Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Will Spirituality Ever Be Serious?

Will American spirituality get serious? Those of us who do regular spiritual practice -- whether it's meditating every day or giving our time to the less fortunate, spending focused time with our kids or going to church each week -- have long been vilified by the cynical press as narcissists, flakes, or worse. In general, this is a cliché born out of fear and ignorance. But let's admit that the insult has some truth to it -- and will take work to rise above.

Let's start with two hard truths. The first is that spirituality makes claims to transformation and transcendence, but is often just a balm. Now, all of us who do a spiritual practice have experienced transformation. In small ways, this happens all the time. Before yoga, you feel angry, tense, and egocentric; after yoga, at least for a little while, you feel open, loving, and generous. In larger ways, it happens once in a while. A particularly inspiring sermon, a deep insight gained on an extended retreat, an ecstasy experienced at a place like Burning Man -- these kinds of things can meaningfully, and more or less permanently, change one's life. What they all have in common is transformation: a growth beyond one's previous limits.

All too often, however, spirituality reinforces rather than transcends conventional limits, boundaries, and notions of the ego. Sandwiched in between manicures and lunch dates, the quickie yoga class becomes just another way to augment and reinforce the self; pop Kabbalah and the Secret promise ways to get what you want more effectively, rather than, say, question whether "what you want" is really aligned with your deepest humanity, and your potential to lessen the suffering of others.

Not that there's anything wrong with manicures, lunch, or things which make the body more beautiful and life more pleasant -- I like all of the above -- but when spirituality is put into the service of pleasure, it is open to the cynical critique that all we're doing when we do breathwork, paint, and light Sabbath candles is making ourselves feel better. It's no different, really, from going to a NASCAR race -- except the racing fan isn't deluding himself that what he's doing is anything more than having a good time.

Second, spirituality often gets a bad rap because it often involves, well, a lot of hoo-hah. Water blessed by a "kabbalistic" rabbi, dubious modalities of energy healing, UFOs -- it's not that all of these are necessarily false, but the way that many spiritual people relate to them is all too credulous. Many of us rush to supernatural explanations for entirely natural phenomena, ascribing all sorts of mind-states and ideas to God or subtle energies or alien intelligences or whatever.

Now, unlike most of the cynics, I've experienced a lot of those mind-states, mystical experiences, and insights that indeed feel heaven-sent. I've had these experiences, and I know how they seem to be. But seems is not is. And when we interpret our experiences incautiously, we're not so different from the fundamentalist who believes she is on a mission from God. We deserve to be called out on this.

What's frustrating for those of us who really do take spirituality seriously is that there's often a lot of good mixed in with the bad. I remember seeing the film What the Bleep Do We Know? with a cynical friend of mine. I was so gratified by some parts of the film, yet so horrified by others. I wanted to say to my friend, "look, just because this crazy idea is crazy, that other idea is really very good. Really!" But of course, the leaps of illogic and messy thinking in the film negated its occasionally brilliant insights. The whole thing was suspect.

But I want to suggest that spirituality, as practiced here in America, can indeed rise out of the twin mucks of messy thinking and self-aggrandizement. Yes, it can be serious. And there are a few basic principles by which it can do so.

First, let's get serious about the worth of spiritual practice, and stop hiding. One of the reasons articles like this one appear on The Huffington Post is our editors' belief -- beginning with our editor in chief -- that spiritual work is part of being a well-rounded person, and that it should be taken as seriously as politics and culture. Just as one's life is incomplete if one never takes the time to appreciate music or art or film, so is it missing something if one lacks a spiritual practice. Let's not hedge about this. Let's be clear that intellectual giants who are spiritual infants are just as deficient in terms of human excellence as people who never exercise, or travel, or read.

And let's be serious about the proposition that learning to open the heart has real-world consequences; that it is possible to become more generous and compassionate toward others, and that it matters to do so. Our society has found ever more elaborate ways to get more stuff. Like religion used to do, spiritual practice offers one of the few counterpoints to the relentless march of desire. And that has political consequences, in the largest sense of the word.

Second, if we are serious about spirituality's worth, then we should be serious about doing it. Whatever your personal growth practice is, from kirtan to karate, pilates to psychodrama, it oughtn't be a hobby. These things work, in ways we can articulate and understand, and they should be respected as sacred -- or at least as important. Sometimes getting serious about spiritual practice means sacrificing other things in order to do it -- other activities, or certain foods, or indulging in gossip or revenge. Sometimes it may just mean ratcheting it up the priority list, fixing it as a regular part of your routine just as religious people prioritize going to church or synagogue. Sometimes it may even mean taking time off to do it; I recently devoted five months to silent meditation retreat, and it was one of the best (and hardest) things I've ever done.

Of course, not all of us are lucky enough to get away for months at a time. But wherever we find ourselves, that is where we begin. "Wherever you're going, there you are," as Jon Kabat-Zinn says. Or, in the words of the Talmudic rabbis, "It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task -- but you are not free to desist from it." If we take our own spiritual practice as seriously as traditionally religious people take theirs, we will help it gain the respect it deserves, not least because the benefits we obtain will be so obvious to ourselves and others.

Third, let's stop running away from the intellect. I believe that spirituality is one of the axes of human excellence. But so is rationality. Yes, Western materialism has been narrow-minded and brutal for hundreds of years. Clearly, the people who wear the suits and live in big houses are not to be trusted naively. But we owe it to ourselves as 21st century people to evaluate claims critically, whether they are made by Big Agri-business or holistic healers, corporations or gurus. Spiritual integrity and intellectual integrity should be allies, not enemies.

