FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Judge Kavanaugh covers Trump – I’ve got your back, that is, backside – “We should not burden a sitting President with civil suits, criminal investigations, or criminal prosecution.”

Prez Donald Trump is all about Donald Trump. The Don picks a perfect cabal member to cover his ass from the Supreme Court bench. Judge Brett Kavanaugh has demonstrated huge judicial deference to expansive executive power. In tribute to this pick, I offer you this FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Judge Kavanaugh covers Trump – I’ve got your back, that is, backside – “We should not burden a sitting President with civil suits, criminal investigations, or criminal prosecution.”

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Judge Kavanaugh covers Trump - I've got your back, that is, backside - "We should not burden a sitting President with civil suits, criminal investigations, or criminal prosecution."

A New York Times opinion piece, Will Kavanaugh Provide Cover for Trump?, provides insight to why Judge Kavanaugh may have captured Prez Donald Trump’s interest:

In the coming weeks, the Senate will undertake its constitutional duty to vet Judge Kavanaugh on issues like health care and abortion. But the Senate must also explore a question central to evaluating the judge’s commitment to the rule of law: Does he have the requisite independence from President Trump to serve as a check on his abuses of power?

This issue is particularly important given repeated claims by the president’s attorneys that Mr. Trump is essentially above the law — that he can even refuse a subpoena to testify. Given the looming Mueller investigation, these weighty, knotty constitutional questions may soon come before the court.

When it comes to these questions, Judge Kavanaugh is not a blank slate. He worked for Ken Starr, the independent counsel who aggressively investigated President Bill Clinton. But Judge Kavanaugh later adopted views that are outside the mainstream in their deference to the executive.

In a 2009 law review article, Judge Kavanaugh argued that a sitting president should be able to defer civil suits and criminal prosecutions until after he leaves office and should be excused from having to answer depositions or questions during his term. He went so far as to advocate that Congress “consider a law exempting a president — while in office — from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel.”

It is hard to imagine that these extreme views weren’t part of Judge Kavanaugh’s appeal to President Trump, a man who is a defendant in several civil suits and the subject of at least one criminal investigation. According to media reports, the White House has looked at the judge’s views on indicting a sitting president.

Nor are these mere academic musings. During his service on the appellate court, Judge Kavanaugh has written opinions reflecting an expansive view of presidential power, and on several occasions he has expressed concern about executive branch agencies that are insulated from direct control by the president.

What does this tell us about how he would view the ongoing investigation by Robert Mueller, the special counsel? There are important and — at least under current law — decisive differences between the independence enjoyed by the agencies at issue in those cases and that of the special counsel, who reports directly to a political appointee serving at the pleasure of the president. But the logic employed in Judge Kavanaugh’s opinions could easily be extended to argue that the president should enjoy the power to control the course of all criminal investigations — including those into his own alleged misconduct.

Judge Kavanaugh’s approach to executive power could, moreover, affect other aspects of the federal investigations relating to Mr. Trump. One of the most important is whether a president can pardon himself. In our view, the idea that a president can grant himself a pardon is anathema to our constitutional structure. One need not be a judge to see how antithetical this is to our Constitution: 85 percent of Americans (including 75 percent of Republicans) say that it is unacceptable for a president to pardon himself of a crime. Given Judge Kavanaugh’s position on executive authority, it is unclear where he would stand. Senators must find out.

Judge Kavanaugh’s writings and opinions also suggest he will be receptive to the bizarre argument that the president cannot obstruct justice by firing Department of Justice officials or taking other actions pursuant to his constitutional authority. There are multiple flaws in this argument, chief among them that both the Constitution and hundreds of years of precedent support the validity of congressional restrictions on the exercise of executive power. Will Judge Kavanaugh stand with the rule of law or allow the president to interfere with our system of justice with impunity?

Then there is the legality of Mr. Mueller’s appointment, which Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has already tested in the two federal courts where he is facing charges. Both the District of Columbia and Virginia federal district courts rejected motions by Mr. Manafort to dismiss his criminal indictments, and the District of Columbia court rejected a collateral civil suit that he filed there challenging Mr. Mueller’s prosecution of the case. The reasoning behind these decisions is straightforward: Congress has given the attorney general broad authority to delegate power to subordinate officials. We cannot help wondering whether Judge Kavanaugh will view this delegation as an intrusion on presidential direct removal authority and reject the commonsense holdings of these lower courts should he have the chance.

The usual practice at Supreme Court confirmation hearings is for the nominee to refuse to answer questions about issues that may come before him or her. But we have never had a nominee who was chosen by a president identified as the subject of a criminal inquiry — one that already has resulted in serious charges against top aides and could implicate the president himself. We need to know the judge’s views on these issues so we can have an honest and open national discussion, and the Senate make a fully informed decision.

If he refuses to share them, Judge Kavanaugh must agree that if he is confirmed he will recuse himself from any decisions concerning the special counsel investigation and the related exercise of presidential powers —or his confirmation must be delayed until after the investigations are resolved. If the Senate confirms him without resolving these questions, we face the prospect of a new associate justice who poses a grave danger to the legitimacy of the court — and our democratic system of checks and balances.

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.

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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.

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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.

FREE MLK POSTER: Martin Luther King, Jr. Quote – TIMELESS and TIMELY Questions of Cowardice, Expediency, Vanity, and Conscience

As Martin Luther King Day approaches this year, I was struck by the timelessness and timeliness of this MLK quote: Cowardice asks, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks, “Is it politic?” Vanity asks, “Is it popular?” But Conscience asks, “Is it right?”

Please feel free to reflect upon this eternal wisdom and share this free MLK quote poster with friends and enemies alike.

MLK Quote - TIMELESS and TIMELY Questions of Cowardice, Expediency, Vanity, and Conscience

Cowardice asks, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks, “Is it politic?” Vanity asks, “Is it popular?” But Conscience asks, “Is it right?”

Feel free to browse more MLK posters and great quotes.

Martin Luther King, Jr. - Peace Justice Is It Just a Day Off?--Martin Luther King, Jr. POSTER

 

 

Bee Sting Allergic Reaction Health Care Experience Number Three

On Monday, July 17, 2017, I was stung by a yellow jacket. I am allergic to bee stings and the like. This is the third time I had been stung by a bee since I found out that I was allergic to bee stings [see here for account and poem about previous bee sting]. If untreated, a bee sting would cause anaphylactic shock and probably death. The first line of treatment for bee stings in people who are allergic to bee stings is an injection of epinephrine. This can prevent the onset of anaphylactic shock.

Fortunately, I had an epinephrine autoinjector. Unfortunately, this autoinjector had been expired for two years. I had not refilled a prescription for a new epinephrine autoinjector, since the most common brand, Epipen, which has 95% of the United States market, has in recent years been price gouging consumers who rely on such a life-saving device and insurance companies who may pay for it. I could not bring myself to be held hostage to a price gouging pharmaceutical company, even though my insurance would pay 100% of the cost. Since acquiring the company that manufactured EpiPens, the new company (Mylan) kept raising the price until it was 600% more than the original price. Such entrepreneurial genius was rewarded even more by granting the CEO of the new company a 700% pay increase. Not being a complete fool, I had researched if expired epinephrine autoinjectors retained their effectiveness past their expiration date. I found that given reasonable storage temperatures, the bulk of their effectiveness was maintained even years past the expiration date. Thus, I decided to wait until alternative products were available or until the offending price gouging company made their price reasonable.

So, back to the story. After being stung, I looked quickly in the neighbors driveways to see if a car was there and somebody might be home who might be able to drive me to the emergency room. No such luck. So, I injected myself with the epinephrine autoinjector. Since I don’t have a car, I rode my bike to the emergency room at St. Vincent Hospital about a mile and a third from my home where I was stung. It was a nice sunny day in the low 80s. I rode there vigorously on my bike. I was feeling pretty well and had no welts blooming like in my two previous bee sting occurrences.

When I walked into the emergency room, there were two people at the desk and one clerk. After waiting a few seconds after receiving no greeting or acknowledgement of my presence, I asked if somebody was available to provide medical triage for me. I indicated that I had been stung by a bee, that I was allergic, and that I was in danger of going into anaphylactic shock. The clerk called for another person. This person turned out to be another billing clerk. This person took my personal and health insurance information and asked no information about my current emergency. This person walked me through two big double doors into a hallway where I was told to sit on a gurney and wait for help. I was left unsupervised. I was in partial line of sight of the emergency room nurses station. After sitting there for a few minutes, a man in scrubs moved into my view. I asked him if I could get some help, and asked him somewhat facetiously if this was an “emergency” room. He very nonchalantly said that he would see if somebody could assist me. Some minutes later, someone came to ask me questions. They took me into an emergency room examining room. This was about 10 minutes after I had walked through the front door.

