, in conjunction with widely available addiction treatment, would be best way to undercut the destructive profit motives in illicit drug markets. Such an approach has proven effective in other countries, and is our best hope for minimizing the ill effects of drug addiction wrought by both legal and illegal drug dealing.  If we are going to kill drug dealers, make it the corporate persons and illegal cartels pushing destruction to reap huge profits.

Please feel free to share this FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Trump Calls For Death of Drug Dealers – Pharmaceutical Companies As Corporate Persons?

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Trump Calls For Death of Drug Dealers - Pharmaceutical Companies As Corporate Persons?

Toledo Democracy Day Testimony: Focus on Racism, White Supremacy

Below is the testimony I delivered today before Toledo City Council, or rather the three council members who showed up.  The mayor also showed up for part of the testimony.

Democracy Day Testimony

March 5, 2018

Hi, my name is Dan Rutt.  Today, I want to focus on one thing: that is, racism, or more precisely, white supremacy.

I am trained professionally in public health and I can attest to the effects of racial disparities across a sweeping array of health issues.  It is key to note that these racial disparities cannot be explained away by differences in income, education or the like.  Racism and white supremacy are baked into our system.  Less than two weeks ago, the Center for Investigative Journalism released a massive, nationwide study of access to housing finance, for home mortgages and home improvement loans.  Blacks were 2.7 times more likely to be denied loans than whites.  Again, this is comparing loans for people with the same credit scores, financial ability to pay, and even for loans in the same neighborhoods.  Of particular concern, this racial disparity is larger than during the Jim Crow era.  Racism is not receding into the distance.

Today, I would like to further focus on the criminal justice system, which is perhaps the most palpable manifestation of racism in our society.  At every stage of the criminal justice system, people of color are more likely than whites to be harassed by police, arrested by police, subject to bail or larger bail by judges, given harsher prison sentences by judges, and less likely to get parole.  And please note again, that this is comparing for the same crimes.  The treatment of people of color by the criminal justice system raises inescapable questions of what is criminal, what is justice, and what is the true nature of the system.

Within the last couple of weeks, Danny Brown, who was wrongly convicted of a murder in 1982, exhausted perhaps his last legal recourse to exoneration and access to just compensation for his nearly two decades in prison.  As he enters his fourth decade of this criminally just nightmare, Julia Bates, the county prosecutor, continues her intransigence, in keeping Danny on a suspect list, so he cannot be cleared.  The illusory case that she has held open for so many years denies Danny his chance at justice.  The last time I saw Julia Bates on TV about Danny’s case she spoke about her concern for the money he might get if he is fully exonerated — speaking of valuing money over human life.  Is anyone surprised that Danny Brown is a black man?  Is anyone surprised that a hugely disproportionate amount of people across the country in similar situations are black men?  Today, I call, again, for Julia Bates to close the case on Danny Brown or retry him.

Last year, U.S. Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, visited our fine city and had a meeting closed to the media and the public, securing an entire block to keep him safe from looming democratic forces.  He came promoting his initiative, unfunded initiative, to ramp up the failed drug war and get prosecutors to charge defendants with the maximum charges they can. This initiative is in direct opposition to an ongoing effort by our criminal justice system to seek ways to minimize sentences, particularly for nonviolent offenses.  This Sessions initiative has been plagued by secrecy, including foremost, by our own Chief-of-Police, George Kral, who has been less than forthcoming about how Toledo got roped into this initiative, and what exactly does this initiative mean for Toledo.  Does Chief Kral really expect that this hard-edged, law-and-order Sessions initiative won’t magnify existing racial disparities in our criminal justice system?

I am here today because I witness again and again evidence from top to bottom in our community that white supremacy is, at a minimum, poorly understood, and more importantly, in practice, widespread.

A view from the top may be most illustrative.  During the recent mayoral race, CSRN, The Community Solidarity Response Network, our local Black Lives Matter group, held a mayoral candidates forum. The first question was, “How do you define white supremacy?” None of the four candidates defined white supremacy as institutional racism or society-wide systems of injustice against persons of color.  This included our former mayor and our new mayor.  The answers touched on white supremacy as neo-Nazis or the like — the worst of the worst.  There were several versions of “a few bad apples” within society and some of our public institutions.  And there was the issue of implicit bias, a polite term for subconscious racism.

All in all, I was left with the distinct impression that racism was a peripheral issue, largely something in the past, that the still-existing remnants needed some sweeping up; though, alas, there was plenty of regret for the occasional but rare racist that still managed to survive into our largely post-racial society.  I was struck by the seeming apologetics around implicit bias, as if not intending to be racist largely mitigated the real-life effects of racism.  I was left with the impression that racism was more about impropriety than injustice.  Please remember that their answers were at a mayoral candidates forum within the specific context of the sponsoring group being an anti-racism group.  I am hard-pressed to believe that they were caught unprepared to answer such questions, and I strongly suspect that their weak answers came close to their best effort.

I must confess that I was particularly struck by such a weak response of our then-Mayor, the African-American holding the highest elected office in our city.  Yet, on further reflection this seemed less as some personal failure of hers than, in fact, as a rather apt example of how the powers that be, the status quo, is better characterized by the strictures and limits set by white supremacy in our body politic than by the life experiences of any given politician with a black body.

Our community is currently in the process of planning how to rehab our county jail.  I have heard much about location, dominated by “not-in-my-backyard” attitudes, and about cost — not the disproportionate human cost borne by communities of color, but money, money, money.  This is the present nexus and test regarding our true valuing of human persons over money.  We may not have confederate statues to remind us of our racist heritage, yet, if a new jail is built without a bold plan to combat the racism inherent in our criminal justice system, then the new jail will be a very expensive monument to our racism.  This is the $100 million question of the day.  Many of us may take some comfort, even pride, in areas where Toledo may do better than other communities, but let us assure that this in no way dampens a bold resolve to end white supremacy in Toledo.

To that end, I call upon our mayor, Toledo City Council, and the Lucas County Commissioners to come up with a comprehensive plan to eliminate racism from our criminal justice system.  THANK YOU.

A Spiritual Autobiography

I wrote the below spiritual autobiography a dozen years ago as part of a servant leadership study group.  While it definitely needs updating, it serves well as a brief overview of my spiritual history and development over much of my life, particularly my early years.  Fortuitously, my humor remains righteously irreverent and my faith grows.

RUTTS
by Alex Haley
(that’s just my pun name)

The year was 1961. Preceded by John, a child was conceived, fathered by a closeted gay man, in Bethlehem, on the outskirts of the city of brotherly love. In my mother’s womb, I was transported to Haiti, where my parents, as doctor and nurse, were beginning their service as medical missionaries with the Mennonite Central Committee. A dozen (and a half) generations ago my ancestors had fled religious persecution and military conscription in Germany to settle in America. For a new beginning, they were gifted with land from William Penn. This land was some of the most fertile in the world; so fertile, in fact, that even gay men father children there! Though now in Haiti, they were soon to be counted again among the privileged of the world. I was born. And on this journey, Joseph followed. Continuing my heritage as a sojourner in a foreign land, I was born a true child of the 60s.

I have no specific memories of those first couple of years in Haiti. However, only in recent years have I realized my ideal vision of serenity as sleeping without a care late in the morning in a mountain cabin while the rain pounds on the tin roof likely came from memories as a baby (now, if only I can figure out why I have a pleasant association with the smell of skunk!). Also, I am told that I was scared of most white people. Strangely, I am still haunted by white people on occasion.

After a brief stint in Detroit, perhaps explaining my love of urban life, I grew up in a small town in Michigan. The town was Mennonite-free, so I was raised a United Methodist. My childhood was strikingly trauma-free (only striking in retrospect). I knew safety. I knew predictability and caring. Our family always ate meals together, beginning with a prayer too short not to recount here: “God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen.” A lot more theology in that prayer than I usually give credit. Our family participated in worship and church functions regularly. Worship was generally boring. One of my few memories was a teenager with a guitar, singing “Blowing in the wind.” I guess that would have been contemporary music, huh? And that was before Bob Dylan was a Christian. I attended Sunday school, vacation Bible school, and youth group. I only vaguely remember confirmation. I remember good times. Except for a desperately poor matching of gifts by placing me in a children’s choir – my first, and really only, experience with “playing hooky.” I loved summer camp. First there were church camps, then Boy Scout camps. My younger brother and I earned Eagle Scout ranking (the highest in Boy Scouts) in record time. Our scoutmaster was easygoing and playful. Perhaps paradoxically, it was easy to achieve in that environment. If “achievement” had been required of me, I probably wouldn’t have done it, or at least wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much. When we later moved and joined another scout troop, which was probably better organized and certainly more rigid, we dropped out after a while.

My understanding of diversity was child-like. I knew that Catholic families were the ones with five or six kids. Good families to play with. My best friend’s dad was Cuban. He also had two older half-siblings. In retrospect, this was the only somewhat non-traditional family I recall; though I don’t recall giving it much thought.

I was baptized at age eleven. Apparently, I was out of the country at the time such events usually occur. Fortunately, my understanding of baptism was still pretty much that of an infant, so it worked out well. I was confirmed a year later. About this same time, I was in little league baseball. In an attempt to deal with performance anxiety, I kept a pocket-sized New Testament in my back pocket. This crude attempt at spiritual osmosis was discovered by my brothers who with little affection labeled me “Bible boy.” I didn’t like this. I remember that my parent rebuked them.

When we moved to Dearborn, Michigan, before my ninth grade, my parents looked for a church nearby, but had little success – “too suburban” I think. Not surprising, considering we lived in a nice home with a pool, only 100 feet from a golf course. They decided to return to their church from earlier years, Central United Methodist Church in downtown Detroit, 20 minutes away. Central is the oldest Protest-ant church in Michigan, and has been called “the conscience of the city.” Always a leader in social justice, their most widely known pastor preached pacifism before, during and after World War II. I was soon to be raised on 45+ minute sermons, truly epic sermons. A turning point happened to me sometime during my high school years when my mom took me to a peace conference at church. My eyes were opened and my heart would soon follow.

I went to Hope College, a small, private, liberal arts school. It was a Christian College, as were most of its staff and students, mostly Reformed and Christian Reformed. However, it was unlikely that I would ever be Reformed; conservatively speaking that is. My college years began with my father lightly warning me of these Calvinists. I didn’t know what he was talking about. My first roommate and I, who were boyhood friends, unknowingly were matched because we were both Methodists – apparently, a rare breed thereabouts. Early on, I must have been an easy target for an overabundance of evangelism. A friend invited me to Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I went to what turned out to be a practically diversity-free zone; even ALL of the other persons in my small group were named “Kathy” (though probably a diversity of spellings). Later, when I saw out my dorm room window the friend who invited me, I said, “hello.” She asked me what I thought of the meeting. I shouted from the second floor window something to the effect that it was “too religious.” I did like church, and I went willingly. I even went to chapel services three times a week – religiously. I was also on part-time staff of the campus ministry. Though a biology major, I was frequently mistaken for a political science or philosophy major. Apparently, I was succeeding at the liberal arts (or at least the art of being liberal).