Finally, getting serious about spirituality means opening up to the possibility that the self is the object of the practice, not the boss of it. Working on the self means not taking every whim for granted, even if they are spiritual whims, and doing the practice even when you don't feel like doing it. If you're serious, you go to the gym even when you're not in the mood; likewise with meditation, or prayer, or yoga, or any other kind of spiritual or personal growth work. Old-fashioned values like constancy, reliability, and fortitude are invaluable allies. Remember, if it's authentic, it's not about feeling good -- it's about feeling, period. Let's not run to the comfortable, and let's be unafraid of hard work. Some days, spiritual practice feels like the last thing in the world I want to do. Often, those are the most important days to do it.

Admittedly, describing spirituality as hard work, soul-searing, and intellectually rigorous is probably not good marketing. Times are tough: people want to feel better, and there's nothing wrong with that. But each of us individually -- teachers and students, skeptics and true-believers -- has the opportunity to take responsibility for the care of our own soul. And in that work, spiritual people should spirituality the way that religious people treat religion: as serious, important, and worth building a life around. Not only will it get the respect it deserves -- it will be more able to do the most vital work on the planet.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Scourge Persists

Published: September 18, 2009

Did we really need Jimmy Carter to tell us that racism is one of the driving forces behind the relentless and often scurrilous attacks on President Obama? We didn’t know that? As John McEnroe might say, “You can’t be serious.”

“There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president,” said Mr. Carter. I guess he was aiming his remarks at those who contended when Mr. Obama was elected that we had achieved some Pollyannaish postracial society. But it’s hard to imagine, after all the madness and vitriol of the past few months, that anyone still believes that.

For many white Americans, Barack Obama is nothing more than that black guy in the White House, and they want him out of there. (Mr. Carter knows a little something about kowtowing to that crowd. During his presidential campaign in 1976, he blithely let it be known that he had no problem with residents “trying to maintain the ethnic purity of their neighborhoods,” and he tossed around ugly terms like “black intrusion” and “alien groups.” He later apologized.)

More than three decades later we have Sherri Goforth, an aide to a Republican state senator in Tennessee sending out a mass e-mail of a cartoon showing dignified portraits of the first 43 presidents, and then representing the 44th — President Obama — as a spook, a cartoonish pair of white eyes against a black background.

When a gorilla escaped from a zoo in Columbia, S.C., a longtime Republican activist, Rusty DePass, described it on his Facebook page as one of Michelle Obama’s ancestors.

Among the posters at last weekend’s gathering of conservative protesters in Washington was one that said, “The zoo has an African lion and the White House has a lyin’ African.”

These are bits and pieces of an increasingly unrestrained manifestation of racism directed toward Mr. Obama that is being fed by hate-mongers on talk radio and is widely tolerated, if not encouraged, by Republican Party leaders. It’s disgusting, and it’s dangerous. But it’s the same old filthy racism that has been there all along and that has been exploited by the G.O.P. since the 1960s.

I have no patience with those who want to pretend that racism is not an out-and-out big deal in the United States, as it always has been. We may have made progress, and we may have a black president, but the scourge is still with us. And if you needed Jimmy Carter to remind you of that, then you’ve been wandering around with your eyes closed.

Glenn Beck, one of the moronic maestros of right-wing radio and TV, assures us that President Obama “has a deep-seated hatred for white people.” Some years ago, as the watchdog group Media Matters for America points out on its Web site, Beck said he’d like to beat Representative Charles Rangel “to death with a shovel.”

There is nothing new about this racist rhetoric. Back in the 1970s Rush Limbaugh told a black caller: “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.”

But the fact that a black man is now in the White House has so unsettled much of white America that the lid is coming off the racism that had been simmering at dangerously high temperatures all along. Eric Boehlert, a senior fellow with Media Matters, said, “If someone had told me in February that there would be mainstream allegations that Obama was a racist and a fascist and a communist and a Nazi, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

Republicans have been openly feeding off of race hatred since the days of Dick Nixon. Today’s conservative activists are carrying that banner proudly. What does anybody think is going on when, as Anderson Cooper pointed out on CNN, one of the leaders of the so-called tea party movement, Mark Williams, refers to the president of the United States as an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug, and a racist in chief.

After all these years of race-baiting and stirring the pot of hatred for political gain, it’s too much to ask the leaders of the Republican Party to step forward and denounce this spreading stain of reprehensible conduct. Republicans are trying to ride that dependable steed of bigotry back to power.

But it’s time for other Americans, of whatever persuasion, to take a stand, to say we’re better than this. They should do it because it’s right. But also because we’ve seen so many times what can happen when this garbage gets out of control.

Think about the Oklahoma City bombing, and the assassinations of King and the Kennedys. On Nov. 22, 1963, as they were preparing to fly to Dallas, a hotbed of political insanity, President Kennedy said to Mrs. Kennedy: “We’re heading into nut country today.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Matthew 25:31-46

31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his throne of glory; 32 and all the nations will be gathered before him and he will separate them from one another, just as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

34 Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come! you who are the blessed ones of my Father, inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you from the beginning of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”

37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and fed you, or thirsty and we gave you a drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and we invited you in, or naked and we clothed you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and we came to you?”

40 And answering, the King will say to them, “Truly I say to you, as much as you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

41 Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you accursed ones, into the eternal fire that has been kept in readiness for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you did not give me anything to eat, I was thirsty and you did not give me a drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I was naked and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”

44 Then they will also answer, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and we did not help you?”

45 Then he will answer them, saying, “Truly I say to you, as much as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me.”