They immediately hooked me up to many of the usual devices, such as a finger oxygen monitor, a blood pressure monitor, and EKG leads. Eventually, they gave me an IV. Apparently, my heart was racing, not too surprising since I was having a serious allergic reaction, had an epinephrine injection and a vigorous bike ride. However, the EKG showed abnormalities, which they diagnosed as atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is where the upper chambers of the heart send signals sporadically so smooth, coordinated, regular blood flow is impaired. My heart rate was moving back and forth from about 80 or 90 up to about 160, which is my maximal heart rate. To my knowledge, I had never previously experienced atrial fibrillation. They were concerned that this may be an underlying condition, triggered by the stress of the sting allergic reaction, and/or the epinephrine, possibly in conjunction with vigorous exercise. I indicated to the nurse that if I should die that they should throw my dead body on the lawn of the corporate headquarters of the pharmaceutical company practicing price gouging for epinephrine autoinjectors, i.e., EpiPen made by Mylan pharmaceuticals.

While they were monitoring the atrial fibrillation situation, they asked if I wanted an ice pack for the bee sting site on the back of my hand which was red and swollen. I said “sure.” They brought in an elongated icepack about 3 inches wide and 15 inches long. Oddly, the covering seem to be somewhat insulated so the cold didn’t seem very cold. The physician noted that this device was meant for another purpose — though she did not indicate what purpose. My hand wasn’t suffering too badly so I didn’t worry about it much. It just struck me oddly that’s some ice in a plastic bag would have done nicely at probably a thousandth of the cost.

At about 50 minutes after arriving in the emergency room, I was given prednisone, a steroid to keep the swelling down and fight back the allergic reaction. Fortunately, I was not blooming in welts as in my two earlier experiences with bee sting reactions, both of which were not initially treated immediately with epinephrine.

Their primary concern seemed to be the atrial fibrillation, which they continued to monitor. I half-jokingly submitted that the atrial fibrillation may simply be due to my broken heart over the Senate Republican health care bill. The doctor did not disagree. The supervising physician first recommended that I’d be admitted for further testing and observation. After some questioning about the nature of this, I pushed back somewhat, partially based on my two previous experiences at the same ER and hospital where I was hospitalized for further testing and observation and my experience proved that this was not useful and perhaps even hampered by treatment and recovery. I have recorded one of these bee sting experiences elsewhere in my blog.

Eventually, after the atrial fibrillation did not resolve on its own, they gave me some heart medicine, and within five minutes or so, my heart settled down. While this atrial fibrillation event lasted for quite a while, perhaps an hour and a half or so, I was feeling pretty well physically and mentally, with only one five or 10 second bout of heart racing where I felt moderately distressed — but, then again, I don’t get distressed too easily.

The doctor indicated that my thyroid stimulating hormone test was high normal, that is, 4.75 in a normal range of 0.5 to 5.0. They thought that this might be a possible indicator for low thyroid activity which could contribute to an atrial fibrillation condition. They asked that I be retested in three months. They were encouraged by the fact that I had no other risk factors and was in excellent general health.

They ended up discharging me without any additional request for my hospitalization. This pleased me. I was glad to be saved a day locked up in a hospital. I was glad to have likely saved the health care system another few thousand dollars. Plus, I was planning to attend a health-care protest the following day at noon, where I had planned to read a poem I composed specifically for that event, dedicated to our own Sen. Rob Portman, who has been equivocating over how many millions of Americans losing their health insurance is acceptable.

In the discharge process, I requested a refill prescription of my epinephrine autoinjector, given that it was a generic or less expensive competitor than from the EpiPen manufacturers. I indicated that I had done some research on this before, and that if they wrote the prescription more generically such as epinephrine autoinjector rather than by a brand name, then a less expensive version may be available. They researched this and discovered that only one local pharmacy chain carried a less expensive version. This wasn’t my usual pharmacy, but it was about the same distance from my home. The less expensive version was $109 versus the up to $600 for the EpiPen.

I am very grateful that this bee sting occurrence ended up being less serious as far as the allergic reaction than in my two previous occurrences.  Apparently, my two-year expired epinephrine autoinjector worked just fine. I’ll have to wait and see if this atrial fibrillation occurrence is due to an underlying condition or simply brought on by the very stressful conditions of an allergic reaction, epinephrine and vigorous exercise. I am still aghast that in none of the three times I’ve gone to this same emergency room have I received prompt medical triage. It seems to me that without prompt medical triage, it is somewhat difficult to actually consider your emergency room an actual “emergency” room. Sadly, they are quite efficient at getting your billing information promptly, but it as to dealing quickly with whatever emergency you are presenting with, that is another and another and another story.

POEM: A World Worth Fighting For

Once agin
His eyes went
Threw me
Populating lonely
A whirled
Of perpetrators and victims
Bad asses and good ass
Of which I was won
Haunted by wonder
In what kind
Of world
Would we halve
Been friends
Now that is
A world worth
Fighting for

In a world flush with partisan rancoring and polarized perspectives, it is easy to pay know tension to each other’s humanity, often valuing each other less than common ground.  Who is a hero? He who turns his enemy into a friend. The Talmud quote PEACE BUTTONIn a world wear the lyin’ between winners and losers is sharply drawn, like an unbrakable sored, we risk a fate worse than deaf.  When we are effaced with the phallus choice forced upon us between perpetrators and victims, there peers no amor culpable of shielding us in what is right or left, split in two, halves and have nots.  The flush harbor in their stately effluence of fauxs.  Oar their wins carry them aweigh, atop endless serfs and bounteous fleeting vassals.

Can one side fit awe?Peace - One Side Fits All - Peace Dove - PEACE BUTTON  Courage to Stand Up and Sit Down Listen - PEACE QUOTE BUTTONCan we engender enough solidarity and courage to make peace?  What does fighting for won an other’s humanity look like?  Who knows, perhaps the genuine struggle to answer such questions in our living and dying may very well be what makes this a world worth fighting for.

POLITICAL POEM: In Daze Not To Follow

The plantation had fallen
Into this repair
As fore many
Present
Work
Over and above
The well, known
Used
Too deep scars
And familiar ditches dug
Subject to an other privilege
However bound
Too knew found freedom
And worldwide travails
In daze not to follow
As anew master
What is foremost if not awe
As the perennial struggle
Only partially one
Pregnant with possibility
Poised as a new virgin of reality
Offering womb to grow
And inescapably bringing labor wince again
As tender feat must come to terms
With maturity
Of awe that is
Never still
Borne
So exceptionally sow

While I wrote this poem long before Donald Trump’s election, I am offering this poem as an inauguration poem.  This poem addresses two major realities which are often met with conflicting attitudes.  The first reality is that we live in a nation and a world far from justice for all.  Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere--Martin Luther King, Jr. BUTTONThere are endemic, chronic injustices which bear heavily on the daily realities of countless millions of people.  This can be dreadfully depressing and diabolically disheartening.  The second reality is that every disappointing condition can be met with our higher, better selves and serve as an invitation to build solidarity with others experiencing injustice to create a better future.  Also, there is hope in the fact that persons who have experienced chronic injustice, for years or generations, have developed hardy and hearty abilities to cope and combat protracted injustice.  This reservoir of collective experience, skills, and hope for a better future may very well be the most positive force on earth.  This poem’s opening line alludes to the centuries-long battle for racial justice fought by the descendants of slaves against virulent racism and ever-morphing Jim Crow laws.  The Black Lives Matter movement is yet another creative continuation of this ongoing struggle.   Truth is on the side of the oppressed. Malcolm X quote POLITICAL BUTTONIn the short run, those living by the short run seem to have the advantage.  However, in the long run, those committed to the long haul, transgenerational justice, are greatly advantaged in bringing about better answers to the eternal human questions.  The apparent reality that eternal human questions can not be fully and finally solved on this earth is not an adequate excuse for cynicism.  Better is better and worse is worse.  Apologists preying on divisions in humanity for their own easy profit are as shortsighted as they are inhumane.  Donald Trump may be the king of profiting off of easy-to-divide scenarios where the well-heeled are well suited to make a killing from the ensuing chaos and trauma.  Globalize THIS - RESISTANCE [earth graphic] POLITICAL BUTTONThe answer to the stupid question that is Donald Trump is unyielding solidarity with the whole of humanity and transform the cowardly profits of injustice through the courageous cost of justice borne by all people of good will.  May we find the courage to put whatever skin is necessary into the game to assure overwhelmingly abundant opportunities for justice to prevail.  May our labors give berth to wondrous new realities.