I very soon got involved with a small group of students known as the World Hunger Committee. Being a United Methodist, I must have known that there would be a committee for that! This formally launched my work in social justice, and my personal interest in stewardship, vegetarianism and nutrition. That first year, God brought together this son of a Mennonite with a Hope graduate who was a Mennonite (perhaps the only one). I told him that I was concerned about President Carter re-instituting draft registration. He said, “Why don’t you start a peace group?” I said, “Yes.” Fortunately, I didn’t now what I was doing. So, I helped found “Hope for Peace.”

For my own concerns, I hooked up with a Viet Nam war-era draft counselor. To make a long story short, when President Reagan broke his campaign promise to end draft registration, I was identified in the Detroit News as a non-registrant. Being the only publicly-identified non-registrant in Michigan, I garnered much media attention. Eventually, the Reagan ‘get the government off your back’ regime and his Attorney General, Edwin ‘people are only hungry by choice’ Meese III, saw that out of millions of non-registrants, I was number 13 to be prosecuted. In the end, six years later, after heroically losing half a dozen pre-trial motions (with the help of a volunteer team of legal experts), my older brother dying, graduating from college, getting married, having a son, graduating from graduate school, and getting a job, I defended myself before a jury of my peers (though none of them were subject to the law I was defending myself from). I lost. But what did I win? (that is, beside three months room and board at the taxpayers’ expense) I learned to live in good conscience. I learned to refine my beliefs, even amidst great public scrutiny. I learned about civil disobedience, or as A.J. Muste, a great American pacifist and Hope College graduate would have said, “holy obedience” (in my write mind I say, “wholly obedience). I learned that the U.S. government has the absolute authority to draft any citizen regardless of conscientious objection. Any exception to this is due only to “legislative grace.” I learned to live by God’s grace even when it exceeds the grace of my government. Actually, I presented my case at the Detroit Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, in conjunction with a resolution to support young men’s consciences who were subject to draft registration laws, whether their conscience led them to register or not. The resolution failed. So, I learned to live by God’s grace even when it exceeds the grace of my denomination.

During college, after guest preaching at my home church in Detroit, someone came up afterwards and said, “I didn’t know that you were in seminary.” Nonetheless, I consider myself a theological mutt. I have drawn from many Christian traditions. I have studied Asian religions, and I am drawn to Buddhism. I am an amateur philosopher (that is, until someone pays me) and I am intrigued by the angst of existentialism. I have experienced a spiritual re-awakening in Alanon, which has given me things that my church could not. I believe that “religionism” may be the ultimate “-ism,” preventing us from experiencing the oneness of God. I may be a leading candidate to be voted, “most likely to be heretical,” by the powers that be. This is my orthodoxy. I believe that paradox lives in the neighbor of truth; and we should love our neighbors. In true Zen-like fashion, I find that irreverence is often the highest form of reverence. Among my heresies is my unabashed appreciation of “The Simpsons” (but, as the Hindus would say, “Don’t have a cow.”).

After an intense summer working for Bread for the World as an organizer, and days before my senior year began, my brother John was killed in an avalanche in Western Canada; but only after dropping out of college while on foreign study, wandering, rock-climbing and working (pretty much in that order) for a couple of years in Africa and the Western U.S. His death has given me a much greater sense of mortality and the preciousness of life each day. I actually find funerals as fruitful opportunities for reflection and renewing my sense of “living in the moment.” I have undervalued such opportunities. One of the few regrets in my life was missing three of four funerals of my grandparents.

My paternal grandparents were particularly religious. Only upon the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary (and doing the math) did I realize that my father was a near-bastard child to a teen mom. Years later, when my sister was pregnant and out-of-wedlock at age 19, my grandfather said, “The sins of the grandfather are being visited upon the granddaughter.” My thought: get over it! Well, at least, I can now understand why my gay father was closeted until his parents were either dead or demented. While I didn’t see healing in my grandparents, I saw that having an understanding of God under construction is a good thing, and sometimes demolition work is required.

That brings me to my marriage. To make a long, and usually happy, story short, my marriage of 11+ years ended 10 years ago. Nonetheless, we were blessed with two wonderful children, Joshua and Kathryn. I love being a parent. It may be the closest I’ve been able to experience what God must feel in His/Her unconditional love for us. Kate’s life is an ongoing miracle since she was born with multiple heart defects. She underwent two heart surgeries, and at one point with surgical complications, a doctor, trying to be optimistic, said, she has at least a 50/50 chance of living. A brush with death. There’s that mortality thing again. Not unlike death, I thought I had no problem with divorce – as long as it was happening to other people. Accepting our divorce was the most difficult thing I have ever dealt with.

Being out of a “relationship” for a number of years helped my re-develop my relationship with myself and with God. This came more through Alanon than church. Now, being in a relationship for eight years with a wise and beautiful woman has taught me to appreciate life as it comes, one day at a time – with both of us half single, half single parent; no longer with in-laws but ex’s. I’ve learned that God makes all things new, and often faster than I want. God never gives me what I want; God always gives me something better!

My career. God brought me to a career in public health, as I savored its roots in social justice. God brought me out of public health, re-naming me “Top Pun,” and appointing me as a jester for peace, where the pun is mightier than the sword, and justice is no yoke. My canvasses are buttons, T-shirts, bumper stickers, and the World Wide Web. My business, by definition, is good – that is, maximizing prophets. My business is exactly on schedule; though I don’t know what the schedule is.

God brought me to Central’s neighborhood, and a few hours later, to Central. Centralites were my kind of people. Some happened to be Christians who were gay. Through my social justice work, not my public health work, God brought me to work in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This opened further opportunities to work with persons who happened to be gay. My dad “came out.” My parents divorced. God had prepared me.

I have issues with money. I aspire to live simply, gracefully facilitated by my recent poverty-level earnings. Living with less financial security has inspired me to give today because I may not be able to give later. Whatever old car I’m driving facilitates my prayer life (of course, no “auto”-biography would be complete without a mention of my car).

I am a mystic at heart, journeying as a gifted rationalist, Caucasian, male, father, lover, businessman, American, etc., etc., yada, yada, yada. While embracing the enigmatic, I hope these few words will offer you a clue as to who I am. Hopefully, these few words will offer you a clue as to who we are. One of my favorite poems is from Muhammad Ali: “Me. We.”

In all, God has never left me; except for an instant in 1981, but that’s another story…

FREE POSTER: Sen. Rob “Lincoln” Portman – The Grate Emancipator – “And you shall be emancipated from your health insurance, and the good Lord will grant you your ultimate freedom”

In the continuing health care debacle known as senate Republicans trying to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, please enjoy my latest take with this free poster: Sen. Rob “Lincoln” Portman – The Grate Emancipator – “And you shall be emancipated from your health insurance, and the good Lord will grant you your ultimate freedom.”

Just when you thought the senate Republican so-called health care bill couldn’t get any worse, along comes Sen. Ted Cruz, who was successful in getting a lethal change in the new version — which allows unregulated insurance plans, essentially making it impossible for Obamacare insurance exchange to function as designed.  As succinctly put,”The new Senate health bill is terrible for anyone who is sick, has been sick, or will be sick.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) may be against this new worse bill but he is being obtuse, still trying to play both sides and be “independent.”  I’ve got news for you Mr. Portman, when there is a civil war over health care, threatening each year to kill tens of thousands of Americans, you can’t carve out neutrality — even famously neutral Switzerland has universal health care!

Feel free to share or print out this poster in your efforts to stop Republican meddling with America’s health care!

FREE POSTER: Sen. Rob "Lincoln" Portman - The Grate Emancipator - "And you shall be emancipated from your health insurance, and the good Lord will grant you your ultimate freedom"

This is the latest addition to my “Parity or Parody in democracy” series of free posters.  I won’t stop my parody until we have parity!

FREE POSTER: Sen. Rob Portman meets with his Russian lawyer and campaign consultant on how to safely blow up Medicaid

When Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is busy not meeting with his constituents, he is seeking expert advice from cartoonish consultants.  Please feel free to share or print out this free political poster, “Sen. Rob Portman meets with his Russian lawyer and campaign consultant on how to safely blow up Medicaid.”  Sen Portman does not shy away from trying to do the impossible, however absurd or recklessly dangerous.  Fear not, Sen. Portman got nothing of real value from this Russian agent, so know harm know foul.Sen. Rob Portman meets with his Russian lawyer and campaign consultant on how to safely blow up MedicaidThe installments of my “Parity or Parody in democracy” poster series just keep on coming — stay tuned for more!  Plus, check out other funny political and free posters from TopPun.com

POEM: Standing On My Privy Ledge

I am a white, straight, Christian, male
And you see that
I am afraid
Though paying attention
To what is fare
I am more afraid
Of whites than blacks
Of straights than queers
Of Christians than Muslims
Of men than women
Of what is in than out
Of wear it so easy
To be dark, crooked, un-Christian, and un-manly
Standing on my privy ledge
Only names dropping
And eliminating a void
For it’s all in
The taking
That in is capable plunge
Before the plumb it
Takes us
Awe down
Oar
Run over by a drain
Holey a bout
In which wee re-side
And set assail
As expect torrent-ly weight
Up on that wayward look out
Going long with dinghy surroundings
Only keeping us on won’s tows
Castles in the err
As hope tangles with whose faltering
If only to feel
The win behind your back
In one fell sloop
Without assemblance of humanity
Ripping that one accord
With know shoot culpable save you
You are precariously throne
As a matter of coarse, bowled over
Un-less first choice
To devote your undivided tension
To what is fare
Forsake of humanity
Either weigh
That first step
Is a due see

This poem is about privilege: the privilege men have over women, the privilege whites have over blacks and other people of color, the privilege Christians have over Muslims, the privilege straight folks have over queer folk.   Privilege Is When You Think Something Is Not A Problem Because It's Not A Problem To You Personally POLITICAL BUTTONEnd Heterosexual Privilege - Rainbow Pride Bar--Gay Pride Rainbow Store BUTTONThis is a first person poem, in that I am such a multi-privileged person.  The unnamed privilege in this poem is the privilege people living in the first-world have over people living in the second- or third-world (or as some say: the two-thirds world).