46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

Gaddafi Not Invited to Obama UN Reception


President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host their first international reception for world leaders later this month, in connection with the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Politics Daily has learned that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has not been invited because of the hero's welcome Gaddafi gave the convicted Pan Am Lockerbie bomber when he returned home to Libya after being released from a Scottish
prison.The Obama reception will be Sept. 23 in New York, as the president makes
his first visit to the United Nations General Assembly and spends several days at the UN.

By coincidence, the United States in September takes its turn holding the rotating presidency of the 15-member UN Security Council. A Libyan is the president of the UN General Assembly, and Libya is also taking a turn as one of 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council.

Besides speaking before the General Assembly, Obama will chair a Security Council summit meeting on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament, host a lunch for leaders of sub-Saharan African nations, and chair a meeting with countries contributing police and troops to UN peacekeeping operations.

In addition, Obama and the first lady will host the traditional U.S. welcome party for the heads of state converging in Manhattan for the opening of a new session.

Gaddafi is among a small group of world leaders -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is another -- not invited to the Obama party. "We can decide who we want to entertain and who we don't," a source close to the situation told me.

The Gaddafi snub, I was told, is directly related to Libya giving a hero's welcome last month to Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in the Dec. 21, 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 that killed 270 people, 189 of them U.S. citizens.

Al-Megrahi left a Scottish prison after Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill ordered him released from his 27-years-to-life sentence on "compassionate grounds," which is allowed under Scottish law. Al-Megrahi has prostate cancer, and on Aug. 10 was given three months to live.

While relations with the Lybyan leader had been improving, a new strain emerged in the wake of the high-profile welcome al-Megrahi received on Aug. 20. The U.S. and Britain had asked Gaddafi that al-Megrahi's homecoming be without fanfare.

Gaddafi may have been hoping to open a new chapter in U.S-Libya relations, as he just marked the 40th anniversary of the September, 1969 military coup that installed him in power. Last July, Obama and Gaddafi were in Italy for a G8 summit -- Gaddafi there in his role as the president of the African Union -- and Obama shook his hand, a small but symbolic action.

A gesture likely not to be repeated.

Obama and Gaddafi on Sept. 23, both address the UN General Assembly, with Gaddafi following Obama. U.S. United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, at a breakfast with reporters last Friday sponsored by the Christan Science Monitor, said Obama will not be taking part in any kind of hand-off.

Rice also said that Gaddafi has given up on what had been a plan to pitch a tent on the grounds of a Libyan residence in New Jersey and instead will stay in Manhattan.

This about Sums it Up eh?

Here is a little song celebrating our position at #37 in the world in healthcare.

"We're Number 37"

Come one, Come all
Down to the hall
Were gonna make noise
Were gonna bust balls
Were gonna disrupt
Were gonna jump in the fray
I got a list of all the things that were supposed to say
Were gonna get real rowdy
Have a barrel of fun
But were the USA so by the way be sure to bring a gun
And buddy

Were Number 37
Were the USA
Were Number 37
And were so proud to say
We got old people crying at the pharmacy
Pay your deductible
This aint the land of the f-f-f-free Grandma
Were Number 37
Were the USA

People of the town come on down
And if you got a crazy rumor you can spread it around
I kind of like my insurance and I like my health
The other 47 million can go treat themselves
To some prayer in chapel
Fold your hands and pray
Because we are a Christian nation and that is the Christian way
And brother

Were Number 37
Were the USA
The big Number 37
And were so proud to say
Were #1 one in tanks
Were #1 in planes
Were #1 in war with #2 for brains
Were Number 37
Were the USA

I drew a Hitler mustache on the president
Yea! Aint that neat
My brother had a hernia operation last year
And now hes living out on the street

Were Number 37
Were the USA
The big Number 37
And we want to keep it that way
Be sure to bring the kids
All of the boys and girls
Because the #1 health care system in the world.

Is inFrance???

Were Number 37
Were the USA
Were Number 37
And we got something to say
We pay more for less
40% in fact
Lets bite some fingers off
Shout at the handicapped
Cause buddy
Were Number 37
Were the USA

Were Number 37
Were the USA
Were Number 37
Were the USA

© Paul Hipp 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Here is a truly delightful YouTube Channel!

Naturalist Notebook

Monday, September 7, 2009

Happy Labor Day 2009

Labor Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September (September 7 in 2009).

The holiday originated in Canada out of labor disputes ("Nine-Hour Movement") first in Hamilton, then in Toronto, Canada in the 1870s, which resulted in a Trade Union Act which legalized and protected union activity in 1872 in Canada. The parades held in support of the Nine-Hour Movement and the printers' strike led to an annual celebration in Canada. In 1882, American labor leader Peter J. McGuire witnessed one of these labor festivals in Toronto. Inspired from Canadian events in Toronto, he returned to New York and organized the first American "labor day" on September 5 of the same year.

The first Labor Day in the United States was celebrated on September 5, 1882 in New York City. In the aftermath of the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the US military and US Marshals during the 1894 Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland put reconciliation with Labor as a top political priority. Fearing further conflict, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike. Cleveland was also concerned that aligning a US labor holiday with existing international May Day celebrations would stir up negative emotions linked to the Haymarket Affair. All 50 U.S. states have made Labor Day a state holiday.