POEM: As Far As One Kin See

As far as one kin see
It is a sin to crush some one’s body
And infinitely greater sow to crush some one’s spirit
In sum vain temped too raze awe questions
Can God
A-bridge
Between infinitude and soully you
Make piece with that which is wholly
Eternally now and to marrow
Not trading
In sin
As just
Some won
Violence
To that which is ardor
Too due
And infinitely greater

This poem is a tribute to the oneness of humanity, body and soul.  This poem recognizes the brutality of crushing one’s body through violence — whether through weapons or crushing needs.  This poem also posits that crushing one’s hope and dreams is udderly worse, steeling one’s soul.  This poem is an ode to those who accept that the hard work of creating justice on earth, here and now, is in seamless alignment with practices of the spirit in seeking evolution and enlightenment.  The inward and outward journeys must find some parity, or ails be subject to earned cynicism or learned helplessness.  The hopeful, those fuels for justice, must join up with awe those down in the trenches, those on the margins of cagey and fuel of street whys. Humanity has a shared destiny, and the key lies, not to cell, each other out.  For won humanity, there must be won love.  Sow let’s get together, body and soul, and cut to the chaise!

Managed Democracy And The Illusion Of Politics

This article pretty much sums it up.  Managing the air, apparent electorate, and the “for most” illusion of politics.  Great contribution from The African American Intellectual History Society, Managed Democracy And The Illusion Of Politics:

Now that another sordid election cycle is almost behind us, the pundit class has begun to issue the customary pleas for reconciliation. We are told that we must “come together” after the votes are counted. We must “unite behind our new leader” and help affirm the “peaceful transition of power.”

At the end of the day, the narrative goes, we can all celebrate the stability and integrity of our democracy.

Such platitudes offer a fitting conclusion to an election season designed to entertain and hypnotize ordinary Americans, distracting them from capitalism’s escalating crises of social decay.

Appeals to civic virtue cannot conceal the ugly truth: American democracy is a hollow shell devoid of substance or meaning. It is a festival of ignorance whose purpose is to empty the skulls of an already benumbed and manipulated populace.

Reality Television: Big Media Control--POLITICAL BUTTONThe corporate media’s endless coverage of the gyrations of the candidates ensures that few civilians escape the spectacle or recognize its inanity. We are bombarded with accounts of the vile behavior of manufactured political personalities. Yet we remain oblivious to social realities, unable to perceive or confront the forces that actually shape our lives. This is the point, of course: the political carnival exists to control thought, to prescribe acceptable discourse, and to protect the ruling class from the threat of real democracy.

If nothing else, this election offers compelling evidence that we have entered a new stage in the permanent crisis of monopoly capitalism. The system can no longer maintain even the semblance of legitimacy or decency. The empire is not only declining. It is imploding.

Let us face facts. America is not a democracy—a system in which people have the ability to participate meaningfully in the construction and governance of society. This is so not only because a militarized police force, bent on crushing dissent and containing oppressed populations, routinely monitors, represses, brutalizes, and slaughters us. It is so not only because the major political parties conspire with their corporate masters to manipulate the electoral process. It is so not only because insular political clans (from the Bushes to the Clintons) hoard power within an oligarchical, dynastic elite.

Defeat The Elite POLITICAL BUTTONAmerica is not a democracy because, at the end of the day, its political system is incapable of producing the structural changes that must occur if human beings are to live with dignity on this planet.

Who truly believes that this election—or any election under the current arrangements—will restrain our bloated warfare state? Or restore the social safety net? Or end state terrorism against black and brown people? Or defeat mass imprisonment? Or rebuild unions? Or transform our energy system?

Yes, genuine policy differences divide the Republican and Democratic parties. Republican, Democrat, Not Playing Your Silly Games Anymore POLITICAL BUTTONBut both organizations are giant business syndicates. And on questions most vital to the survival of Earth and its inhabitants, they are united in their contempt and indifference.

So let us stop viewing presidential campaigns—this quadrennial feud between rival wings of empire—as opportunities for real political expression or advancement. The people who actually run the system are bankers and plutocrats and architects of the international trade agreements that ravage our economies and destabilize our lives. And none of them are elected.

Vote if you wish. But do so knowing that a new social order will emerge only when the current capitalist regime is replaced with a more humane system.

If we want an end to war, white supremacy, and mind-boggling inequality, we must rely on ourselves. We must build popular movements able to storm the structures of power while offering people positive social alternatives. Only a permanent revolution of the oppressed can bring about meaningful change. Democracy cannot be orchestrated from above. It must be engineered from below.

May wee the people rise up as won humanity and make just us at the heart of democratic governance.

Chris Hedges’ Interviews Noam Chomsky on Precarious State of America

Once again, Chris Hedges nails it in his article, Noam Chomsky Has ‘Never Seen Anything Like This,’ discussing the precarious state of the current American political landscape and bringing to bear Chomsky’s rigorous and insightful analysis over the last several generations:

Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite and the myths they perpetrate. Chomsky has done this despite being blacklisted by the commercial media, turned into a pariah by the academy and, by his own admission, being a pedantic and at times slightly boring speaker. He combines moral autonomy with rigorous scholarship, a remarkable grasp of detail and a searing intellect. He curtly dismisses our two-party system as a mirage orchestrated by the corporate state, excoriates the liberal intelligentsia for being fops and courtiers and describes the drivel of the commercial media as a form of “brainwashing.” And as our nation’s most prescient critic of unregulated capitalism, globalization and the poison of empire, he enters his 81st year warning us that we have little time left to save our anemic democracy.

“It is very similar to late Weimar Germany,” Chomsky told me when I called him at his office in Cambridge, Mass. “The parallels are striking. There was also tremendous disillusionment with the parliamentary system. The most striking fact about Weimar was not that the Nazis managed to destroy the Social Democrats and the Communists but that the traditional parties, the Conservative and Liberal parties, were hated and disappeared. It left a vacuum which the Nazis very cleverly and intelligently managed to take over.”

“The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen,” Chomsky went on. “Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response. What are people supposed to think if someone says ‘I have got an answer, we have an enemy’? There it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up. This could become an overwhelming force. And if it happens it will be more dangerous than Germany. The United States is the world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful antagonists. I don’t think all this is very far away. If the polls are accurate it is not the Republicans but the right-wing Republicans, the crazed Republicans, who will sweep the next election.”

“I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime,” Chomsky added. “I am old enough to remember the 1930s. My whole family was unemployed. There were far more desperate conditions than today. But it was hopeful. People had hope. The CIO was organizing. No one wants to say it anymore but the Communist Party was the spearhead for labor and civil rights organizing. Even things like giving my unemployed seamstress aunt a week in the country. It was a life. There is nothing like that now. The mood of the country is frightening. The level of anger, frustration and hatred of institutions is not organized in a constructive way. It is going off into self-destructive fantasies.”

“I listen to talk radio,” Chomsky said. “I don’t want to hear Rush Limbaugh. I want to hear the people calling in. They are like [suicide pilot] Joe Stack. What is happening to me? I have done all the right things. I am a God-fearing Christian. I work hard for my family. I have a gun. I believe in the values of the country and my life is collapsing.”

Chomsky has, more than any other American intellectual, charted the downward spiral of the American political and economic system, in works such as “On Power and Ideology: The Managua Lectures,” “Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and US Political Culture,” “A New Generation Draws the Line: Kosovo, East Timor and the Standards of the West,” “Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky,” “Manufacturing Consent” and “Letters From Lexington: Reflections on Propaganda.” He reminds us that genuine intellectual inquiry is always subversive. It challenges cultural and political assumptions. It critiques structures. It is relentlessly self-critical. It implodes the self-indulgent myths and stereotypes we use to elevate ourselves and ignore our complicity in acts of violence and oppression. And it makes the powerful, as well as their liberal apologists, deeply uncomfortable.

Chomsky reserves his fiercest venom for the liberal elite in the press, the universities and the political system who serve as a smoke screen for the cruelty of unchecked capitalism and imperial war. He exposes their moral and intellectual posturing as a fraud. And this is why Chomsky is hated, and perhaps feared, more among liberal elites than among the right wing he also excoriates. When Christopher Hitchens decided to become a windup doll for the Bush administration after the attacks of 9/11, one of the first things he did was write a vicious article attacking Chomsky. Hitchens, unlike most of those he served, knew which intellectual in America mattered.