I have been pondering the reality of privilege most of my life.  I consider my birth into this world in Haiti, but as a son of white, well-educated Americans, as representative of profound tensions within my life in relation to the many human conundrums set up by vast differences in privilege.  My Mennonite heritage, steeped in values of simple living, has been a fortuitous foundation for my drift into economic irrelevancy and semi-voluntary poverty. Live Simply So Others May Simply Live - POLITICAL BUTTONMy training and career in public health has afforded me a perspective rich in dealing with social justice.  My vocation and avocation as a social justice activist has yielded abundant opportunities to stand in solidarity with my human kin, and even reflect upon erudite concepts such as intersectionality.  My short stint in prison plus hanging around more poor folks has helped prompt me to shed some of my middle-class sensibilities.  I am working intentionally to trade many of my first world problems for second- and third-world problems.  Yet, perhaps the greatest testament to my many privileges, is that I still feel like the richest person I know (though I don’t really get out that much).

Recently, my dealing with privilege has been kicked into high gear, with the advent of the Black Lives Matter movement.  BLACK LIVES MATTER [Black Power Symbol] POLITICAL BUTTONI am deeply grateful to all of the people of color, queer folk, highly conscious feminists, and “others” who have enriched my life beyond belief.  got privilege? POLITICAL BUTTONI hope that the privilege I have at my disposable serves the larger interest of equality for all.  May any privilege we possess not possess us but spur us to break down any inhuman barriers that separate us.

Feel free to check out LGBT equality designs, Black Lives Matter designs, feminism designs, human rights designs, and anti-hate, anti-discrimination designs.

REAL POLITICS, REAL CANDIDATE: Jill Stein 2016 Platform

IF you want a progressive presidential candidate that you can get excited about voting FOR, then Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate is worth serious consideration.  Jill Stein has selected her Green Party running mate, Vice President choice, Ajamu Baraka.  Mr. Baraka is an internationally recognized human rights activist, organizer and geo-political analyst with a deeply progressive resume.  Here is their platform:

Jill Stein 2016 Platform

Our Power to the People Plan

Climate Action: Protecting Mother Earth and Humanity

  • Enact an emergency Green New Deal to turn the tide on climate change, revive the economy and make wars for oil obsolete. Initiate a WWII-scale national mobilization to halt climate change, the greatest threat to humanity in our history. Create 20 million jobs by transitioning to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030, and investing in public transit, sustainable agriculture, conservation and restoration of critical infrastructure, including ecosystems.
  • Implement a Just Transition that empowers those communities and workers most impacted by climate change and the transition to a green economy. Ensure that any worker displaced by the shift away from fossil fuels will receive full income and benefits as they transition to alternative work.
  • Enact energy democracy based on public, community and worker ownership of our energy system. Treat energy as a human right.
  • Redirect research funds from fossil fuels into renewable energy and conservation.  Build a nationwide smart electricity grid that can pool and store power from a diversity of renewable sources, giving the nation clean, democratically-controlled, energy.
  • End destructive energy extraction and associated infrastructure: fracking, tar sands, offshore drilling, oil trains, mountaintop removal, natural gas pipelines, and uranium mines. Halt any investment in fossil fuel infrastructure, including natural gas, and phase out all fossil fuel power plants. Phase out nuclear power and end nuclear subsidies.  End all subsidies for fossil fuels and impose a greenhouse gas fee / tax to charge polluters for the damage they have created.
  • Protect our public lands, water supplies, biological diversity, parks, and pollinators. Ban neonicotinoids and other pesticides that threaten the survival of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
  • Support a strong enforceable global climate treaty that limits global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius and provides just financial compensation to developing countries.
  • Label GMOs, and put a moratorium on GMOs and pesticides until they are proven safe.
  • Support organic and regenerative agriculture, permaculture, and sustainable forestry.
  • Protect the rights of future generations. Adopt the Precautionary Principle. When an activity poses threats of harm to human health or the environment, in the absence of objective scientific consensus that it is safe, precautionary measures should be taken. The proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.
  • Invest in clean air, water, food  and soil for everyone. Clean up America.
  • Enact stronger environmental justice laws and measures to ensure that low-income and communities of color are not disproportionately impacted by harmful pollution and other negative environmental and health effects.
  • Support conversion to sustainable, nontoxic materials and the use of closed-loop, zero waste processes.

 Jobs as a Right, and Key Support for Labor

  • Create living-wage jobs for every American who needs work, replacing unemployment offices with employment offices. Government would be the employer of last resort, and the unemployed would have an enforceable right to make government provide work. Create direct public employment, as the Works Progress Administration did,  in public services and public works for those who can’t find private employment.
  • Advance workers’ rights to form unions, achieve workplace democracy, and keep a fair share of the wealth they create.
  • Enact the Green Deal full employment program to create 20 million green jobs in sustainable energy, mass transit, sustainable organic agriculture, clean manufacturing and improved infrastructure, as well as social work, teaching, health care, after school and home care, drug rehabilitation and other service jobs.
  • Provide grants and low-interest loans to green businesses and cooperatives, with an emphasis on small, locally-based companies that keep the wealth created by local labor circulating in the community, rather than being drained off to enrich absentee investors.
  • Replace NAFTA and other corporate free trade agreements that export American jobs, depress wages, and undermine the sovereign right of Americans and citizens of other countries to control their own economy and political choices. Enact fair trade laws that benefits local workers and communities.
  • Repeal  the Taft-Hartley Act which banned secondary boycotts and permitted state “right-to-work” laws. Enact a federal just cause law (to prohibit firing without just cause,) and outlaw scabbing on striking workers.

 End Poverty:

  • Guarantee economic human rights, including access to food, water, housing, and utilities, with effective anti-poverty programs to ensure every American a life of dignity.
  • Establish a guaranteed minimum income.
  • Reform public assistance to be a true safety net that empowers participants and provides a decent standard of living.
  • Free universal child care.

 Health Care as a Right:

  • Establish an improved “Medicare for All” single-payer public health program to provide everyone with quality health care, at huge savings by eliminating the $400 billion annually spent on  the paperwork and bureaucracy of health insurance. No co-pays, premiums or deductibles. Access to all health care services, including mental health, dental, and vision. Include everyone, period. No restrictions based on pre-existing illness, employment, immigration status, age, or any other category.
  • Eliminate the cancer of health insurance, which adds costs while reducing access to health care.
  • End overcharging for prescription drugs by using bulk purchasing negotiations.
  • Eliminate health disparities in communities of color and low-income communities. Ensure easy access to health care in communities of color, including community health centers.
  • Allow full access to contraceptive and reproductive care.
  • Expand women’s access to “morning after” contraception by lifting the Obama Administration’s ban.
  • Avoid chronic diseases by investing in essential community health infrastructure such as local, fresh, organic food systems, pollution-free renewable energy, phasing out toxic chemicals, and active transportation such as bike paths and safe sidewalks that dovetail with public transit.
  • Ensure that consumers have essential information for making informed food choices by expanding product labeling requirements for country of origin, GMO content, toxic chemical ingredients, and fair trade practices.
  • Prioritize preventive health care, including physical activity, healthy nutrition and pollution prevention.

 Education as a Right:

  • Guarantee tuition-free, world-class public education from pre-school through university.
  • Abolish student debt to free a generation of Americans from debt servitude.
  • Protect our public school systems from privatization.
  • Use restorative justice to address conflicts before they occur, and involve students in the process.
  • Evaluate teacher performance through assessment by fellow professionals. Do not rely on high stakes tests that reflect economic status of the community, and punish teachers working in low income communities of color.
  • Replace Common Core with curriculum developed by educators, not corporations, with input from parents and communities.
  • Stop denying students diplomas based on high stakes tests.
  • Stop using merit pay to punish teachers who work with the most challenging student populations.
  • Restore arts, music and recreation to school curriculums.
  • Ensure racially inclusive, sensitive and relevant curriculums.
  • Use Department of Education powers to offer grants and funding to encourage metropolitan desegregation plans based on socioeconomically balanced schools.
  • Recognize poverty as the key obstacle to learning. Ensure that kids come to school ready to learn: healthy, nourished, secure and free from violence.
  • Increase federal funding of public schools to equalize public school funding.

 A Just Economy:

  • Guarantee a living wage job for all.
  • Set a $15/hour federal minimum wage, with indexing.
  • Break up “too-big-to-fail” banks and democratize the Federal Reserve.
  • Support development of worker and community cooperatives and small businesses.
  • Make Wall Street, big corporations, and the rich pay their fair share of taxes.
  • Create democratically-run public banks and utilities.
  • Provide full protection for workplace rights, including the right to a safe workplace and the right to organize a union without fear of firing or reprisal by passing the Employee Free Choice Act.
  • Ensure equal pay for equal work, ending discrimination based on race, gender, or generation.
  • Enact paid sick leave and family leave, strong overtime protections.
  • Take action against wage theft.
  • Oppose two-tier wage systems (e.g., for young people and individuals with disabilities).

 Freedom and Equality:

  • Expand women’s rights, including equal pay and reproductive freedom. Pass the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment).
  • Protect LGBTQIA+ people from discrimination.
  • Defend indigenous rights,  lands and treaties.
  • Support immigrants’ rights. Create a welcoming path to citizenship for immigrants.
  • Halt deportations and detentions of law-abiding undocumented immigrants, including the shameful practice of night raids being used to terrorize refugee families.
  • Improve economic and social conditions abroad to reduce the flow of immigrant refugees, in part by repealing NAFTA, ending the failed drug wars, and halting CIA and military interventions against democratically elected governments.
  • Demilitarize border crossings throughout North America.
  • Protect the free Internet. Oppose the Online Piracy Act and all other legislation that would undermine freedom and equality on the Internet.

 Criminal Justice Reforms

  • End the failed war on drugs. Replace drug prohibition with harm reduction. Legalize marijuana/hemp. Treat substance abuse as a health problem, not a criminal offense.
  • Release nonviolent drug offenders from prison, removing such offenses from their records, and provide them with both pre- and post-release support.
  • End police brutality, mass incarceration and institutional racism within our justice system. Support the Black Lives Matter Movement.
  • Demilitarize police. End use of SWAT teams and no-knock raids for drugs and serving papers.
  • Repair our communities rather than dump resources into the prison-industrial complex.
  • Establish police review boards so that communities control their police, and not the other way around. Appoint dedicated investigators to investigate every death or serious injury at the hands of police.
  • Enact laws to require independent outside legal representatives to investigate and prosecute any killing or brutality  by the police rather than prosecutors involved in the local criminal justice system.
  • Eliminate harsh  mandatory sentencing requirements which often result in unjustified sentences.