The form for the celebration of Labor Day was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday: A street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations," followed by a festival for the workers and their families. This became the pattern for Labor Day celebrations. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civil significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

Traditionally, Labor Day is celebrated by most Americans as the symbolic end of the summer. The holiday is often regarded as a day of rest and parades. Speeches or political demonstrations are more low-key than May 1 Labour Day celebrations in most countries, although events held by labor organizations often feature political themes and appearances by candidates for office, especially in election years. Forms of celebration include picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays, water sports, and public art events. Families with school-age children take it as the last chance to travel before the end of summer recess. Similarly, some teenagers and young adults view it as the last weekend for parties before returning to school. However, start dates for schools vary widely, beginning as early as July 24 in urban districts such as Atlanta, Miami, and Los Angeles. In addition, Labor Day marks the beginning of the NFL and college football seasons. The NCAA usually plays their first games the week before Labor Day, with the NFL traditionally playing their first game the Thursday following Labor Day.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Back in the saddle after 63 years … Riding returns to Edinburgh

Back in the saddle after 63 years … Riding returns to Edinburgh

Published Date: 07 September 2009
THE clatter of hooves on cobbles filled the streets of Edinburgh yesterday as an ancient tradition that dates back to the 16th century was revived after an absence of more than 60 years.
At a stately pace, 250 elegant mounts and their smartly dressed riders took part in a procession up the Royal Mile for the city's Riding of the Marches.

The event had not taken place since 1946, when the tradition was resurrected to mark the end of the Second World War and just 70 horses took part.

From 1579 to 1718 it was an annual ceremony to mark the town boundaries and ensure no-one was encroaching on the common land. People could be fined for non-attendance.

Yesterday, thousands of onlookers watched the riders progress through the city from the Braid Hills, up the Royal Mile and down to the Grassmarket.

Such was the popularity among budding participants that the number of riders had to be capped.

Wendy Dixon, who brought her horse Tripper from Berwick-upon-Tweed for the event, said: "Riding up the Royal Mile was something you could only dream of doing before. It was a privilege to fly the flag for Berwick, a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

However, Ian Douglas, who led the ride on his grey horse Monarch, hopes the Riding of the Marches will be repeated.

He said: "I like to think it can be carried on on an annual basis. It was absolutely fantastic, a great experience. You could really sense the history.

"The 1946 ride was a bit of a one-off, but it had been held before that from 1579 to 1718."

He bore the Edinburgh banner and presented a traditional scroll to Lord Provost of the city, George Grubb. It was his suggestion to revive the tradition after being inspired by reading about previous ride-outs and council leaders thought the year of Homecoming would be suitable.

Steve McGill, first officer of the event, took part on his grey Mannie.

He said: "We were really fortunate with the weather.

"Although we had to reroute a little around Swanston as a lot of water earlier in the week had affected some of the tracks we were going to use."

And he revealed the choice of three grey mounts to lead the procession was no coincidence.

He said: "The research we did showed the leader in 1946 had a grey and we liked the idea of repeating that tradition."

At the Grassmarket, the procession delighted passengers on an open-topped tourist bus as riders inched over to let the double-decker past.

Dave Cruickshank, from Edinburgh said: "It's great if it brings the tourists to Edinburgh. My wee boy is over the moon with all the horses."

And shop worker Alex Randall was delighted to see hundreds of horses passing the door instead of the usual traffic. She offered a unique suggestion to the city's congestion problems.

She said, with tongue firmly in cheek: "It's nice to see horses. I think we should get rid of cars and have horses instead."

I would have loved to see this. I think I would have wept!


What does the Bible say about poverty and health care?

Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.
Leviticus 19:15

The LORD sends poverty and wealth;
he humbles and he exalts.
1 Samuel 2:7

But you, O God, do see trouble and grief;
you consider it to take it in hand.
The victim commits himself to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless.
Psalm 10:14

"Because of the oppression of the weak
and the groaning of the needy,
I will now arise," says the LORD.
"I will protect them from those who malign them."
Psalm 12:5

My whole being will exclaim,
"Who is like you, O LORD?
You rescue the poor from those too strong for them,
the poor and needy from those who rob them."
Psalm 35:10

For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.
He will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.
He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
for precious is their blood in his sight.
Psalm 72:12-14

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless;
maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.
Rescue the weak and needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
Psalm 82:3-4

... For he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.
Psalm 107:9

I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor
and upholds the cause of the needy. Psalm 140:12

He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets prisoners free, Psalm 146:7

A poor man's field may produce abundant food,
but injustice sweeps it away.
Proverbs 13:23

The poor are shunned even by their neighbors,
but the rich have many friends.
He who despises his neighbor sins,
but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.
Proverbs 14:20-21

He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker,
but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
Proverbs 14:31

He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD,
and he will reward him for what he has done.
Proverbs 19:17

What a man desires is unfailing love;
better to be poor than a liar.
Proverbs 19:22

If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor,
he too will cry out and not be answered.
Proverbs 21:13

Rich and poor have this in common:
The LORD is the Maker of them all.
Proverbs 22:2

A generous man will himself be blessed,
for he shares his food with the poor.
Proverbs 22:9

... For drunkards and gluttons become poor,
and drowsiness clothes them in rags.
Proverbs 23:21

He who works his land will have abundant food,
but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.
Proverbs 28:19

If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still.
Eccles. 5:8

... But with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Isaiah 11:4

He defended the cause of the poor and needy,
and so all went well.
"Is that not what it means to know me?"
declares the LORD.
Jeremiah 22:16

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.
Ezekiel 16:49

For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink ... He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
Matthew 25:42, 45

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything -- all she had to live on."
Mark 12:43-44

The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.
Mark 14:7

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed....
Luke 4:18

Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
James 2:5

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Every Women should watch this!