“I don’t bother writing about Fox News,” FAUX NEWS - Rich People Paying Rich People To Tell Middle Class People To Blame Poor People (FOX NEWS Parody) - POLITICAL BUTTONChomsky said. “It is too easy. What I talk about are the liberal intellectuals, the ones who portray themselves and perceive themselves as challenging power, as courageous, as standing up for truth and justice. They are basically the guardians of the faith. They set the limits. They tell us how far we can go. They say, ‘Look how courageous I am.’ But do not go one millimeter beyond that. At least for the educated sectors, they are the most dangerous in supporting power.”

Chomsky, because he steps outside of every group and eschews all ideologies, has been crucial to American discourse for decades, from his work on the Vietnam War to his criticisms of the Obama administration. He stubbornly maintains his position as an iconoclast, one who distrusts power in any form.Stop Terrorism Stop Participating in Terrorism--PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

“Most intellectuals have a self-understanding of themselves as the conscience of humanity,” said the Middle East scholar Norman Finkelstein. “They revel in and admire someone like Vaclav Havel. Chomsky is contemptuous of Havel. Chomsky embraces the Julien Benda view of the world. There are two sets of principles. They are the principles of power and privilege and the principles of truth and justice. If you pursue truth and justice it will always mean a diminution of power and privilege. If you pursue power and privilege it will always be at the expense of truth and justice. Benda says that the credo of any true intellectual has to be, as Christ said, ‘my kingdom is not of this world.’ Chomsky exposes the pretenses of those who claim to be the bearers of truth and justice. He shows that in fact these intellectuals are the bearers of power and privilege and all the evil that attends it.”

“Some of Chomsky’s books will consist of things like analyzing the misrepresentations of the Arias plan in Central America, and he will devote 200 pages to it,” Finkelstein said. “And two years later, who will have heard of Oscar Arias? It causes you to wonder would Chomsky have been wiser to write things on a grander scale, things with a more enduring quality so that you read them forty or sixty years later. This is what Russell did in books like ‘Marriage and Morals.’ Can you even read any longer what Chomsky wrote on Vietnam and Central America? The answer has to often be no. This tells you something about him. He is not writing for ego. If he were writing for ego he would have written in a grand style that would have buttressed his legacy. He is writing because he wants to effect political change. He cares about the lives of people and there the details count. He is trying to refute the daily lies spewed out by the establishment media. He could have devoted his time to writing philosophical treatises that would have endured like Kant or Russell. But he invested in the tiny details which make a difference to win a political battle.”

“I try to encourage people to think for themselves, to question standard assumptions,” Chomsky said when asked about his goals. “Don’t take assumptions for granted. Begin by taking a skeptical attitude toward anything that is conventional wisdom. Make it justify itself. It usually can’t. Be willing to ask questions about what is taken for granted. Try to think things through for yourself. There is plenty of information. You have got to learn how to judge, evaluate and compare it with other things. You have to take some things on trust or you can’t survive. But if there is something significant and important don’t take it on trust. As soon as you read anything that is anonymous you should immediately distrust it. If you read in the newspapers that Iran is defying the international community, ask who is the international community? India is opposed to sanctions. China is opposed to sanctions. Brazil is opposed to sanctions. The Non-Aligned Movement is vigorously opposed to sanctions and has been for years. Who is the international community? It is Washington and anyone who happens to agree with it. You can figure that out, but you have to do work. It is the same on issue after issue.”

Chomsky’s courage to speak on behalf of those, such as the Palestinians, whose suffering is often minimized or ignored in mass culture, holds up the possibility of the moral life. And, perhaps even more than his scholarship, his example of intellectual and moral independence sustains all who defy the cant of the crowd to speak the truth.

“I cannot tell you how many people, myself included, and this is not hyperbole, whose lives were changed by him,” said Finkelstein, who has been driven out of several university posts for his intellectual courage and independence. “Were it not for Chomsky I would have long ago succumbed. I was beaten and battered in my professional life. It was only the knowledge that one of the greatest minds in human history has faith in me that compensates for this constant, relentless and vicious battering. There are many people who are considered nonentities, the so-called little people of this world, who suddenly get an e-mail from Noam Chomsky. It breathes new life into you. Chomsky has stirred many, many people to realize a level of their potential that would forever be lost.”

May we have enough hope and faith in one another to act courageously for a bold new world.

POLITICAL CARTOON: CEO Jesus Retirement Plan

CEO Jesus: You Had Me At The Retirement Plan

CEO Jesus Retirement PlanAfter a long hiatus, CEO Jesus is back.  This comic was inspired by a poem I wrote recently:

At Jesus, Inc.
I came for the love and mutuality
I stayed for the retirement plan

This poem and political cartoon is a parody of the often namby-pamby, first-world Christianity that passes for following Jesus these days.  I sometimes joke that I wish there was a religion where the founder was a nonviolent rabble-rouser crucified by the state, perhaps even as their fellow clansmen stood complicit.  That’s a leader to which I could relate.   I occasionally wonder what Christianity would look like if we amped it up so that, say, 1% of Christians were killed as a direct result of their radical love challenging the powers that be of this world.  What if Christians seriously risked destitution or death for the cause of love more commonly than building “secure” retirement plans?  These are the kinds of questions that haunt me and in which I find little traction or resonance within the walls of American Christianity.  Ahhh, for a Church that boldly embraces such questions; this is the Church I long for…

Peruse more political cartoons featuring CEO Jesus, General Jesus, Comedian Jesus, Dr. Jesus, and Palestinian Jew Jesus

POEM: A Blinding Faith

Hers was a blinding faith
Sow bright
That it often left her without peer
Few could fathom such countenance
As she left them smiles behind
A grate number are partial
To glean faint moonlight
Mirror dim reflections
Of their dreary world
Rather than stare into one such bright star
Of such undifferentiated light
In discriminate hope
From celestial furnaces
Most believe
Better to be leery
Anywhere near foreboding
Inclement whether
Shoes dropping
On roads paved with good intentions
Or easy devotion to cynical amasses
Having it made
In the shade
Or even to a void in certitude
More at home groping in the dark
Than by a blinding faith

This poem is an ode to faith.  Faith is metaphysical optimism, the blood that beats through wholehearted living.  Faith is only manifest in the mettle of life fully lived, put to the test.  Such a way of life is akin to the scientific method, but its subject is subjectivity, metaphysics, a life lived to discover or confirm how metaphysical optimism can transform living.  Bold testing is the natural course of faith.  Where and how far can faith take us?  Empirical skepticism, the fuel that powers the engine of science, is analogous to this bold testing.  Yet, scientists, who are subjects themselves, often project their own hubris onto subjective matters, leveling “spirituality” for putting forth bold — unfortunately, sometimes bald — faith assumptions for good living.  All the while, there is a nagging tendency to conveniently overlook that there is no such thing as an assumptionless philosophy, even by those subjects operating in scientific endeavors. Yep, as quantum physicists know awe to well, the experimenter changes the experimental results.  In “real world” terms this is simply recognizing that what questions we ask determine the answers.  We, subjects awe, deeply participate in whatever answers will come our way. Look for the answer inside your question --Rumi quote SPIRITUAL BUTTON I, for one, am much more fascinated by the questions of how we transform our lives through the science of living matters, than simply nailing down the science of dead matter, fixated on predictability and control.  Of course, nailing down stuff plagues the human condition in both scientific and metaphysical endeavors.  As Alfred, Lord Tennyson, wrote “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.”  The question still remains: in which half of the creeds does faith live?  This can only be tested and confirmed by personal discovery, in our living.  While there is a lot of truth in the truism that misery loves company, I would venture to say that passionate optimism is far more attractive than life-sucking cynicism.  This poem is intended to capture the reactions of living in the wake of bold metaphysical optimism, often through an irresistible pull to live fuller lives, and sometimes by shrinking into the seeming security of smaller certitudes.  May you find yourself putting your deepest faith to the test, and in this mettle may you discover many bright and beautiful alloys along the way.