 Justice for All:

  • Enforce the Bill of Rights by protecting the right to free speech and protest, to be secure from unwarranted search and seizure and invasion of privacy, as well as our other Constitutional rights.
  • Terminate unconstitutional surveillance and unwarranted spying, close Guantanamo, and repeal indefinite detention without charge or trial. Repeal the unconstitutional provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act that give the president the power to indefinitely imprison and even assassinate American citizens without due process.
  • America’s youth should not be put in jail for offenses they commit.
  • End discrimination against former offenders who have paid for their crimes and should get a fresh start.
  • Abolish the death penalty.
  • End persecution of government, corporate  and media whistleblowers.
  • Issue an Executive Order prohibiting Federal agencies from conspiring with local police to infringe upon right of assembly and peaceful protest.
  • Repeal the Patriot Act that violates our constitutional right to privacy and protection against unreasonable search and seizure.


Peace and Human Rights:

  • Establish a foreign policy based on diplomacy, international law, human rights, and nonviolent support for democratic movements around the world.
  • Cut military spending by at least 50% and close the 700+ foreign military bases. Ensure a just transition that replaces reductions in  military jobs with jobs in renewable energy, transportation and green infrastructure development.
  • Stop U.S. financial and military support to human rights abusers. Barring substantial changes in their policies, this would include Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt.
  • End the US’ role as the world’s arm supplier.
  • End use of assassination as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy, including collaborative assassination through intermediaries.
  • End the destructive US economic and military intervention into the affairs of sovereign nations. Such intervention serve the interests of multinational corporations and  global capitalism over the interests of the vast majority of the citizens of those nations.
  • Freeze the bank accounts of countries that are funding terrorism, including the Saudi royal family.
  • US policy regarding Israel and Palestine must be revised to prioritize international law, peace and human rights for all people, no matter their religion or nationality. End US policies that have supported the worst tendencies of the Israeli government in its treatment of the people of Palestine.
  • Restore the National Guard as the centerpiece of our defense.
  • Ban use of drone aircraft for assassination, bombing, and other offensive purposes.
  • End the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, withdrawing troops and military contractors.
  • Join 159 other nations in signing the Ottawa treaty banning the use of anti-personnel land mines.
  • Lead on global nuclear disarmament:
  • Rejoin the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which the US dropped out of in 2002 when it installed missiles and missile bases in Turkey, Romania, and Poland.
  • Agree to Russia’s proposal to jointly reduce US and Russian nuclear arsenals to 1,000 nuclear weapons each. Also call for all countries to the table to negotiate a treaty for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.
  • Remove US nuclear weapons in Germany, Belgium, Turkey, Italy and the Netherlands.
  •  Support Russia and China’s joint effort to open negotiations on a treaty to ban weapons in space.
  •  Pledge to end any further laboratory or sub-critical nuclear tests at the Nevada and Novaya Zemlya test sites, and end all nuclear weapons research, design, and modernization at the weapons laboratories.
  • The US must take the lead in nuclear disarmament by itself starting to disarm. We should create a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East region and require all nations in the area to join.

Empower the People: Fix our Broken Elections with Real Democracy

  • Eliminate the doctrine of corporate personhood that among other things has been used to justify unlimited corporate spending in elections with a constitutional amendment to clarify that only human beings have constitutional rights.
  • Enact electoral reforms that break the big money stranglehold and create truly representative democracy: full public election financing, ranked-choice voting, proportional representation, and open debates.
  • Protect voters’ rights by enforcing and expanding the constitutional right to vote (including a new amendment if necessary). Enact the full Voter’s Bill of Rights guaranteeing each person’s right to vote, the right to have our votes counted on hand-marked paper ballots, and the right to vote within systems that give each vote meaning. Make voter registration the responsibility of government, not a voluntary opt-in for citizens.
  • Restore Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, requiring preclearance by the Attorney General or federal district court of DC to election law changes in areas previously found to limit voting rights.
  • Abolish the Electoral College and directly elect the President using a national popular vote with ranked-choice voting..
  • Restore the right to run for office and eliminate unopposed races by removing ballot access barriers.
  • Guarantee equal access to the debates to all ballot-qualified candidates.
  • Provide equal and free access to the airways for all ballot-qualified candidates, not just those with big campaign war chests.
  • Eliminate “winner take all / first past the post” elections in which the “winner” may not have the support of most of the voters. Replace that system with ranked choice voting and proportional representation.
  • Enact statehood for the District of Columbia to ensure the region has full representation in Congress, and full powers of democratic self-rule.
  • Restore voting rights to offenders, including while in prison.
  • Replace partisan oversight of elections with non-partisan election commissions.
  • Reduce barriers to voting by making Election Day a national holiday.
  • Enact simplified, safe same-day voter registration to the nation so that no qualified voter is barred from the polls.
  • Protect local democracy by making clear that acts of Congress establish a floor, and not a ceiling, on laws relating to economic regulation, workers’ rights, human rights, and the environment.

A Humane Federal Budget with Fair Taxes

  • Increase government revenues for social needs by restoring full employment, cutting the bloated, dangerous military budget, and cutting private health insurance waste.
  • Require full disclosure of corporate subsidies in the budget and stop hiding subsidies in complicated tax code.
  • Rewrite the entire tax code to be truly progressive with tax cuts for working families, the poor and middle class, and higher taxes for the richest Americans.
  • Strengthen rather than cut Medicare and Social Security. Remove the cap on social security taxes above a certain level of income.
  • Maintain and upgrade our nation’s essential public infrastructure, including highways, railways, electrical grids, water systems, schools, libraries, and the Internet, resisting privatization or policy manipulation by for-profit interests.

Financial Reform

  • Establish federal, state, and municipal publicly-owned banks that function as non-profit utilities and focus on helping people, not enriching themselves.
  • Create a Corporation for Economic Democracy, a new federal corporation (like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting) to provide publicity, training, education, and direct financing for cooperative development and for democratic reforms to make government agencies, private associations, and business enterprises more participatory.
  • Democratize monetary policy to bring about public control of the money supply and credit creation. This means nationalizing the private bank-dominated Federal Reserve Banks and placing them under a Federal Monetary Authority within the Treasury Department.   Prohibit private banks from creating money, thus restoring government’s Constitutional authority.
  • Manage pension funds by boards controlled by workers, not corporate managers.
  • Regulate all financial derivatives and require them to be traded on open exchanges.
  • Restore the Glass-Steagall separation of depository commercial banks from speculative investment banks.

Housing   

  • Impose an immediate moratorium on foreclosures and evictions.
  • Offer capital grants to non-profit developers of affordable housing until all people can obtain decent housing at no more than 25% of their income.
  • Create a federal bank with local branches to take over homes with distressed mortgages, and either restructure the mortgages to affordable levels, or if the occupants cannot afford a mortgage, rent homes to the occupants.
  • Expand rental and home ownership assistance and increase funding for public housing.
  • Use Department of Housing and Urban Development authority to grant or withhold funds in order to encourage state and local governments to take positive steps to desegregate housing, including ending zoning laws that effectively prohibit multi-family housing, prohibiting landlords from refusing to accept Section 8 vouchers, increasing Section 8 voucher amounts so that poor people can move into middle income neighborhoods, prohibiting the use of Low Income Housing Tax Credits to increase low income housing in already segregated neighborhoods, and building new public housing in middle income communities that is high quality and mixed income.

We can build a better future together.

POEM: Re-lying on Day-old Knews

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah
The news drones on
Massaging and spinning
Disembodied heads a top
Heartless ‘n titties in dis cursive and desultry means
Temperately flailing to wake us
From our terrorific slumber
Our tired and true rejoinder
Hit the snooze
Yes! In the land of nod
Obey the well-dressed anchor
Around your neck
Nothing to see, hear!
Accept properly-placed comas
Overlooking a legion of meanings
That might
Arise from our side
Maddened more
By head lines in-grave
As face each mourn
Not up to catching forty hoodwinks
Before rolling over and playing dead
To any smooth promise posed
To have done with the etched of the earth
Penned in stone
Fashioned to suture self
With the bounty of some spell binding medium
Ripped at the seem
Quipped with stupefying farce
As the wise crack
Humanity snapping to a tension
‘n snare with each punch line
It’s how the net works
Naught
To see the catch
Re-lying on day-old knews
In abiding wore
For flagging ardor
And uniform fatigues
Am bushed
And each recurring brake of daze
Pared with a new assault
To be taken
With agreein’
Ennui start all over agin

The news as imperfected by the American media conglomerates may represent the most distant information and perspective in acquiring and harmonizing with timeless truths.  Drowning In Information But Starved For Truth [TV] POLITICAL BUTTONThis incongruence between timeliness and timelessness is a form of endemic violence perpetuated on the American public.  What bleeds leads, and awe is vanity.  Flittering from superficial story to superficial story leaves the cursory public interest unattended too.  The veil of objectivity alludes responsibility.  The conveniently hidden agenda of corporate interests routinely protects itself from authentic critique.  Useful as chain mail, amid evil sensibility is safeguarded for the lords of the manner.  Civility hijacks dissent.  Of coarse, vulgar opinion poses handily as master debating.

I find an antidote to such blindness-producing jerks, listening to Democracy Now (DemocracyNow.org) every weekday.  If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing -- Malcolm X quote POLITICAL BUTTONThis bastion of independent media provides in-depth coverage of real issues and real people, speaking truth to power every broadcast.  Also, I relish the launching of Toledo’s own independent, noncommercial radio station, WAKT 106.1 FM, this July.  This radio station will provide locally-produced content free from commercial interests.  My public health show, Just for the Health of it, will take on corporate health interests to aid and abet local folks in powering up their own health, the health of our community, and the health of our planet.

May you find meaningful and uplifting sources of news and information, good for awe.

Check out my dozens of Fox News/Faux News parodies here.