War photography

War photography captures images of armed conflict and life in war-torn areas, beginning with Roger Fenton's photographs of the Crimean War of 1853-56, in which he was limited by his bulky equipment and the technology of the day, which had not yet developed a method for photographing moving objects.

The photography of war depicts the terrors of war mingled with acts of sacrifice. Different to paintings or drawings of war, photographic images are not easily altered; although in some cases, photographers manipulate the subjects and scenes depicted in a work, resulting in an image that is not completely objective in nature.

Photography, presented to the public in 1839, was believed to create images that were accurate representations of the world. In 1859, it was predicted that photography would be able to visually document future wars correctly by generating precise documentation of battles, fortifications, landscapes, soldiers, and military officers. Photography’s accuracy was assumed and taken as a mechanical impression of reality. As explained by Louis Daguerre, the creator of the first commercial photographic process, images produced by the camera were of “absolute truth” and “infinitely more accurate than any painting by the human hand.”

Photography was used to record historical information, but not always in the optimistic way that was conceived at the advent of the medium.

It was anticipated that photographers, supposedly not acting as active participants of war but as neutral partisan, would be able to bring their cumbersome photographic equipment into the battlefield and record the rapid action of combat. This was not the case, as the technical insufficiency of the photograph in recording movement was not considered. The daguerreotype, an early form of photography that generated a single image using a silver-coated copper plate, took a very long time to produce. This prevented action photography, as images took minutes to develop and could not be processed immediately.

The first war photographer was Roger Fenton in the Crimean War of 1853-56, although with his bulky equipment he was limited to posed still photographs or landscapes. He took a large van and an assistant, and returned to Britain with over 350 usable large format negatives.

The inability of the early photograph to record a moving object lead to the practice of recreating scenes of battle, such as in the work of both Haley Sims and Alexander Gardner. They admittedly reconfigured scenes that took place during the American Civil War (1861-1865) in order to intensify the visual and emotional effects of battle. Alexander Gardner and Matthew Brady rearranged bodies of dead soldiers during the Civil War in order to create a clear picture of the atrocities associated with battle. In Soldiers on the Battlefield, 1862, Brady produced a controversial tableau of the dead within a desolate landscape. This work, along with Alexander Gardner’s 1863 work Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter were images, which, when shown to the public, brought home the horrific reality of war.

Since early photographers were not able to create images of moving targets, they would record more sedentary aspects of war, such as fortifications, soldiers, and land before and after battle along with the re-creation of action scenes. Similar to battle photography, portrait images of soldiers were also often staged. In order to produce a photograph, the subject had to be perfectly still for a matter of minutes, so they were posed to be comfortable and minimize movement.

Unlike paintings, which presented a single illustration of a specific event, photography offered the opportunity for an extensive amount of images to enter circulation. The proliferation of the photographic images allowed the public to be well informed in the discourses of war. The advent of mass-reproduced images of war were not only used to inform the public but they served as imprints of the time and as historical recordings. Mass-produced images did have consequences. Besides informing the public, the glut of images in distribution over-saturated the market, allowing viewers to develop the ability to disregard the immediate value and historical importance of certain photographs.

Photographers who participate in this genre may find themselves placed in harm's way, and are sometimes killed trying to get their pictures out of the war arena. Journalists and photographers are protected by international conventions of armed warfare, but history shows that they are often considered targets by warring groups — sometimes to show hatred of their opponents and other times to prevent the facts shown in the photographs from being known. War photography has become more dangerous with the terrorist style of armed conflict as some terrorists target journalists and photographers. In the current Iraq War, several photographers have been captured and executed by terrorists or shot by armed insurgents.

AP IMPACT: Calm — then sudden death in Afghan war

The U.S. patrol had a tip that Taliban fighters were lying in ambush, and a Marine had his weapon trained on the trees 70 yards away. "If you see anything move from there, light it up," Cpl. Braxton Russell told him.

Thirty seconds later, a salvo of gunfire and RPGs — rocket-propelled grenades — poured out of the grove. "Casualty! We've got a casualty!" someone shouted. A grenade had hit Lance Cpl. Joshua "Bernie" Bernard in the legs.

A Marine and son of a Marine, a devout Christian, Iraq war veteran and avid hiker, home-schooled in rural Maine, Bernard was about to become the next fatality in the deadliest month of the deadliest year since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

The troops of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines had been fighting for three days to wrest this town in southern Afghanistan from the Taliban who had ruled it for four years. As dusk approached on Friday, Aug. 14, things had quieted down. The Taliban seemed to have gone. Another day had passed in the long, hard slog for U.S. troops serving on the parched plains and mountains of Afghanistan, in a war that has steadily intensified.

Then, as the Marines were enjoying some downtime, reports of mortar, machine-gun and sniper fire sent them scrambling again. The 11 Americans and 10 Afghan soldiers edged their way into the town's abandoned bazaar. With them were Associated Press correspondent Alfred de Montesquiou, AP photographer Julie Jacobson and AP Television News cameraman Ken Teh.

Eyes scanning rooftops for gunmen and the ground for buried bombs, the patrol pushed past shops still smoldering from U.S. mortar shells, past Taliban posters on the walls exhorting the populace to fight the Americans. Bernard, his face daubed in gray and brown camouflage paint, was the point man.