Double Oh No: The Name’s Cadabra, Abra Cadabra

God’s
Name is knot
Abracadabra
Too be unloosed
Unwhirled
As owed man
Putting on
Some kind
Of spectacle
Who’s genesis
Giving
No quarter
To years
Behind
In a sense
Out right hostility
And udder a version
Sow called
Crater of the whirled
And awe wanting
Clear too see
Not a wood be casket
Drowning in a box
That must
Not hold water
As wee might reckon
Only too be
Delivered
In the final seeing
As figure out
By no means
Self evident
Pulling rabid
From won’s hat
Empty
Sored in passable caskets
Wee suspect
As a parent harms
As sure as there are no teeth
In taking
A bullet to the head
Wear the art
Matter’s not
And yet
Who is
The one
Cutting people in
Have
Awe that is given
Taking it
To the blank
As grater than
A loathe of bred
From nothing
Excepting freely
Wile rooting fore the nix
In a New York minute
As some goaled in goose egg
In disposed
Of whatever
Ladder day judge meant
Too due no wrung
As diff a cult
To under stand
As re-bounding
Back to the show
Is caping
Behind curtains
For the wrest of us
Only too be duped
In mere images
Peering real
Mirrorly a muse
Meant for inspiration
Knot too be swallowed
Hole in won
Or fish tails sow bred
Subject to
Dis tract
As divine accessory
And slight offhand
In vane miss direction
On the eve of knowledge
As simply a trick
Convinced one no’s
How it is
Done
Nothing
Too see
Hear
More than wee in vision
In blinding silence fallow
In a tacit urn hoarse
And yack knowledge
A bit fancy
Meager too please
As inn sufficient
Comforted buy con jury
In the worst kind
Of source err he
As if
Got hour
Back
To slots plain
As abettor
Be helled
No good
For make believe
When cloaked in daggers

This poem strikes a familiar theme of mine, the parent elusiveness of God and the unsophisticated ways of even daring to speak of such things from most any perspective brought to bear.  The dark side of religion has wreaked hellish trauma, bludgeoning both real people and tender hope for sublime understanding.  Militants, that is fundamentalists, from both theist and atheist perspectives routinely bash each other.  Religionists often infantalize atheists, and atheists are often eager to throw the baby out with the bathwater.   My guess is that if theists and atheists got together and compiled all of the gods they don’t believe in, that there would be a pantheon of common ground.  I view militancy, that is fundamentalism, as the primary divide, not theism and atheism.  There are plenty of poor intentions and chronic misunderstandings to go around.  As I see it, militancy bespeaks violence, that is a commitment to winning by creating losers, forever separated buy uncrossable divides in human life, terminally fighting over uncommon ground.  Fundamentalism of all types reduces perpetual paradoxes and the centrality of metaphorical ways of seeing the higher aspects of life to small-minded literalism stuck arguing facts rather than truth and stiff-hearted relationships valuing right ideology over harmonious community.  The siblings of truth and harmony, which are deep quests of theists and atheists, religion and science, or of anyone seeking to work out the seems of their worldview, knead less judgment and a sober patience unwilling to bury others in uncommon ground.

As in most conflicts, power and trust are the ultimate issues, or perhaps more to the point, abuses of power and trust.  Personally, I am increasingly convinced that absolute power absolutely corrupts.  Hell, I even believe God shares power in order to create a better overall world, that is not merely more benevolent and fair, but creates the very foundations for the highest human aspirations and shatters the ceiling of cosmological and worldly puppetry (and the inevitable puppet tiers).  I experience my most human living on a small-scale, in community, where direct accountability to one another breeds well proportioned living.  This brings humanity to power and builds trust seamlessly into the process.  Such human-scaled enterprises are far more sane, represented by the encouraging movements to local — not loco.  Large-scale enterprises are typically suited and tied in hubris, albeit the the finest hubris civilization can offer.  Only such large-scale undertakings can globalize insanity alongside the endemic learned helplessness paralyzed in the reality of “how did we get here?!”  In human community, power resides in people.  Power in human community requires consent.  Complicated — often called “civilized” — nonhuman mechanisms to consolidate power, typically under the auspices of creating “bigger and better” things, ultimately rely on people’s consent.  This often does succeed in producing bigger things; though the better part, our humanity, commensurately suffers in the accelerating smallness and relative unimportance of people in such enterprises.  Not surprisingly, people, not built for such inhumanity, become viewed as the problem, gumming up the efficient workings of the machine.  Depressingly sow, our views of human nature are then tempted to align with the misanthropic view that people are less important than things — see corporate personhood.  Withdraw consent and these nonhuman and inhuman structures and mechanism whither.  This speaks to the importance of protest and noncooperation/resistance to appointed authorities of all unkinds.  Opting out of institutional and corporate enterprises starves the beast and  frees up time and life energies for building alternative human communities.  Active noncooperation and resistance naturally arise as the dominant and dominating culture (sic) inevitably will clash with any growing culture (hopefully viral) that questions the sick assumptions and unearned trust of its immeasurable victims.  In such a project, Jesus radicals, atheist anarchists, and sordid kinds of others can find common ground, fertile for reclaiming our humanity in a whirled of profit tiers.  Let us not be distracted by our differences, but rather unite  in disavowing all things undermining the human heart.

POEM: Are You A Friend of Dorothy?

As a friend of Dorothy Day
I wood ax
More than won quest in
A bout
Her call
As a tenet in passable saint hood
As if a priest to nun
Or mirror lay person
Aborting gaiety
As an infallible sign of God’s presents
Kneaded, sow kneaded
As abandon plays on
The Catholic work her
Inn to their starting lyin’ up
With little roam for others
As prize winning dogmas
For sake others
Worshiping sons of bitches
Of average Joes and Mary not
Engendering grace
Threw con genital souls
Full of wholes
As if litter
Miss carrion
Never coming to term
Without a hitch
Only finding one self
One to an other
Side by side
Fitting awe
For lives filled with scant do
An offering more than
Sum well
Published comic marvel
As if conceivable in a man’s world
A loan
To the wrest of us
She could never look down to prey
And yet sow much
Heaven unearth
Her whole life sew true
And in those untolled smiles spanning eternity
She most lovingly waives
It just
Saint so
What
Ever you due
Don’t save
Awe of the gory
Fore God
As will only
In yore wildest dreams
Hand it
Back to you
With teeming interest
As got yours
And every body ails

This poem was inspired by the occasion of Pope Franky coming to America and highlighting the possibility of Dorothy Day becoming a saint.  This is deeply ironic, since Dorothy Day explicitly did not want to be written off as a saint, but cast her lot with the poor and dispossessed of the world.  As a former atheist who lost the earthly love of her life by converting to Catholicism, which he rejected holy, she was familiar with heartache.  As a women who had an abortion, I find her consideration for sainthood more intriguing.  Her founding role in the Catholic Worker movement challenged and vexed religious folks — and people of faith as well.  Her living with the poor and downtrodden is a model of solidarity.  This poem posits questions of elite status, which she resoundingly rejected, as holy separate from her understanding of Jesus, the spirit of God incarnate.  The title of the poem — Are You A Friend of Dorothy? — is both a question and a reference to the cultural necessity of gay folks needing code words and phrases to navigate in a culture where they are rejected.  Dorothy Day, about as keenly aware of class as possible sought to transcend it.  She was an itinerant peace-monger, ever-seeking creating those sacred spaces where one side fits all. She knew that salvation was not far off, but right in front of us, in awe its gory details.  She knew what second-class citizenship was, not simply by being a woman in a man’s world or a man’s church, but by daring to embrace the poverty of more than one class and bring a bout wealth, and the privilege to serve.  Her rightness with God is dishonored by trying to capture that spirit in the form of graven images, mere token substitutes for her authentically beautiful and unique, but totally accessible life.  I don’t suspect that Dorothy would approve of a title of sainthood.  I do suspect that she would want us to walk with her.  And in this case, that would be walking among the dead and the living, and everywhere in between.

POEM: The Next Best President

Victory lies
In the wanton
To be a sitting president
Existentially unable to take a stand
As a wizard behind the bully pulpit
Meaning only
Curtains for US
A commandeered
In chief smitten
Buy the status qouteth
Juggling interest
In a-moral bankruptcy
Issuing debt sentences
Wile balderdashing dreams
In compromising positions
Poll dancing
For hard one
Elections
In feckless cockiness
If only
Too covet to term
Any chide or promise
The next won’s problem
And if such a state of the union
Bares an infantile posterity
Too whatever
Extant illegitimate
In the victory lies
The spoils