Faux News - Unencumbered by Truth (FOX NEWS Parody) - POLITICAL BUTTON	 FAUX NEWS - Making The World Safe For Stupidity (FOX NEWS Parody) - POLITICAL BUTTONFaux News - Preferred by 5 Out of 4 Rednecks (FOX NEWS Parody) - POLITICAL BUTTON

POEM: That Wholly Lessen

Kneeling before
Mother
Earth
Shattering
Knews
Buy sum mirror mortals
That scant except abundance
Farced too
Under stand
That wholly lessen
Taut
As awe for one
And won for all
And what too due
To be apprehended
Those borne too big for their breaches
Both yearning their keep
And wanting to cry like a baby
As partially dread
King Solomon’s wisdom
Discerning a real mom
From a ‘mother’ in name only
In every crook and nanny
Of awe that might be
Haunted by possessions
Those who cull out
For halve of everything
As if
Like some indivisible man
In a crowd
Stealing a weigh
Amidst a pound of flash
As a parent
As won
Divided buy too
Is not twice one peace
However disposed
Won is to give
Forbear
Meaning less labor
For priceless heir
And each arrival
Comes a bout
In his stork visit
That universal root
Digs ever deeper
Beyond belief
Yet sum people
Proffer a Roamin’ umpire
A tempting
A scuff-law-less Caesarean delivery
To buy pass
The belly of the best
Dilatorily a void
Mete cleave her
Where even moderation can be excessive
Only too grasp
After brooding over
In a so-so pregnant pause
And sow ill-conceived
Being a touch bankrupt
Morally in half-way hows
That irresistible fix
Working for you
And know won ails
Halve the weigh homme
Leaping twice across the chasm
Returning
To Mother
Earth
Won way or the other
Making a hole world
Of deference

Here is yet another poem about the ongoing crisis of Mother Earth’s destruction.  To portray the half-ass response by so-called developed nations and industrial powers that be, I employ the metaphors of King Solomon’s infamous wisdom in dealing with dispute over motherhood and that of crossing a chasm in two leaps.  To add another metaphor regarding our relationship with Mother Earth, we want to have our cake and eat it too!  In the case of the King Solomon judgment, two mothers living in the same household claimed a baby as their own.  After one of the mothers accidentally smothered her own child while they were sleeping in her bed (by the way, an ancient public health problem that persists today), she claimed the other mother’s baby was her own.  Without enough evidence to make a reasonable determination, King Solomon wisely and shrewdly ordered the baby cut in half, so each mother could have their “fair” share, to determine their reaction.  The true mother insisted the baby be given to the false mother to spare the baby’s life.  The false and jealous mother said go to it.  Of course, this revealed the true mother to which King Solomon ordered the whole baby as hers.  Our greed and jealous protection of our own unjust interests would rather halve the world we live in than deal with a whole new world.  Globalize THIS - ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY [earth graphic] POLITICAL BUTTONAs greed and envy continue unabated, we naively and vainly assume that things will “naturally” work themselves out.  As if the day after we can reassemble two halves of a baby and have a whole baby.  This is akin to jumping a chasm in two leaps.  It don’t work that way!  Our fundamental disrespect for motherhood is a parent to anyone who possesses the wisdom to differentiate between motherhood and smother-hood.  Of course, in the real world, there is no second baby to even attempt to appropriate.  And the chasm is too wide for even a long series of half-ass measures.  I’ll take a flying leap here: we either return to mothering Mother Earth or we will return to Mother Earth, as a specious not suited to evolve any further.

PUCO Testimony – FirstEnergy Robbery of Ratepayers

Below is my testimony at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) hearing regarding the proposed corporate welfare for FirstEnergy.  There was an impressive show of force by the anti-nuclear and pro-environmental folks from the region.  There was a show of farce by the usual parade of brown-nosers whose employment is closely related to Davis-Besse nuclear plant operations.  Still, the greatest number of testifiers were opposed to the above-market rate hike to subsidize FirstEnergy’s uncompetitive and dangerous energy generation.  In an unusual move, PUCO literally made every testifier swear.  So, legally, this testimony is “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”  May PUCO deny FirstEnergy’s application to rip off ratepayers for private profit.

Testimony at PUCO Public Hearing
Re: First Energy Robbery of Ratepayers
January 15, 2015

My name is Dan Rutt. I am a citizen of Toledo and this great planet. I have a B.S. in biology. I have a masters degree in public health. I am a breather of polluted air from coal-fired electric generators. I share with you a planet that is threatened by global climate instability, due to pollution from carbon dioxide and co-called “natural” gas, more accurately described as methane. I live in the deathly shadow of Davis-Besse, the aging nuclear power plant with the worst safety record in the U.S., thanks to a couple of nuclear plants which have been wisely closed recently for safety and economic reasons. It’s Davis-Besse’s turn — hopefully to be decommissioned, not blow up. To you who live outside the region, welcome to Davis-Besse’s kill zone.

I will take my precious few minutes to plead with PUCO, charged with protecting public health and economic sanity. Do not allow the building of a pipeline from the First Energy corporate board room to the public purse. The boondoggle that is the Davis-Besse nuclear plant drives this issue. Davis-Besse is a poor investment economically, a perilous venture environmentally, and a catastrophic threat to human life along the Great Lakes. The federal government already indemnifies the nuclear industry from accountability for catastrophic events. PUCO should not further this lack of accountability by forcing the public to invest in nuclear plants. If anything we should disinvest from nuclear power.

First Energy has lobbied to prop up coal and nuclear, the way of the past. We need change, not infrastructure and rate plans which will lock us into an unsustainable future. Still worse, First Energy has lobbied to block the transition to renewable energy, the way of the future. If First Energy is allowed to pass on most or all of the risk of its increasingly risky ventures to the public — that is, ratepayers and biological entities susceptible to lethal radiation catastrophes — then I suspect that this could trigger a rush of entrepreneurial types wanting to PUCO all over Ohio.

The energy industry is quite adept at playing the hodgepodge of regulatory agencies for its own profit. They are experts at leveraging the narrowness of regulatory agencies’ perspectives and authority, which, given time limitations here, may be summed up as: “It’s not my job” and “I’m only doing my job.” Ironically, this may leave us with somebody’s job, even a so-called “good” job, but no livable world. If your work leads to the destruction of the planet, then it is not a good job. Job one must be protecting the planet. This includes accountability for those who would “invest” (sic) in the destruction of our planet for profit.

There is little doubt that we are being gamed. And if we don’t get wise to this, there are likely to be many losers, and few winners. I wonder if perhaps this issue might be better served by a change of venue. Perhaps we should add to the mix oversight by the Lottery Commission or Casino Control Commission; it might be more honest. Perhaps we could turn that ole Besse into a cash cow. Convert it from a white elephant into a casino. We could call it “Chernobyl on the Lake — an Eerie Adventure.” We could feature Russian Roulette. Unfortunately, we, the public, are already subject to a game of Russian Roulette, playing with nuclear catastrophe and the steamroller of climate instability. Free us from this deadly game. Help us pave the way to a new and sustainable future. Disapprove this proposed rate plan, the robbery of the many to enrich the few, and a dangerous course for all. Thank you.

[Note: I didn’t read this poem at the hearing, but included it in my written testimony]

Good Job
by Dan Rutt, alias “Top Pun” (it’s just, my pun name)

It was early Monday mourning
When the Davis-Besse nuclear plant
Finally ruptured
At the base of Lake Eerie
Weeping poison
From the once-great lakes
Now a watery grave for both sellers
And consumers
Of atomic drivel
For what human remains
The event became known
Simply as “The rupture”
Leaving sleepy millions
In its wake
Sucked into a glowing sky
For who knows watt
Feudal to press release
Fore their heavenly reword
A paradise rolled
Entranced buy snake eyes
In charge of all that meters
Relegating us to hoarse power
Silent partners
Dealt a roil flush
In a conniving casino
Pain only in skullduggery
Forging height reason
And absolute faith in stonewall
As a bet
A dark wager
Echoing in the empty halls
Of unions and congress
“Good job”

POEM: Ebola US Over

Ebola US over
When fear metes science
When we no what too due
Still, rabidly executing our will
As wee act in sanity
Cheap as rationed rationality
Upscale absurdity
As some fret butler
Frankly red-faced, not giving a damn
As long as they are on the winning genocide
As good as dread
Only wont
Too feel safe
Feverishly incubating terrors
In the timed, spaced continuum
Of the perpetual see of terminable daze
Enduring weaks
Of what dismay
Or may knot
Deliver us
Into harm’s weigh
Stamping out indignantly
Aversion of reality
We cannot except
Fomenting in a culture
Fixed on negative results
Mirrorly symptoms apprehended
Temperatures rising
Going viral
As the unexplained hemorrhages
Everything alarmingly scene
As through
A prism of fear
For which there is no anti-dote
Forever catching
US on the flip side
Little escaping what is in
Our nature
Passing
On that sore option
Liquefying our cells
Or seizing only
That which is key
To the beginning of our end
In courage unbolting
And open fortitude
That other wise will
To our enemies heel
Yet for all won knows
Bolus over with a feather
Joining farces with that gag reel
Fore what bitter medicine than that
Given the bird
That can’t swallow
Or a flee
In deed doggedly drug
A collar
Not worthy a copper or gumshoe
So give it a rest

I wrote this poem a while back, just after the first Ebola case showed up in the United States.  I have training and experience in public health, and I worked in the 1990’s in combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  Communicating risk accurately is difficult, particularly in an environment of fear and histrionics. Also, it doesn’t help that the scientific literacy level of the American public is disabling in this matter.  As a scientist and poet, I hope that this poem offers some insight into such conundrums.

Fear and ignorance are a lethal combination, and they have a nefarious synergy with infectious disease outbreaks.  Ignorance often leads to a dangerous undervaluing of prevention early in an epidemic.  Then, when the epidemic becomes visible, closer to home, fear often demands actions that are often useless or counterproductive.  If confusion prevails amidst a population, infectious disease can flourish, as energies are squandered on off-mark enterprises and scientifically-validated methods are not sufficiently adhered to, often because of ignorance and suspicion, even if plenty of fear and concern is present as a motivator.

The Ebola virus is particularly lethal, yet it is not easily transmissible nor transmissible in people without easily-identified symptoms (though not necessarily Ebola-specific symptoms).  The chains of Ebola transmission can be broken.  We need to persistently apply our abundant knowledge about Ebola, with a measure of courage, to defeat it.  If our unfounded fears overwhelm our capacity to address Ebola in a rational manner, then the legitimate fear that Ebola poses us will become unnecessarily magnified into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

May we drum up the courage and resolve to fight Ebola based on what we know well rather than that which is uncertain and subject to fear-mongering.

Testimony to NRC to Shut Down Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant

Below is my testimony for today’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s public hearing regarding the potential re-licensing of the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant:

My name is Dan Rutt.  So, what are my credentials for being here tonight?  I live in the kill zone of Davis-Besse.  I have lived in the kill zone of nuclear plants almost my entire life.  I suspect few could argue against the mournful reality that way too many people share these credentials.

I do have a B.S. in Biology.  Though, I must confess, my B.S. pales in comparison to the B.S. of the nuclear industry and the NRC.

I also have a masters degree in public health.  But I am not here to debate technical minutiae, nor to discuss the arrangement of deck chairs, the lack of lifeboats, nor the alleged unsinkability of the titanic nuclear industry.

Today, I am here as a poet and an activist.  I am here as a child of mother earth and as a planetary citizen.  Most importantly, I am here today as a prophet.  And let it be said: nothing today will truer be said than that the nuclear industry and the NRC listen to profits!