A young Afghan in front of the family store showed the patrol a patch of upturned earth in a ditch. It was here that insurgents had fired their mortars a few minutes earlier.

"But don't say I told you, or they'll kill me," the man said.

As he spoke, the Marines got word of the ambush being readied nearby. Two Cobra helicopters circling overhead fired Hellfire missiles at a mortar position. The Marines weren't sure this had settled the matter with the Taliban. They pushed on.

Then they reached the pomegranate grove.


At first Jake Godby thought Bernard had stepped on an explosive device. Godby, a 24-year-old 2nd lieutenant from Fredericksburg, Va., quickly regrouped his men and directed the returning fire.

The squad found itself stuck under sustained and heavy fire with a wounded man on a narrow crossroad — buildings behind them, insurgents hidden in the orchard in front of them, and a large puddle from a broken water pump in the middle. Godby had the troops advance to the cover of a mud wall and an irrigation ditch. The orange streaks of bullets whizzing in every direction grew visible as the light faded.

"That's when I realized there was a casualty and saw the injured Marine, about 10 yards from where I'd stood," Jacobson would write in her journal. "For the second time in my life, I watched a Marine lose his. He was hit with the RPG which blew off one of his legs and badly mangled the other. ... I hadn't seen it happen, just heard the explosion. I hit the ground and lay as flat as I could and shot what I could of the scene."

Bernard lay on the ground, two Marines standing over him exposed, trying to help. A first tourniquet on Bernard's leg broke. A medic applied another.

"I can't breathe, I can't breathe," Bernard said. Troops crawling under the bullets dragged him to the MRAP, the mine-resistant armored vehicle that accompanied the patrol.

"The other guys kept telling him `Bernard, you're doing fine, you're doing fine. You're gonna make it. Stay with me Bernard!' He (a Marine) held Bernard's head in his hands when he seemed to go limp and tried to keep him awake. A couple more ran in with a stretcher," Jacobson recalled in the journal.

"Another RPG hit the mud wall on the other side of the street from where we were, about 5 yards away. It was a big BOOM, and I just lay my face in the dirt and everything went quiet for about 10 seconds. It was just silence like I was wearing noise-canceling headphones or like world peace had finally descended upon the earth. The air was white with sand. Then I started feeling the rubble fall down around me. And I thought, `Is this what it's like to be shell shocked? Am I all still here? I can't believe I am.'

"I was fine and surprised at how calm I was and that I could actually still hear."


The rocket-propelled grenade exploded in a powerful pinkish blast, lighting up the scene and briefly knocking out de Montesquiou and Staff Sgt. Alexander Ferguson. When Ferguson recovered, he helped haul Bernard inside the vehicle. Bernard was driven back to base some 500 yards from there, receiving first aid along the way. Minutes later, a helicopter evacuated him to Camp Leatherneck, the main Marine compound in southern Afghanistan. His vital signs were stable when he left.

At the ambush site, the fighting continued uninterrupted for 10 to 15 minutes. The men could see the grenades coming in at them, and even some of the machine gunners. They estimated they were facing six to eight fighters.

Adding to the confusion, an Afghan soldier with the troops fired his own grenade at the insurgents, but he hadn't checked whether anybody was close by. A Marine was knocked out by the back-blast.

Another grabbed the Afghan by the collar. "Once he stopped shooting, we were able to get control of the situation," Russell said.

Some Marines are uneasy patrolling with the Afghan National Army. For one thing, there's a language barrier. During the shootout at the orchard, the patrol's Afghan interpreter disappeared and took cover, leaving the Marines unable to coordinate their moves with the Afghan soldiers.

"They're not lacking courage, they're just lacking training right now," said Russell, 22, from Stafford, Va. "At least they were shooting in the right direction."

The fighting ebbed with nightfall. Godby and some of the Marines equipped with night vision glasses pushed deeper into the orchard, but the insurgents were gone. Intelligence pointed to three enemy dead, several Marines said, but it could not be confirmed.

That night, officers assembled the platoon in a darkened room of the run-down house where the Marines had camped after taking Dahaneh two days earlier. There the officers delivered the news: Bernard had died of a blood clot in his heart on the operating table. He was Golf Company's third fatality since arriving in Afghanistan in May.

Bernard was the 19th American to die in Afghanistan in August. Fifty-one Marines, soldiers and seamen lost their lives that month. Of the 739 Americans killed in and around Afghanistan since 2001, 151 died last year and 180 so far this year.


Down a rural dirt road in New Portland, western Maine, John and Sharon Bernard sat on their porch and talked about their son.

Joshua, they said, loved literature and showed early interest in the Bible and Christianity. "He had a very strong faith right from the beginning," his mother said.

His father described him as "humble, shy, unassuming — the very first to offer help." He didn't smoke or drink, and always opened the door for others. His main friends were his church group, whom he would visit when on leave, and his sister Katy, 20.

Bernard's father is a retired Marine 1st sergeant. Three weeks before the Aug. 14 ambush that killed his son, he had written to his congressman, Rep. Michael Michaud, expressing frustration at what he described as a change in the Afghanistan rules of engagement to one of "spare the civilians at all cost." He called this "disgraceful, immoral and fatal" to U.S. forces in combat.

Joshua loved videogames and snowboarding, and hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail with his father. He hoped to become a U.S. marshal.

"Service and personal honor," is how his father summarized his son.