With this poem, I grudgingly join the charade sometimes referred to as Presidential election season.  Unfortunately, it is rarely too early to say that the next commander-in-chief of the world’s largest military superpower will not bring us peace.  If you want to join the truly delusional, give them a Nobel Peace Prize before they do anything to not earn it!  The good news is that the system is not broken.  The System Was Never Broken It Was BUILT That Way - POLITICAL BUTTONThe bad news is that the system is fixed!  Electoral politics, particularly the farther you go up the ladder, has a limited range of possible options.  This simply means that the leadership we get is tightly constrained to the powers that be, the status quo.   Electoral politics is akin to changing the system from within, using presumptuously representative democracy garnered through elections and direct means (think money and status) of influencing such alleged representatives.  Non-electoral politics is akin to changing the system from outside the standardly sanctioned tools of democracy.  Protest beyond the law is not departure from democracy; it is essential to it Of course, these two ways of being politically active are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, non-electoral politics is simply a more holistic way of changing the body politic.  For example, I would encourage people to vote.  It doesn’t take much time and it makes some difference.  Let your representatives know directly from you what you want from them.  Ask for what you want.  However, if we rely only on electoral politics to meet the needs and demands of the people, the 99%, then we should expect to be sorely disappointed.  My view is that politicians are largely akin to the rigging on a sailboat, and they will ultimately go largely wherever the wind blows.  Speaking into the captain’s ear may be considered proper protocol, but this is largely reserved for a privileged few who can cancel out voices heard from the masses from dinghies or from people who are overboard.  My goal is to change the political winds.  Part of power is the ability to define or frame the questions we ask. The greatest mistake of the movement has been trying to organize a sleeping people around specific goals. You have to wake people up first -- Malcolm X quote POLITICAL BUTTON The answers we get depend profoundly on the questions we ask!  Oftentimes, wee have to take such power, not simply ask for it.  Movements like Black Lives Matter or Occupy Wall Street have been successful at manifesting such power.  “The 1%” and “the 99%” are now part of our lexicon, framing the way we view the world and molding the questions we ask.  The simple and persistent assertion that black lives matter has thrown a wrench into the largely invisible (to white people) machine of white supremacy.  One of the greatest tools of the powers that be is the power of distraction.  The insistence that large movements have a detailed set of demands is central to this playbook.  As if the powers that be simply overlooked these huge injustices (yes) that could be legitimately be attacked on multiple fronts and they are waiting (stalling) to jump into action.  Truth is on the side of the oppressed. Malcolm X quote POLITICAL BUTTONWhat part of “Stop Wall Street from robbing us,” or blacks crying out “Stop killing us,” don’t they understand?!  The powers that be are not stupid, simply shrewd.  They will do everything in their power to distract us, divide us, and if need be, conquer us with violence, exposing their morally bankrupt and anti-democratic foundations.  Of course, the people pushing back on the lies of the powers that be exposes the veneer of civility and democracy that so-called respectable governments need to function.  All Truth Passes Through Three Stages: First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. --Schoepenhauer quote POLITICAL BUTTONThis was central to Gandhi’s political strategy.  As paraphrased in the Movie, Gandhi: “What you cannot do is accept injustice — you must make the injustice visible. The function of a civil resister is to provoke a response, and we will continue to provoke until they respond or they change the laws. It will not be over if they arrest me, or if they arrest a thousand people…it is not only generals who know how to run campaigns! They are not in control — we are. That is the strength of civil resistance.”  May we hold firm to the truth, “satyagraha,” and be patient as the details will follow.

They can cut all the flowers, but they can never stop the spring -- Pablo Neruda quote POLITICAL BUTTON

POEM: Joining That Mystical Union

Having
Evolved
Too keep
Every last won
Of this sophisticated specious
Under opposable thumbs
Like a perch
In a stream of consciousness
Executing my porpoise
The best
I can do
A thwart on the phase of humanity
This avowing
That it is
Just us
And by what means
Can we make a diffidence
Of that a ledge
Too due
Joining the crowded
Signing off
On that
Collective bargain
As wee
All a greed
As far as we reckon
Bunching up
In a scanty throng
Of self-proclaimed wizzes
In the brook of life
Where awe is swill
In our out standing potable potty
In the heat of august
Quenched
Buy the patently falls
That is
Not so
Crappy
Requited in terminally wading
Who gets
The last ward
From what sores then
Only then
Where naught else fallows
To find oneself
In silence
A loan
Yet not feeling solo
In fact
Feeling unrivalled
Caching in
Empyreal cents
Fore that which is
Unfallible
Without rank
Revolting
Caste a side
Even without
Empty congregation
For going
As it is written
Upon stationery
In place of life
Wear awe is won
In a corporeal merger
Of all that is ardor
With all that is light
Enrolled into one
That mystical union
Joining arts
And boundless trades
Uniting awe
In a baptism of matchless flare
Emerging from water
Besting the supposed fin
By no less than two feet
Upright
On wholly ground
Accompanying sound sole
In the rarefied guardin’
Of one constitutional
Heartwarmingly vein to sum
Countless succeeding
With heir to breathe freely
Living in
The hear and now
Beyond what can be herd
No longer weighting
Only to expire
That which is fleeting
Trafficking in exclusion
Flailing to sea
The catch all
Recognizing each
To be won
Of a kind

Here is a poem that plays with themes of the oneness of consciousness, the oneness of humanity, and the merging of the spiritual and physical realms.  Of course, it begins with recognizing the sea of vanity that passes for much of so-called civilized life.  Seeing past this pollution is a necessary precondition to more fully experience life’s ever-present gifts and freely give our unique selves to the world.  This requires mastering letting go more-so than grasping.  Letting go prepares us to receive the perpetual, dare I say eternal, stream of gifts available to us at any given moment.  This process of freely receiving this veritable tsunami of presents is only possible when harmoniously matched with freely giving, letting go, which continues, reflects, and magnifies the true abundance in which we are awash.  The difference between this process and the close-minded, close-hearted clinging and collecting of much of daily life is the difference between heaven and hell — perhaps even heaven and hell!

Giving and receiving is one of the central yin and yang of our lives.  Much of the pain in life can be traced back to the felt need to keep account of all of the giving and receiving that is going on, and then expending precious energy (sometimes called ‘work’) attempting to make sure that the receiving side of our ledger is adequate.  Then, when we have ‘enough,’ we can be gracious on the giving side.  I suspect that how we answer the question with our lives, “how much is enough?” lies at the heart of how well we contribute to our shared humanity and shared reality.  The harmonious yin and yang of giving and taking is often befuddled and turned upside down by a predominant (and ultimately dominating) focus on receiving, aka taking.  This conundrum rests on how we answer the proverbial question of “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” — in this case, giving or taking.  As any practiced Taoist would realize, these yin and yang questions are ultimately incomprehensible without a deep appreciation for balance, or, as the Taoist would say, complementariness.  I think this is also why Buddhists are not big on origin or creation stories (‘egg’ stories); what we have at any given moment is much more important than accounting for where it came from.  The Christian contribution to this dialogue is a focus on grace, that any giving on our part is only made possible by something outside our selves gracing us with anything to give.  In the human experience, grace, and the gratitude that evolves from living in it, quite universally leads to more harmonious (happy) living.  Our natural propensity toward accounting cannot escape the balance shit completely!

There Is No Way to Peace, Peace Is the WayAs a devotee of social justice, the problem of the balance sheet often consumes — or at least dominates — any conception of justice.  I prefer to frame justice as harmony and injustice as disharmony.  Both the way and the goal, the means and the ends, is peace (harmony).  As one of my favorite pacifists, and fellow Hope College alumnus, A.J. Muste proclaimed, “There is no way to peace, peace is the way.”  I see the chicken and egg argument about which comes first, peace or justice, as the divide between self and other; that is, injustice is typically described as conditions of disharmony outside one’s self, amongst the human community and our shared reality. The role we contribute to bringing justice into the world is one of bringing harmony.  And as most any human would agree: you can’t give what you don’t have!

Activism Is My Rent For Living On This Planet -- Alice Walker quoteIf you are still convinced that justice is fundamentally a balance sheet then ponder this: how can you possibly experience injustice if you came into the world on no account of your own, experience a measure of life, and return to nothing (or at least certainly not something less than something) — how can you ever be in debt?  The only “debt” that we have is the positive reality that we have been given anything and everything we have.  This is well captured by Alice Walker who declared, “Activism is my rent for living on this planet.” I see this debt as the foundation for any ethical system, a shared debt owed with each and every human, setting up solidarity as a fundamental shared human reality. This was eminently stated by Albert Schweitzer: “The first step in the evolution of ethics is a sense of solidarity with other human beings.”  Injustice can be viewed as some having more than others (earned/unearned more than others?) but any conception of this is still rooted (and must give just due) in the harmonious relationship between giving and receiving.  The first step in the evolution of ethics is a sense of solidarity with other human beings -- Albert Schweitzer quoteTaking away, WAY different than receiving, is dishonoring the mystical ying-yang of giving and receiving, in whatever brand of accounting one might ascribe too.  Any thought that re-framing your account of justice as “giving” justice to others might be well served by meditating on your dependable feeling when others want to give you their justice.  While there are immature forms of resisting others actions “for our own good,” I suspect that resisting others taking our account is rightly and justly rooted (a gift of human nature) in the shared and absolute nature of each and every human being’s life as a sheer gift beyond merit.  Fights about whose debt is bigger are probably best resolved by demonstrating the recognition of our own immeasurable debt.  Albert Schweitzer also infamously said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.”  Be the Change You Want to See in the World - Gandhi quoteThis is a close cousin to my favorite Gandhi quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  Hopefully, amidst such ponderings you will find this awe difficult to take!