I am here to do the impossible.  I am here to topple a multi-billion dollar corporate empire with a mere wisp of democracy — approximately 3 minutes worth.  Unfortunately, the NRC’s plan to protect itself from democracy is much stronger than it’s plans to protect us from nuclear disasters.

When the NRC circus comes to town, their death-defying prestidigitations may very well make you gasp.  Still, we will be safely confined to grandstanding.  This dog and pony show might allow us to bitch until we are hoarse.  But, at the end of the day, the elephant in the middle of the big, flimsy tent, will do its thing, and the little people of this world will be left with the mess.  And the NRC circus will skip town, to continue their tour de farce.

So, I am here to do the impossible.  I am here to speak for a thousand generations in 3 minutes.   Usually such hope and possibility requires the venue of something like American Idol.  Well, my friends, we have an American idol: the nuclear industry.  This American idol has reigned for 70 years.  This American idol has rained nuclear waste across this great land.  And today, 70 years later, as the waste of the nuclear fat cats grows larger, they offer a 600-page tome as their litter.  And who dares wade through this litter box?  Who dares to think inside this box?  Who of us will not be pooped out?  Can anyone venturing into this 600-page tomb view it as anything but a deathly undertaking?  What box can possibly hold such eternally reigning transgressions?  Do you have a staff member called Pandora by any chance?!  There is only one sane solution: let’s idle this idol!  The solution is simple: we must end nuclear generations to end nuclear generations.

The ultimate question for today is: In our call to shut Davis-Besse down, will we be heard?

Sure, NRC staff will herd our comments into another neatly formatted tome.  But will we be heard?  Sure, the decision-makers have ears, and stenographers, and word processors.  But will we be heard?

Will the people affected by nuclear power generation be heard?  They call this a public hearing.  But the reality is that it is physically and metaphysically impossible for over 99% of those affected by Davis-Besse’s nuclear waste to be here — for the simple fact that they have not even been born yet.  Will we weigh the testimony today to account for their interests, the interests of future generations?

Can you hear our great grandchildren cry out into the not-so-great ears of today’s nuclear executives: Why did you poison our world for a few kilowatts?

Can you hear our great, great grandchildren cry out into the not-so-great ears of today’s First Energy shareholders:  Why did you rob our future for a few profits today?

Can you hear our great, great, great grandchildren cry out into the not-so-great ears of today’s parade of crooning cronies, sometimes called politicians:  Why did you sell out your communities for a little patronage?

But…what if we are truly heard today?  Then we might just hear:

The gentle whispers of our great, great, great, great, great grandchildren saying “good job” to the employees in the former nuclear industry — and by “good job” they don’t mean thanks for taking that decent paying job, but rather, holding out and demanding good jobs, jobs friendly to both working families and our environment.

If we are truly heard today, then we might just hear: the gentle whispers of our great, great, great, great, great, great grandchildren thanking the nameless thousands across this great land who worked for neither wages nor shareholder profits, but rather, worked freely for a world where it doesn’t pay to destroy our environment.

We must listen to our future generations.  If not us, who?  If not now, when?

As for me, in this generation, I will gladly live without Davis-Besse.  I will gladly trade the sliver of energy produced during my lifetime to spare thousands of generations the poison of nuclear waste.  Though make no mistake, even if the problem of nuclear waste disposal was somehow miraculously solved, I would still gladly trade this energy source simply to avoid the probability of a nuclear catastrophe from the safety disaster that Davis-Besse has so proven.   Shut it down!

Please listen to the prophets who seek the good of all, not the profits which only enrich the few, at the expense of the 99%.  THANK YOU!

Good Job
by Dan Rutt, alias “Top Pun” (it’s just, my pun name)

It was early Monday mourning
When the Davis-Besse nuclear plant
Finally ruptured
At the base of Lake Eerie
Weeping poison
From the once-great lakes
Now a watery grave for both sellers
And consumers
Of atomic drivel
For what human remains
The event became known
Simply as “The rupture”
Leaving sleepy millions
In its wake
Sucked into a glowing sky
For who knows watt
Feudal to press release
Fore their heavenly reword
A paradise rolled
Entranced buy snake eyes
In charge of all that meters
Relegating us to hoarse power
Silent partners
Dealt a roil flush
In a conniving casino
Pain only in skullduggery
Forging height reason
And absolute faith in stonewall
As a bet
A dark wager
Echoing in the empty halls
Of unions and congress
“Good job”

POEM: The Right and Wrong End of a Gun

I shot Bill
In the gut
He stood there
For a moment
Seeming like a lifetime
His blood flowing
Like
Well
Freely
Or
Might as
Well
Be
‘N aRiA
Souled
A Bill of goods
Now Kosher
A salt of the earth
A haughty boys’ game
So brand-ish
Shrouding
A right end
And a wrong end
Of a gun

This is another anti-gun violence poem in what is yet another recurring theme in my musings.  I can relate to the emotions leading to want to hurt someone, even kill them.  However, I am chronically puzzled by how humanity (or inhumanity?) allows these gut feelings to get the better of us.  This seems to be solidly within the immature stages of human development.  In this poem, Bill suffers from the incarnation of such a gut feeling, by feeling a bullet rip through his gut.  You may note that there is no context given for why Bill was been shot in the gut.  I suspect that many people might presume that Bill somehow deserved being shot in the gut. Our gun culture is moving us ever along a victim blaming worldview.  This thought process is similar to people’s reactions and inquiries when someone’s house has been robbed.  Were the doors locked?  Do you have a security system?  As if not locking your door or having a security system is justification for a robber to rob you!  Similarly, gun rights folks are selling Americans the wholesale paranoid notion that if you don’t have a gun then you are just asking for trouble, with no little irony, from a person with a gun.  The truth of such paranoia may very well be directly proportional to the self-fulfilling aspects of modern America’s love affair with firearms for personal protection.  As a trained public health professional, who has studied gun violence as a public health problem, there is a scientific consensus that the easy availability and increased presence of firearms leads to increased deaths.  Of course, most gun rights enthusiast deny such scientific evidence.  Who knows, maybe their being hot under the collar is confounding this whole climate change brouhaha.  What may be of some surprise to people is that increased gun deaths are very often suicides.  In fact, those with access to guns are more likely to kill themselves than be killed by someone else.  Perhaps this is some cruel twist of human evolution, but surely we can do better than killing off ourselves.  The polarization of views on the role of guns in American culture is stark.  Whatever your views, America is moving toward resembling the OKKK Corral, and I consider this a move toward increased terrorism, never knowing whose home and family might get caught in the cross fire.

POEM: Treatment…Like…Sewage

Treatment…Like…Sewage

I lived in Libertarianville
They said
“If you want sewage treatment,
Just go to some place that has it.”
So I did
Many don’t live there long

I find discussing politics with self-professed Libertarians a vexing experience.  Typically, we cannot converse for more than a few minutes before getting to some brutal logical endpoint, where I am requested to trump my heart with some rudimentary portion of a brain.  To the most fanatical, there is a “let them die” conclusion, met with way-to-comfortable stoicism.  To the less fanatical, it is usually some corollary of this, masquerading more humanely.

In this short poem, I take sewage treatment as an example of a common good escaping the grasp of Libertarians.  And dealing with sewage and the slippery slopes of shitty logic can be perilous.  I draw this example from my training and experience in public health.  The control of communicable diseases is the greatest public health accomplishment in the last century of humankind.  Only human unkind would create a political philosophy and practice that would wholesale-endanger such life-promoting accomplishments with a proverbial flush down the toilet of ideology.  This poem mocks the ridiculous notion that complex common goods can be manufactured and marketed like widgets in some free market. After all, few can afford the free market!  After the Libertarians’ wet dream, the remaining reality would not have such complex common goods even available for one to exercise their precious choice regarding.  The tough choices and hard-fought gains from balancing individual liberty with the common good, in my judgment, would leave us with a world where there is much less freedom, fewer choices, and a less robust life.  Choosing one particular thing over another particular thing, when done wisely, while destroying the possibility of the previous choice, thereby “limiting” our freedom, creates new realities with better choices, a more robust freedom.  Libertarians sometimes strike me as emotionally stunted, almost infantile, in their inability to sacrifice a present freedom to build a greater future.  Perhaps ironically, Libertarianism may actually manifest itself as some form of attachment disorder.

My typical experience of so-called Libertarianism strikes me as some dangerous addiction to some notion of absolute human freedom that routinely erodes every other value doomed to its presence, including public health. Now, I am not saying that Libertarians are necessarily stupid or do not hold values deeply.  I am saying that a steely brain is no substitute for wholehearted living, and Libertarianism seems to run freely, if not roughshod, over a myriad of insights and the wisdom of the heart, as well as everyday experience (such as the benefits of public health).  I am saying that Libertarians routinely hamstring all other values in favor of leaving all options open in the far-flung field of dreams called absolute human freedom.

I see the absolute part of the equation, the fundamental ideology or worldview, as corrosive, ironically, to any good fruits of good choices that freedom allows.  That said, Libertarians have it right, very right, that freedom is foundational, a first-order good, the fount of will.  The trouble necessarily follows when any freedom, or all freedom, must level anything built on that foundation, for lack of any ascendant, successfully competing, value.  Allowing any other value to rise either above or equally with freedom is necessarily a threat to the sacrosanct value of freedom.  The ultimate irony is that by not allowing any other value as great or greater than freedom, Libertarianism routinely finds itself standing dumb, unable to speak with authority, in a disabling self-censorship, for fear of undercutting its worship of freedom.  I find this worship of freedom idolatrous.  Libertarianism is the opposite of Authoritarianism.  In this sense, Libertarianism must fight any authority, refusing to acknowledge any legitimacy, except, of course, its own.  This may be the best definition of idolatry.  Perhaps somewhat mysteriously, this reveals an even deeper irony: Libertarianism and Authoritarianism share this truth of refusing to acknowledge any legitimacy, except, of course, their own.  As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.”  A common sentiment among Libertarians and Anarchists is “question authority.”  I find much resonance with this sentiment.  Of course, this implied imperative raises the deeply ironic question, “By what authority do you question authority?”  A recursive reality oft leading to cycles of swearing. Some would seemingly put this to rest by claiming “I question all authority!”  Yet, in the shadow persists another question: Is questioning authority equivalent to not questioning authority?  Some would answer no, resigning any discernment in a moral flatland. Still, some would retort that the discernment lies in the questioning: the important thing is to question everything, including oneself.  I would agree.  Nonetheless, the rabbit hole goes still deeper in at least two additional tiers.  First, questioning everything implies an absolute skepticism, or, put perhaps even more provocatively, a faith in skepticism.  Second, questioning everything, including oneself implies tentativeness at the heart of reality.  The Buddhists would call this the doctrine of impermanence, that everything arises and falls in relationship to everything else, or “impermanence is an undeniable and inescapable fact of human existence from which nothing that belongs to this earth is ever free.”  The Buddhist concept of impermanence is closely related to the concept of tentativeness or momentariness.  The Buddhist worldview is anathema to rigid ideology or fundamentalism of any unkind.  Amidst the flux of impermanence and the state of momentariness, arises the experience of compassion.  Rather than dissolving or devolving into nihilism and inescapable confusion, Buddhists have found that the experience of compassion is at the heart of reality, knitting together lives worth living.  I would love to infuse a healthy dose of Buddhism into Libertarianism.  Perhaps meditating on the highest ideal of bringing compassion to all living beings would moderate the sharp edges of Libertarianism in America.