Three days after Bernard's death, as his belongings were being packed for shipment to his family, Cpl. Joshua Jackson, his squad leader, was still referring to him in the present tense.

"He definitely doesn't hesitate," said Jackson, 23, from Copley, Ohio. "He's very good, he definitely has the nerves to do what he's needed to do."

He called Bernard "a true-heartedly very good guy ... probably one of the best guys I've known in my entire life."

The hardest part is "just wondering if there's something that I could have done different, or maybe prevented him from dying," Jackson said. "But that's something we've all got to deal with."

"I think it's got to do with being a Marine; you just carry on," said Godby. That night he got two hours of sleep. Before dawn, his platoon took part in a raid on a suspected Taliban stronghold.

Bernard was determined, his comrades said. That's why he was chosen as the squad's point man and navigator, moving at the front of his unit.

Lance Cpl. Jason Pignon, 22, from Thayer, Ill., was his close friend. They had been in the same platoon since 2007 when they joined "the Fleet," as Marines call the units preparing to deploy. They served together near Fallujah in Iraq in 2008, and again in Afghanistan.

During the firefight, Jacobson had wrestled with a question every war photographer faces: whether to offer to help save a life, or keep out of the way of the professionals and go on shooting pictures.

Some of Bernard's comrades asked to see the photos. In her journal she described them flipping through the images she had captured that day:

"They did stop when they came to that moment. But none of them complained or grew angry about it. They understood that it was what it was. They understand, despite that he was their friend, it was the reality of things."


It had all gone very quickly. It was late afternoon when the Taliban fired their first RPGs. It was dusk when the Marine was driven away in the armored vehicle. And it was night when the patrol returning to base saw the dark silhouette of the helicopter that flew him away.

Lance Cpl. Joshua "Bernie" Bernard was 21 years old.


Glenn Adams contributed to this report from New Portland, Maine.

Julie Jacobson photographer

Lance Cpl. Joshua "Bernie" Bernard is hit

With all due respect this photograph by Julie Jacobson of the mortally wounded soldier was published to make people aware. Before you react please be sure you read the post above this? Remember, the photos of Vietnam actually helped bring the war home and change allot of peoples minds about what the war really was like. This helped end the war. Look at the photos of the Civil War casualties that were published when photography was new to the public. The military, by hiding all photos of coffins and of the dead is misleading the public and its wrong! They are taking away the gut shock war brings and pillowing the public from reality. It is immoral and un-American to censor the press unless it endangers the troops or compromises a mission. Gates and the military wanted to keep this from the public but the soldiers julie was embedded reacted this way:
"Some of Bernard's comrades asked to see the photos. In her journal she described them flipping through the images she had captured that day:

They did stop when they came to that moment. But none of them complained or grew angry about it. They understood that it was what it was. They understand, despite that he was their friend, it was the reality of things."

Here is a rare image of Petersburg, Virginia. Dead Fed. Soldier. It was taken in 1865 by Roche, Thomas C., d. 1895.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"He punched me hard, straight in the face, so I bit his finger off."

65-year-old man's finger was bitten off at a health care rally Wednesday night in Thousand Oaks, California. KTLA reports that the man was part of an anti-reform crowd:
About 100 protesters sponsored by were having a rally supporting health care reform. A group of anti-health care reform protesters formed across the street.

A witness from the scene says a man was walking through the anti-reform group to get to the pro-reform side when he got into an altercation with the 65-year-old, who opposes health care reform.

The injured anti-reform man walked to Los Robles hospital to have the finger reattached.

He had Medicare.

A blogger who witnessed the fight from the pro-reform side says that the finger-biter was provoked:
The man in the orange shirt hit the pro-reform guy (I'm going to call him PR Guy just to keep the players straight). Hard. ... He punched him in the face, knocked him to the ground and into that thruway. ... He got up, tried to get back up on the curb, but Orange Shirt guy was in his face. Finger in his face, PR Guy standing, steps up to the curb, and there's a scuffle. Orange shirt seemed to have PR Guy in a hold, but again, I was across the street, so won't state that as absolute fact. Next thing I see is PR Guy's hat being tossed into the street, both yelling at one another, then Orange shirt walks away, PR Guy picks up hat and crosses to our side.

When he gets to our side, he tells a story in one sentence: "He punched me hard, straight in the face, so I bit his finger off." released a statement in response:
"Yesterday, MoveOn held over 350 peaceful candlelight vigils nationwide, in which tens of thousands of people participated in, to call for immediate action on health care reform including a strong public option.

"We have seen press reports that indicate at one event in Southern California a regrettable act of violence happened. While we do not have any more facts about what happened then what we saw in press accounts, MoveOn condemns violence in all forms. We have seen passions run high on both sides all summer in the health care debate, and we strongly believe that this nation deserves an honest, peaceful and respectful debate about health care reform."

"While we don't know if either party involved was a MoveOn member, we regret any violence that may have occurred yesterday, and we support the Ventura County Sheriff's investigation into the situation. It is our firm hope that this event does not detract from the tens of thousands who were out peacefully making their voices heard for health care reform and a public option."


America has fallen off the deep end!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Speckled Sussex

Can Lay 240 to 260 eggs a yearMedium-Large Creamy Brown Eggs per year.
Will Lay in Winter
Single Comb
Can Be Broody / Good Mother
Large Fowl
Hen Weight: Aprox 7 Pounds
Friendly, Make good Pets Adapts well to Confinement


The Sussex originated in the county of Sussex, England. They were prized table birds more than 100 years ago. The original colours were brown, red and speckled. I have only seen the speckled for sale in the USA. Bred to be a dual purpose bird, it is very productive choice for small farms and homesteads. The hen will lay around 260 large eggs that are cream to light brown in colour. The Sussex is one of the oldest breeds from England that are still in existence today.