May you join this mystical union, and whatever dues you may pay, may they be well worth it…

ELECTION POEM: We De-serve More Than One Date a Year

Even with
The sorry lack
He in the capitol arena
He refuse
To beg for change
As riddled with ballots
From a stone throne
Presumed in a sense
As the free mark it
To mock a difference
In hour damn nation
Weather staying qualm
Or carrying on
As beheading
The wrong direction
Right
That’s going to work
Like pulling jobs
Out of a hat
Railroaded
And Rand over
Take
You’re choice
Taking liberties
Wear ever
Whatever
Left
Dying
With boots on
Won’s neck
And arms flailing
In the heir
Violins playing
US again
And masses cry
Weight
For some guardian angle
Following-lite
30 seconds and never the goaled
Promising silver ballots
For the monster knock off of your choice
The leaser of two evils
Billed on platforms not worth one read assent
Rhetorical quests in
Skirting half the populace
Out flanking the body politic
And the only deliverance
Is backwards male junk
Ridden on drossy stationary
Acceding Stepford lives
Androids answering robo calls
Buy passing any hire power
Rebutting humanity
Like sum tally whacker
Awl to govern us
Violating our hides
Out ranking privates
Another poll taken
As nations pawned
And questions razed
From the dread
The answer
Lies
Before us
And incite us
The time is now
To re-wind
These vane choices
Truly bearing
As wee
Vote with our feat
And in-F-able arts
De-serving
More than one date a year
Arrest of our daze
Courting flaccid elections
Feudal proposals
And tickets beyond won’s means
Soully to forge more candid dates
And over power
Our faux
Never miss lead

It’s election day!  This election poem captures the perennially popular cynicism concerning politics, particularly electoral politics, and issues a call for a more encompassing path to redress our collective grievances and embody our shared hopes.  In short, this entails year-round civic engagement where citizens vote regularly by putting some skin in the game and pouring their hearts into public life.  This sort of direct democracy leads by representing ourselves boldly and honestly to one another, backed up by whatever integrity we have in our lives.  We get the democracy we deserve.  Or, in this case, we get the democracy we de-serve.  We stop serving power structures and start serving one another.   This saps the top-down power so fraught with abuse and alluring to those more interested in governing others than governing themselves.  There is no patchwork of half-truths that can stand without the consent of the governed.  Elections are largely contrived of narrow choices pandering to the powers that be and offering mere styles of the status quo.  If we settle for a democracy that only works a day or two a year, and barely that, then we should adjust our expectations commensurately.  Though this is not the only choice: hemmed and hawed candidates or non-participation, not voting.  Whether you vote or not — and I think you should make such a modest investment of time — the body politic is not formed in a day or two.  What we do the rest of our days is decisive.  Work, shop, consume, die may be one way to go, but what price do we pay for our “free” time.  Free people live and give freely.  Free people are the freedom the want to see in the world; they are not waiting for license from others.  I like the saying: activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.  I occupy this planet first, am a member of the human race second, and a citizen of a particular political jurisdiction/shopping zone thirdly.  If we unabashedly order our lives according to our deepest values and priorities, the sheer existential force of our lives will champion our planet, give rise to a cherished humanity, and even create a firewall against bullshit politics mistaken for a fertile common-wealth.  Of course, like they say, freedom isn’t free.  Being change in the world will exact a price.  And while you may only get what you pay for, there are untolled pleasant surprises along the way.  The only real question is how much are you willing to pay, and how much are you willing to play?

POEM: Bee The Sting

As in nature
I did stir
A kamikaze threesome
Of yellow-jackets
Making their presents known
Too me
Wherever egos
Joined by white-coats
Hopefully not fallowing me
As will bee
Or not to be
And little
Did they no
I would swell
With more than pride
At their deathly pricks
And the shock to come
Working best under
Lo pressure
A life long
Pursue it
A pin cushion
Buy day and night
Nature’s suicide cheated
Yet feeling
Thy sting
Eventually in choir
Sew what?

This poem is autobiographical, inspired by a bee sting, actually three yellow-jacket stings, that I got a couple of days ago.  Such a tale is made dramatic as I am allergic to bee stings, and without quick treatment I would be dead.  I was tearing out English ivy from my front yard bed when I felt three stings in rapid succession, probably within 5 seconds, before I even saw the attacking insects whose nest in the ground I had apparently disturbed.  At least one yellow-jacket followed me as I went into the house.  I had to deliberately maneuver to prevent it from following me into the house.

Fortunately, just two days earlier, I had picked up my epi-pen (to inject epinephrine/adrenalin) from the pharmacy.  Unfortunately, I had it sitting on the couch where I had planned to read the instructions at my leisure —  I had not (read, I had sufficient leisure).  Unfortunately, I was not entirely sure whether it was better to read the instructions and self-inject or seek emergency room treatment forthwith.  Being only five minutes from St. Vincent’s Medical Medical Center emergency room, I chose to race off to the ER.   I grabbed my epi-pen just in case things took a turn for the worse on the way. Fortunately, I was not experiencing any significant symptoms yet.  A yellowjacket chased me out to my car, and again I quickly maneuvered to keep it out of my car.

As I sped to the ER I could feel my hands tingling and getting itchy.  When I got to the emergency room, there was no intake person at the front desk.  She was at another desk taking down information from another patient.  I tapped the prescription box containing my epi-pen on the counter to get her attention and announced that I had been stung by bees several times, that I was allergic to bee stings, and that I would soon be going into shock.  She stated that she would need to collect my personal information first. I deftly and quite accurately tossed my prescription box to her and I said that it should contain the pertinent information.  She equally deftly caught the box — perhaps she was well-experienced with such procedures.  Fortunately, I had seen my new primary care physician within the last week or so, so my current information would be readily available on the computer.  I then carefully laid down in front of the reception desk as I had passed out in the ER the last time I was in this same ER for a bee sting reaction, and I did not want to add any injury to insult.  She asked why I was laying on the floor and I explained to her.  She said that they would get me in a wheelchair.  I said that I would get off the floor when I got a wheelchair.  She seemed discomforted by my lying on the floor.  I comforted her by saying that I am sure that their floors were clean enough for me to pass out on them.  By this time, I noticed that little white welts were forming on my arms and legs.  My whole body was flush and my heart was racing.  Given the circumstances, I think that I was rather calm; though I don’t think I was perceived as being the most patient patient.  I was not entirely convinced that the emergency room was necessarily best geared up for emergencies.  This was also based on my previous experience with a bee sting reaction in the same emergency room where they made me sit in the waiting room waiting for medical triage.  In this experience, as the shock took hold, I indicated to the intake person that I was getting light headed.  The next thing I remember I was being lifted onto a gurney, as I had passed out and slumped off my chair to the floor.  Fortunately, this did not add any additional injury; though I did take some insult in this.  The doctor later told me that she feared I had stopped breathing, which apparently moves you up the triage priority list real fast!  Later, I would half-joke that I would fake passing out in order to get seen more quickly.  Lying on the floor with full lucidity was my real-life compromise, given that this was no joking matter.

Okay, back to the situation at hand.  I started to feel pressure around my ears as the swelling and welts continued to bloom.  After a few minutes, a man came to me and asked me what I was doing on the floor.  I explained it to him.  He said that they did not have a wheelchair available, and he asked me to stand up.  I stood up and walked with him to the intake room, sat down in a chair next to a computer, and I started answering questions. He clacked away on the keyboard in what seemed to me a rather routine way.  After measuring my heart rate at 166 beats per minute (about what my heart rate would be if I was running full speed), his sense of urgency seemed to pick up.  He made a call.  Another person came and walked me to an exam/treatment room.  He left me there alone and said that someone would be there soon.  I couldn’t help but wonder how long.  I laid down on the exam table and waited for a couple minutes, though they seemed like very long minutes to me.  At this point, there we so many welts on my arms, legs, and body that they were beginning to merge into essentially one large metropolis of welts for each section of my body..