There is truth in Libertarianism, and we should not throw out the baby with the bath water.  Nevertheless, Libertarianism needs to live more fully into the heart of humanity, embodying compassion.  Such a maturation process is good for all of us and each of us, whatever our ideologies of the day might be.  There are a host of fallacies founded on mistaking a part for the whole.  The process of integrating our experiences and understanding into an ever-larger whole, strikes me as the most fundamental developmental task of humanity, a transcendent task for those who have not yet anchored their skepticism in certainty.  In this journey, may we embrace one another with compassion.

POEM: BUCKET BRIGADE – Owed to Karen Krause

BUCKET BRIGADE

Owed to Karen Krause

While some pine
That faith
The size of a mustard seed
Can move mountains
Like magic
Perhaps with a wrinkle of their knows
Wiser women know
How mountains move
Bucket by bucket
By outstretched hands
And sturdy hearts
In awe ways
Moving
Forward
Crossing generations
And races
Not to the swiftest
But the truest
Seeking won peace
In couraging
When injustice seems beyond the pale
And hate appears justified
A brigade appears
As well
And in the shadow
Of a rising calvary
Appears victory and solace
Beyond belief
For what death cannot touch
We have firmly held
The mountaintop
In portions made human
Sizing us up
Long the weigh
Only making us stronger
Such trails and tribulations
Are now more plainly marked
And the eternal answer echoes more clearly
Be more
Karen
Be won for all
Not bewitched
By fancy
As some go before us
Surely, we must follow
And may we all be carried away
In the arms of friends
And when such days we face
The un-Karen powers that be
May we hear the call to arms
And just bucket

I wrote this poem, this ode, as a tribute to my friend and my public health mentor, Karen Krause.  Karen died Monday, October 21, 2013, at the age of 73.  [You can see her obituary and local news story for a small outline of her life.]  I shared this poem with her when she was healthy enough to take it in.  I would like to live in a world where everyone has poems written about them and for them.  This poem takes us one step closer to that world.  The idea for the poem was inspired by a conversation I had with Karen and a couple other friends.  I spoke of the commonly misunderstood scripture quote from Matthew 17:20 where Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Of course, most people mistakenly refer to this as if faith were some magical spell, cast successfully if only you believe hard enough.  Karen’s life emulated its true meaning: that spending a lifetime, even generations, moving a bucket at a time, can move mountains.  [Check out one of my other blog entries for more background on the historical context of this scripture.]  I knighted Karen as “Leader of the Bucket Brigade” and this poem soon followed.

You can download a printer-friendly PDF version of this poem here: Bucket-Brigade-Owed-to-Karen-Krause

I was deeply honored when Karen asked me to write a letter for her, her last letter, to be distributed upon her death.  Karen and I, from our years working together in public health, drafted many letters and such, spending hours editing and re-drafting.  Perhaps as a fitting culmination and closure of our relationship as friends and colleagues, Karen, defying precedent, accepted the letter with virtually no editing. Here is that letter:

Karen Krause asked me to write this letter.  Karen died peacefully on Monday October 21, 2013.  She wanted to give thanks, especially for her friendships and experiences in her final months. She was in hospice care since July.  Karen decided to forgo treatment to maintain her quality of life in her remaining time.  She and her doctor were content with this decision.  She lived and died as a nurse and a patient, without regrets.  She was tremendously thankful to be able to stay home and maintain her independence for most of her hospice experience.

Karen was deeply grateful for her friends and colleagues — and Karen had a way of making friends colleagues and colleagues friends.  Karen continued to bring people together until the very end, just as she had brought people together her whole life.  She was heartened by the outpouring of visitation, food, medical help, pastoral counseling, assistance of all kinds, and abundant words of encouragement.

Her last months were invaluable for Karen recognizing her own humility.  Her often unsung work was just her way: “that’s Karen.”  Karen’s dedication and perseverance inspired countless others, yet, she was faithfully, even doggedly, focused on higher purposes than herself.  Many friends shared what she meant to them, the positive contribution that she made to who they are.  This enabled Karen to better see and more fully appreciate how important her life has been to others.   Hopefully, such realizations helped serve as just wages for decades of work serving others.

As in her life, her dying wish was for social justice.  Among other things, Karen was the moving force for Toledo Area Jobs with Justice/Interfaith Worker Justice Coalition (JwJ/IWJ).  She knew this work needs to go on.  Toledo JwJ/IWJ is reorganizing.  Karen made clear that her preferred way to be honored is to assure that Toledo JwJ/IWJ is able to continue its vital work.  Please contact Bob Lynn, Jr. to see how you can help out jwj@jwjtoledo.org ; PO Box 13048, Toledo, OH, 43613; or 419-787-5245.

Karen succeeded in making the world a better place for all.  Her life, and death, is a call to all of us to do the same.  Karen accepted the gift of gratitude for her life, and she asked that you accept her gratitude as her final gift to you.

Please see Karen’s obituary in the Toledo Blade Obituary, Foth Dorfmeyer Funeral Home and Toledo Blade Featured Article for more about Karen’s life.

Her legacy lives on, but we will miss her…

Peace,

Dan Rutt

POEM: Smoking Guns

Smoking Guns

Gun control is their aim
Bringing a bout
Sad states
And a stag nation
Wear points are sported
Big bucks are the game
Triggering depression
Beyond one’s cope
Looking down
The business end
Of a gun shaking
As one’s head
Worse than beating
Against the wall
Steadied boots
Quaking again
Mourning posthumous convictions
Of scofflaw abiding citizens
Accost paid
Wrapped in flags
Until free at last
Like taking life
Most like one own
Or another
Like black male
Against one’s will
No more amendments seconded
In this ultimate bill of rites
Pain in full
Coffin at the price
High as a kite
And nonnegotiable        
Hostage too smoking
Guns unlocked
And loaded
Still packing
In their sleep
Dreams of night stands
And steel pillows
Leaving red necks
And faces
Like a smothers love
Taking homicides
As common ground
All the wile
Shooting off their mouths
Making impossible Glock suckers
Deceasing and desisting
The Man
Behind the curtain
Firing the lynch pin
For all times
As smoking guns
Don’t prove anything
So says anyone with half a brain

The title of this poem, “Smoking Guns,” is at least a triple pun.  The first meaning, most literal, is a gun just fired.  The second meaning refers to a quest for direct evidence of something (like a gun being fired!).  The third meaning is a bit more nuanced and fleshed out in the poem: literally smoking a gun by holding it in one’s mouth and committing suicide by firing it and blowing one’s brains out.  While this may seem more crude than nuanced, it is referencing an oft overlooked reality about guns and public health and safety: guns kill more Americans by suicide than murder.  The bizarre notion that guns offer some great protection in a dangerous world is negated by the frightening reality that someone possessing a gun is more likely to shoot and kill themselves, then kill another.  Now, this may be some bizarre karmic feedback to those with guns, but it can’t get much stranger — another loaded pun!  If someone possessing a gun manages not to kill themselves, they are far more likely to mistakenly kill a family member than a truly threatening stranger.  Of course, this leapfrogs over the tragic reality of purely unintentional deaths from accidental discharges, most often of a gun owner’s family members or friends!  Only when guns are outlawed will outlaws accidentally shoot their kids!  So much for protection.

The reality is guns are lethal consumer products that have escaped safe, commonsense regulation — unparalleled by any other consumer product with such inherent lethality.  Guns and suicide are the perfect example of this public health problem.  Guns are a very effective means of killing oneself that doesn’t take any special knowledge or training.  Very few people “fail” when trying to kill themselves with a gun.  Combined with the nature of suicide attempts, guns become particularly lethal.  Firearms are involved in over half of all suicides.  Most suicide attempts are by people depressed or distressed who experience an acute episode of severe suicidal thoughts.  These episodes are most frequently minutes or hours.  Without easy access to lethal means, most suicidal episodes are survived.  The choice of suicide methods is key. Moderating easy access to firearms is the most effective means of reducing suicides.  For example, compared to men, women are about three times more likely to experience depression, twice as likely to attempt suicide, yet only about a fourth as likely to “successfully” complete suicide.  This is largely related to the suicidal methods chosen.  Simply put, women use guns much less frequently in suicide attempts.  Women are only about a third as likely as men to own a gun, and are less likely to live in households with guns.

The main alternative approach to preventing suicides is having an excellent mental health system.  Unfortunately, this approach is at least as complex, and perhaps similarly intractable, as altering easy gun access.  Plus, building and maintaining an excellent mental health system is surely more financially expensive and less cost-effective than sensible regulation of firearms.  Of course, pursuing both would have definite payoffs, reducing suicide and much more!

Having worked in public health for many years, I see the parallels in the battles to bring both tobacco use and guns into a reasonable place in protecting the publics health.  Frankly, I see gun right’s nuts as even crazier than tobacco company executives lining up in front of congress and saying that they don’t believe that nicotine is addictive.  It’s difficult to think of another area of public policy and public health where the political and societal realities are so divorced from science and reason.  May we escape the ideological traps that threaten the public’s health and well-being.  After all, guns don’t die, people do!

BP Tar Sands Refinery Expansion – PEOPLE’S HEARING Testimony

Below is my testimony at the PEOPLE’S HEARING to respond to the Ohio EPA’s sham public hearing on BP-Husky’ Draft Air Pollution Permit as part of their Oregon Ohio refinery re-tooling to process oil tar sands, the dirtiest oil on the planet.  This People’s Hearing was sponsored by the Toledo Coalition for Safe Energy.  I was speaking on behalf of Occupy Toledo and planetary citizens everywhere:

Welcome to Oregon, Ohio — now with 50% less stench!

My name is Dan Rutt.  I am a long-time resident of Toledo, a citizen of Ohio and these United States of America.  However, I have an over-arching allegiance; that allegiance is to our planet, which sustains our life and the life of all living beings from all nations and ecosystems.  I am a planetary citizen.  I am calling on all planetary citizens to rise above lesser allegiances and protect our planet from British Petroleum and other transnational corporations who stand against the interests of humanity and life on our planet.