The Sussex chicken is an alert but docile breed that can adapt to any surrounding easily. They are good foragers. Whilst they are quite happy to be free range, they will also be fine if kept in a confined space. They can occasionally but not very often go broody. The speckled is the most likely of the breed to do this.

The colors found in Sussex chickens are brown buff, light red, speckled, silver and white. The Sussex chicken whatever its color should be graceful. The eyes are red in the darker varieties but are orange in the lighter ones. They have a medium sized single comb. The earlobes are red and the legs and skin are white in every variety. The brown and red varieties are rare now with the other colors being quite common.

The Speckled Sussex was most famous in England as a table fowl with pinkish white skin and long, deep body ideal for fattening. It is of medium size, in the heavy breed class, a layer of light brown or tinted eggs, and the hens will set. Its plumage color is a delight to the eye being of rich mahogany base color with individual feathers ending in a white tip separated from the rest of the feathers by a black bar. Baby chicks vary greatly in color from a creamy buff to dark chestnut and some also have alternate dark and light stripes lengthwise on the back. This variety combines beauty with utility, and is very nice to raise for showing. These birds are very friendly and handle winters in the northeast very well. I just love them. I have raised these now for 20 years. The one dark hen in the back on the left in this photo is a barred rock. The other birds are all Speckled Sussex. Note the comb on that handsome cock!

Happy Chickens

I think every family should have five hens or more running in the yard! Chickens love their lives free ranging on family farms under the kindly watch of good people.

Chicks Being Ground Up Alive Video

(AP) WASHINGTON — An undercover video shot by an animal rights group at an Iowa egg hatchery shows workers discarding unwanted chicks by sending them alive into a grinder, and other chicks falling through a sorting machine to die on the factory floor.

Chicago-based Mercy for Animals said it shot the video at Hy-Line North America's hatchery in Spencer, Iowa, over a two-week period in May and June. The video was obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

Hy-Line said in a statement it has started an investigation "of the entire situation," adding that it would have helped their investigation "had we been aware of the potential violation immediately after it occurred."

The video, shot with a hidden camera and microphone by a Mercy for Animals employee who got a job at the plant, shows a Hy-Line worker sorting through a conveyor belt of chirping chicks, flipping some of them into a chute like a poker dealer flips cards.

These chicks, which a narrator says are males, are then shown being dropped alive into a grinding machine.

In other parts of the video, a chick is shown dying on the factory floor amid a heap of egg shells after falling through a sorting machine. Another chick, also still alive, is seen lying on the floor after getting scalded by a wash cycle, according to the video narrator.

Hy-Line said the video "appears to show an inappropriate action and violation of our animal welfare policies," referring to chicks on the factory floor.

But the company also noted that "instantaneous euthanasia" – a reference to killing of male chicks by the grinder – is a standard practice supported by the animal veterinary and scientific community.

According to Mercy for Animals, male chicks are of no use to the industry because they can't lay eggs and don't grow large or quickly enough to be raised profitably for meat. That results in the killing of 200 million male chicks a year.

The United Egg Producers, a trade group for U.S. egg farmers, confirmed that figure and the practice behind it.

"There is, unfortunately, no way to breed eggs that only produce female hens," said the group's spokesman, Mitch Head. "If someone has a need for 200 million male chicks, we're happy to provide them to anyone who wants them. But we can find no market, no need."

Using a grinder, Head said, "is the most instantaneous way to euthanize chicks."

Hy-Line says on its Web site that its Iowa facility produces 33.4 million chicks. Based on that figure, Mercy for Animals estimates a similar number of male chicks are killed at the facility each year. Hy-Line did not comment on that estimate.

Mercy for Animals says it will call on the nation's 50 largest grocery chains to include labels on their eggs that say, "Warning: Male chicks are ground-up alive by the egg industry."

Head called that proposal "almost a joke," saying the group had no credible authority, and had questionable motives. "This is a group which espouses no egg consumption by anyone – so that is clearly their motive." The video does in fact end with a call for people to adopt a vegan diet, which eliminates all animal products – meat, eggs or dairy.

Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy for Animals, said most people would be shocked to learn that 200 million chicks are killed a year.

"Is this justifiable just for cheap eggs?" he said.

As to more humane alternatives to disposing of male chicks, Runkle said the whole system is inherently flawed.

"The entire industrial hatchery system subjects these birds to stress, fear and pain from the first day," he said.


On the Web:

Mercy for Animals video:

Hy-Line International:


My hens are royalty to me and enjoy a wonderful life and they don't come from a commercial hatchery like this. I think every family should have five hens or more running in the yard! Chickens love their lives free ranging on family farms under the kindly watch of good people. Vegans may want to ban all egg production but that is no answer. I am a better person for having chickens and my chickens love thier lives here. None are debeaked and none are commercial breeds.

Some of my chickens

Swine Flu

This is older and there have been some people die since this was made but watch this. It's right on the money!

About Me

My photo
I grew up in Chautauqua County, NY. I graduated from Edinboro University of Pennyslvania in 1981 with a BFA in Jewelry and Metalworking. I have been married 31 years. I currently run a small business with my husband. We both enjoy the outdoors and animals a great deal and live on a tiny farm in Western, NY.