When a nurse arrived in the exam room, she started asking questions and attaching me to a blood pressure cuff, oxygenation sensor and EKG leads.  Then, a doctor arrived, asked some more questions (plus some of the same), and did some physical exams.  The nurse inserted an IV and the doctor ordered epinephrine.  I noted that the dose they gave me was identical to the dose in my epi-pen.  [They explained later that one should always inject the epi-pen immediately after an offending insect sting.  I know that now.  The nurse later offered to show me how to use the epi-pen and was confused by a different design than with what she had experience — apparently, a new technological, perhaps technical-illogical, innovation sometimes called progress.]  I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of the front desk person coming in amidst all of this and having me sign their consent to treatment form.  Was their any expectation that I would read this legal document then and there?!   Perhaps my (im)patient antics to that point, as well as not refusing the ongoing treatment, constituted a legal definition of desire/consent for treatment, but the lawyers must have their way.  My only comfort in that absurdity is that the crooked, illegible, left-handed signature on the form will not likely garner the highest price on eBay upon my postmortem celebrity value.

They sat me up and gave me an oral dose of prednisone, a steroid to bring down the swelling.  Even with the fast-acting epinephrine in me, my reaction got progressively worse.  My face was swollen and numb, feeling something akin to that experience after dental anesthesia.  While I had no difficulty breathing, I did have substantial discomfort like gastric reflux pain at the base of the esophagus.  The doctor indicated that my abnormal EKG could be an indication of a small heart attack, though he did not state any connection to my “esophageal” pain.  I did remember all those ads for not mistaking a heart attack for mere indigestion.

At the height, or perhaps depth, of my reaction, my EKG went abnormal and my blood pressure was 56/30 (normal is 120/80).  The doctor said that the abnormal EKG reading might indicate a lack of oxygenation to the heart.  They were quite stunned and concerned with this extremely low blood pressure.  They were perhaps even more stunned that I was still conscious!  To provide additional motivation, I informed them that I am much more fun when I am alive.  Fortunately, my sense of humor was largely intact.  I was on the edge of consciousness/unconsciousness for perhaps five minutes or so, as they tilted the exam table feet up and inserted another IV for additional medication(s).  I definitely had a heightened concern during this time as I strongly prefer my unconsciousness to be long bouts of normal sleep.  While I meditated on the thought of my potential death for a few moments, I had a fairly high confidence that I was in good enough hands to keep me alive, if perhaps not conscious.  While getting the attention of a team of emergency room professionals may take some time, once you’ve got their full attention, they are quite capable. Fortunately, my EKG was normal within five minutes after the abnormal reading, and my blood pressure started to normalize.  The “emergency” had climaxed, and I was about to move into the chronic patient hood.

As I was recovering in the ER, the doctor explained that he would like to admit me to the hospital so they could quickly get a cardiologist consult in-hospital, who would likely order and conduct a cardiac stress test that next day.  They had already tested immediately for blood enzymes that would indicate a heart attack, which proved negative (which is good).  They did the same test again after two hours, which was again negative.  Still, the doctor explained that it could take 24 hours for the enzymes released from a damaged heart to show up on this blood test, and he wanted to repeat this test every six hours.  I inquired as to whether my state of anaphylactic shock might, in fact, be an “informal” cardiac stress test, and that an abnormal EKG under such conditions might actually be quite normal.  He said that could be the case, but that they like to have controlled conditions to interpret cardiac stress reactions.  The alternative would be to see my primary care physician, get a referral to a cardiologist, who would order a cardiac stress test if so desired.  Of course, this would all likely take several weeks.  I consented to being admitted, partly because of the simplicity and alleged speed of the process, but also because on the observation ward I might get better management and discharge planning for the allergic reaction which would take many days to treat and get back to normal.  I consented to being admitted to the hospital.

After about a total of five hours in the emergency room, I was admitted to the observation ward of the hospital.  It was almost 7 pm.  The nurse speedily did the appropriate intake just before the 7 pm shift change, put me in the one-size-fits-none hospital gown, hooked me up to monitors and various gadgets, and we were off.  To make another long story shorter, I could have managed my post-sting allergic reaction — the blooming of welts and itching — better at home.  As is well-known, sleeping well in a hospital is a lost cause.  For example, I wrote the above poem after being woke up by the phlebotomist at 3 am to take my blood and during the ensuing a 2-1/2 hour ordeal to get two over-the-counter pills (Benadryl), one at a time, to control my blooming welts and itchiness.

I was under an NPO order, which means you can’t eat or drink anything, due to potential testing needed the next day.  So, I was poorly rested and without food or water while waiting.  As I like to say: a hospital is no place for sick people!  Instead of the cardiology consult happening in the morning as they stated as their prediction, I didn’t see the cardiologist until after 2 pm and some uncertainty as to whether the order for the consult was put in.  This consult lasted less than 10 minutes, basically asking me if I had any heart difficulties when I exercise — of which I do not. He matter-of-factually confirmed that an abnormal EKG reading when in anaphylactic shock is quite normal, even expected. He still recommended a stress test but kind of laughed when I asked if they were going to do it that day.  I did manage to get out of there by 5 pm, even getting a meal in the hours waiting for discharge.

Fortunately, I have medical insurance, unlike in my previous hospitalization for a bee sting (when I learned the hard way that I was allergic to such insect venom).  I am curious to see the bill.  Nonetheless, I served society well as a job creator.  Plus, I am deeply grateful to live to see another day!  May we all cheat death occasionally and be patient with the annoying details…

POEM: The Death of Poetry

A critic posed
A question
Is poetry dead?
But for the piles of dead poets
Worth only one read assent
A qualm comes
Over me
As death summons
Unwanted clarity
Between write and throng
Stern and bow
A demanding curt see
In deifying gravity
Those eternal questions
Only to pass a weigh
Into yawning darkness
And for what must be left
To others
Making light
Of unfathomable depths
Know less than a resurrection
Uplifting that which cannot be lifted
To be more
Than a fly by knight
Scrounging heir to inspire
Till the finality of our daze
Whatever
You call the question
Too the cynic
The answer begged is “yes”
To the forged quest in
At best a loan victory
To the poet
There is know
Question
And undying rejoin

This poem was inspired by an article, from no less than the New York Times, entitled, “Is Poetry Dead?” that was sent to me by my Dad. Fortunately, the subtitle was “Not if 45 Official Laureates Are Any Indication.” Nonetheless, that even posing such a cynical question can inspire poetry is answer enough to such a foolish question.

When the eternal questions wrought from the foundations of reality can no longer summon the slightest awe from which any human dare speak, then poetry may be declared dead. The death certificate will be signed by absolute prose. Such last writes will have no need of a wake, and nothing human need be bared. THE END.

POEM: Big Bang Burrito®

Under a first rate inquisition
I mussed a test
I don’t know
If God
Can make
A bean burrito so big
That God can’t
Eat it
Such a peerless quest in
May be
Scorn points with sum
To be little God
Though conceivably
A cause
Fore the big bang!

This poem and joke is a mocking attempt to deal with mocking.  Questioning is great, as close kin to curiosity.  In any case though, the answers we come to are led by the questions we ask.  Sometimes our questions just don’t rise to the occasion.  This elementary school question about God’s omnipotence is such a question.  To make my point, I would proffer that this poem is a complement to the question: Can people ask a question so stupid that even God would be forced to publish a comeback?  Framing omnipotence as brute force, God’s purpose as some carnival showiness, and/or insisting the God be able to be digested whole by human brains, leaves us with a limited universe of pre-ordained “acceptable” answers that are unsatisfying.  Perhaps God has published God’s resume in a glorious splendor transcending what can be captured in the human mind and reduced to a scale or scoring system that would allow the employment of God.  Perhaps God doesn’t even want to be “employed.”  Perhaps God doesn’t demand authorship rights, but seeks only presence.  “Seek and you shall find” has an unspoken sister phrase, “Don’t seek and you won’t find.”  Many skeptics of religion and spirituality are rightfully wary of claims of authority, and how acceptance of certain authority squelches curiosity.  Nonetheless, what if God’s presence in the universe is supposed to be an ever-unfolding mystery with intriguing clues and an irreducible amount of doubt to assure that the game is perpetually beguiling?  Endless discovery of God’s fathomless presence.  Sounds to me like curiosity may very well be a fundamental facet of true religion.  Jewish tradition holds that the face of God cannot be seen by human eyes and live.  Perhaps we would be torn from our human existence with such revelation, either dying as a human and/or transmuting into a form of being which can adequately hold such knowledge and experience.  There is an image in the Old Testament (Exodus 33:23), “Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen,” where it is held (beheld?) that Moses sees God’s butt (backside) as he departs the encounter, but Moses will not be allowed to see God’s face.  In an endless game of curiosity and intrigue, this may just be one aspect of that relationship.  Pessimists may just consider this God mooning us.  Yet, since God’s son was a carpenter, should it really come as a shock that the Father is a plumber?  Or, perhaps, God is otherwise occupied, maybe in a Big Bang Burrito® eating contest.