I am standing outside the formal EPA hearing, so we the people can have our own hearing, a people’s hearing, that is not limited to narrow, technical matters, while BP and others are literally mining our planet in order to burn it.  BP wants to re-tool their refining to process tar sands, the dirtiest oil on the planet, the bottom of the barrel.  This is exactly the wrong direction we should be headed.  Spending billions on an infrastructure to process the most polluting, least economically viable and least sustainable fossil fuel will only lock us onto the wrong path for years — years that we and our planet cannot afford.  We need to switch to safe and renewable energy NOW — not next year, not next decade, not next generation, but TODAY, June 5th, 2013!

How about investing billions of dollars to switch to clean, safe, renewable, and sustainable energy?  Where is your plan for that BP?

Unfortunately, the Ohio EPA is powerless to stop BP from destroying Mother Earth.  The EPA may be able to regulate the lethal injection of Mother Earth while BP euthanizes her.  But I am here to say, that that is not good enough!  Merely deciding how we are going to destroy the planet is insanity of the highest order.  We need to end our addiction to fossil fuels or we will become fossils ourselves.  BP is a pusher, profiting from this deadly addiction, and should be treated as such. 

Real people suffer environmental destruction while corporate persons like BP are insulated from their crimes.   Three years ago, BP caused the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.  This was not an “accident.”  It was a criminal act.  Now, they want us to entrust Mother Earth to them, again.  As the U.S. Department of Justice put it, “The explosion of the rig was a disaster that resulted from BP’s culture of privileging profit over prudence.”  BP has pled guilty of felony manslaughter, environmental crimes, and obstruction of Congress.  While no BP executives have gone to jail, planetary citizens resist their criminal behavior and fuelish business practices and these planetary citizens go to jail.

Inside, there will be a parade of people on the payroll of British Petroleum, some literally on the payroll, some just hoping to get some of the economic scraps from refining our planet into money.  This is on the heels of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, which in 2010 cited Oregon’s BP-Husky refinery for 62 safety violations and fined the company nearly $3 million for “exposing workers to a variety of hazards.”  Then, this year, on March 10th, the BP-Husky refinery malfunctioned and released extremely dangerous hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide pollution into the air.

Should we trust BP?  Is BP a good corporate citizen?  In the years leading up to the BP gulf oil spill, on about an annual basis, BP pled guilty to criminal acts, each time saying that they were going to change their ways.  Mother Earth is a battered women, BP is a batterer, and it’s time to end the cycle of criminal abuse.  Buying her flowers and offering her gushing words have not stopped BP’s gushing oil in the past.  We don’t want your sweet talk.  We want you to stop raping the earth!

The only real question here today is whether or not we can avoid the Native American prophecy that “When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.”

BP will you fundamentally change your fossilized business practices and switch to clean, safe, renewable, and sustainable energy? 

I have in my hands 38 pages of documents from Ohio EPA regarding the draft Air Pollution Permit-to-Install for BP-Husky Refining, Limited Liability Corporation, with an accent on the “Limited Liability”!  I have a Bachelor’s Degree in biology, a Master’s Degree in Public Health; I’ve even had a graduate level course in environmental genetic toxicology.  I’ve spent years working in and with government bureaucracies.  How can one adequately address the issues raised in a few minutes?  What I conclude from this draft permit and tonight’s so-called public hearing is that they are a smokescreen.  Buried in this smokescreen of technocratic minutiae is our planet being buried; or perhaps more accurately: unburied and burned — literally, the cremation of our planet.  This Ohio EPA sham hearing today is lethal to democracy, thwarting the larger will of the people, as it stands by, impotent to protect our environment, the very environment it is sworn to protect.  Meanwhile, BP and others are destroying our planet.

Anybody who lives or passes through Oregon, Ohio, knows that BP doesn’t pass the stink test.  You don’t need a doctoral degree to know that our fossil fuels addiction threatens our planet and the life it sustains.  We can’t depend on British Petroleum or other fossilized corporations to protect our planet.  We can’t depend on politicians or bureaucrats to protect our planet.  If the planet is to be saved, then it depends on you and me, we the people.  Thank you for coming out to this people’s hearing.  Thank you for listening.

I will now conclude by reading a poem, entitled, O Children of Mother Earth, Arise!

Listen, O children of Mother Earth!
Hear, those who have ears
Hear the streams of clean water, our tributaries of life
Hear the streams of cars and trucks dirtying the air we breathe
See, O children of Mother Earth!
See, those who have eyes
See the beauty of fields and forests, mountains and meadows
See the scars of strip mines and cesspools of toxins
Smell, O children of Mother Earth!
Smell, those who have noses
Smell the fragrance of wildflowers and gardens
Smell the stench of oil and coal combustion, and chemical cocktails concocted
Reach out and touch, O children of Mother Earth!
Reach out and touch, those who have hands
Reach out and touch the soil and sun which fuels nature’s bounty
Reach out and touch the concrete and landfills, the Alpha and Omega of so-called “progress”
Taste, O children of Mother Earth!
Taste, those who have mouths
Taste the fruits of her plenty, enough for all
Taste the bitterness of her children’s petty scarcity, robbing brother and sister
Feel, O children of Mother Earth!
Feel, those who have hearts
Feel the call of nature
Feel the greed of those who would of nature relieve themselves
Speak, O children of Mother Earth!
Speak, those who have tongues
Speak of the splendor of a Mother’s care
Speak of the horror of an orphaned race
Arise, every living creature, O children of Mother Earth!
Return to her lap, and breast, and arms
Turn away from her desecration
Take your rightful place, to neither rule from above nor rule from below
Work side by side
Play together
Live neighborly
For we share the same fate
Whether we share or not
O children of Mother Earth

NOTE: There were an estimate 18 to 18,000 people at the People’s Hearing.  THANKS to all who showed up!

Here is the testimony of Kristina Moazed, Chair, Western Lake Erie Sierra Club:

The proposal that BP has revealed to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and to us, the public, has been improperly piecemealed and made to appear as if it will be just fine for this refinery to accept tar sands.
We must begin at the very source of these oil bearing sands. Canada’s government, and the province of Alberta are massively destroying Alberta’s pristine, northern ancient forests, poisoning the water sources of their native wildlife, and natives and other Albertans for one generation’s profit and greed. The desecration of this form of extraction is seriously forever.

   >  This permitting decision is being made in ignorance of recognized scientific principles that do predict increasingly worse consequences of global warming.

   >  The decision to go forward with tar sands as a source of petroleum rejects the scientifically-grounded conclusion that to even begin to slow down the global warming and that our over-use of fossil fuels has put into motion, we must keep as much of the remaining carbon fuels as possible in the ground: they must never be extracted and burned!

   >  There is no consideration in this decision process of public health effects on human populations in our Toledo-Oregon-Lake Erie shore region as a consequence of the higher volumes of known carcinogenic and other pollutants which will be emitted!

    >  There is no consideration given to otheralternate mitigation activities, such as the building and promotion of mass transit, which would consume less petroleum, create far more permanent jobs, and cause much less pollution than perpetuating North America’s one-car, one-driver folly.

    >  There is no certainty that high volumes of petroleum coke will actually be generated by the proposed altered refinement process.   And if it is, that coke will not be sheltered from the elements and will accumulate less than a mile from Lake Erie and one of its estuaries.
Have any emergency plans been put in place in case of explosion or fire while processing these dirty bitumen fuels so close to our source of drinking water?
Have possible impacts to tourism and the maritime and fishing industries been considered?
I’m sure if we contact the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, the birding crowd will have plenty of objections to the increased pollution in and desecration of the surrounding habitat!

Just one example of tar sands refining immediately to our north, in Detroit will give us an example of what happens. Emissions of sulfur dioxide did decrease, but emissions of hydrogen sulfide increased as they do everywhere bitumen is refined. Hydrogen sulfide is known for its rotten egg odor and is potentially fatal in sufficient concentrations. Residents near this Marathon Refinery in Detroit participated in Air Sampling which was overseen by Global Community Monitor, an environmental group based in California. In 2010 they found high levels of benzene, a carcinogen, and hydrogen sulfide near the refinery. IN one case, more than 20 chemicals, including benzene were detected in a resident’s basement. An EPA investigation traced the contamination to Marathon’s dumping of wastewater into the city sewer system! “We were shocked to learn they did not have their own discharge pipe into a body of water like, I believe, every other refinery in the United States ,” said Denny Larson, Global Community Monitor’s executive director. How convenient that the BP Refinery is right on the shore of Lake Erie! I think we will need to watch their discharges very carefully!

   >  These production changes are being undertaken by a global corporation which has seriously poisoned the Gulf of Mexico through crass, careless and dangerous negligence and deliberately ignoring safety regulations causing the oil spill in 2010, and its still incomplete remediation.
Now that we know BP has gamed the regulators and the public into bring tar sands cracking here to Oregon, Ohio, exactly what basis is there for any trust that consideration of public health and avoidance of environmental destruction hold any priority for BP?

We must promote green, renewable and sustainable energy! We must conserve and become more efficient our usage!

THANKS Kristina!

Just Eating For Life: New Web Site

I have been interested in nutrition pretty much my whole adult life.  This started out from a concern for world hunger and stewardship of our natural resources, as well has an interest in nutrition and health.  I became a vegetarian and took a nutrition class as a freshman in college in 1980.

I eventually went on to get a bachelors of science degree in biology from Hope College in 1983.  I also earned a Master’s degree in public health nutrition from the University of Michigan School of Public Health in 1985.  I first worked as a nutritionist in a health and nutrition center operated by a progressive physician as a business and an adjunct to his private practice.  Then, I work as a health educator in a community health center, utilizing my skills in public health and nutrition quite actively.  Then,  I spent a decade working on HIV/AIDS through a local health department, not utilizing my nutrition knowledge very actively.  After this, I spent several years working as a health planner, covering a whole host of public health issues, nutrition only been part of this.  Then, for something completely different, I started my own business, Top Pun.com, which I have done for the last decade, which has virtually nothing to do with public health nutrition.

It’s time to get back into the nutrition game.  I’ve always maintained my interest in nutrition, and I have done a fair job of keeping up with nutritional science advances over the years.  The idea of teaching a community nutrition class has been brewing in my mind for several years now.  However, recently, with a series of awarenesses related to nutrition, as well as a number of significant changes in my own nutritional practices, I have decided to create a website, Just Eating for Life, and actively pursue creating a series of community nutrition courses, ranging from simple one-time lectures to longer more involved courses which entail active behavior change strategies as well as the steroidal increase in nutrition knowledge.

Hopefully, the gift of me being seriously under-employed will benefit the world.  Of course, I will enjoy it immensely, either way.  So, let the games begin!