pulse of truth

you are more than this
beloved
more than this

clinging without thought
desperately clutching
the narrative

even if in your heart
you notice a persistent quiver
the pulse of truth

still you walk the path to which you are pointed
shuffling along with the rest
turning your eyes away as your own heart calls out to you

the one voice you could trust

you have a choice
the path your heart knows looks insurmountable and fearsome
only until the moment your foot alights there

once you are on it
you flow like a waterfall
laughing

then you see all the others still trudging
the appointed path 
you wave and call out to them

you are more than this, beloved

accountability

Of course there’s next to no press coverage of it, but a United States court of law yesterday found that the National Security Agency acted illegally in its mass surveillance of US citizens’ telephone data and lying about it. As reported by Reuters, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declared it may have been unconstitutional as well.

The government’s assertion that the warrantless surveillance program of its own citizens served to fight domestic extremism also fell flat in the courtroom as the court ruled that the records did not support such claims.

This is a WIN for the American people. This is a WIN for the American Civil Liberties Union that helped bring the suit. It is also a WIN for courageous whistleblower Edward Snowden who disclosed the crime in 2013, and who remains in exile under threat of the US government’s use of the Espionage Act against him for said truth-telling.

It is wonderful to see a victory in the category of what’s right, but, somehow, and sadly, I do not think that this will reassure Snowden that it might be safe to come home to the country for which he so bravely stood up at such great personal cost.

It’s way past time that we recognize folks like Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and Julian Assange as the heroes they are. It is despicable that the powers that be continue to malign them, hunt them down, imprison them, torture them, and more using the empowerment and funding of the people these heroes sought to protect. It is way past time that we demand that those entities serve their people legally and constitutionally, with transparency and accountability.

As usual, folks, the responsibility is ours to raise our voices and seek what’s right.

descent into depravity

Yesterday, the United States almost had its first federal execution since 2003. The scheduled execution was halted by a last minute ruling that questioned whether the intended pentobarbital method constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

Late yesterday, the Supreme Court expedited things in a whirlwind, handing over a 5-4 decision at 2 a.m. allowing the execution to proceed. The dissenting justices question the constitutionality of capital punishment.

Why, after all these years, and in the midst of a ‘pandemic’ where everyone breathlessly watches daily death counts in manifest fear, is the federal government aggressively pursuing the death penalty? 

It solves nothing in any given case. It can only be designed as a demonstration of the absolute and brutal power the government is prepared to wield against its own citizenry, and serves to engender a climate of fear — as if we don’t have enough of that going around. This, while giving societal ills the brush-off.

There is no man or woman who can properly sit in judgment with the power to dole out death. Aside from the fundamental moral void of such a presumption, we have seen far too many instances in which “justice” has been delivered to the wrong person. It is a revolting hubris that presumes the power to deliver death in judgment. It is depraved. It is all the more barbaric in the hands of a government so assiduously courting the disaffection of the people on so many fronts.

Last night’s ruling paves the way for four executions in the near term death queue, with more on the calendar later this year. Given that there have been three federal executions carried out since 1963, this is a disturbingly enthusiastic leap back into this sickening protocol. According to the Bureau of Prisons, a total of 37 federal executions took place since 1927 — that’s a span of almost 100 years. The administration plans to make up for lost time, apparently.

No. Stop. It is time to absolutely abolish the death penalty, both at the federal and state level. It is time to halt our descent into further depravity.

defund … something?

but let’s not defund the postal service!

We have seen a lot of protests. We have seen statues pulled down, institutions renamed, products scheduled for rebranding. We have seen a lot of discussion, a lot of reading, a lot of educating. 

What we have not seen is a whole lot of purposeful response from government.

Oh yeah, we’ve had police crackdowns and shows of police solidarity. We’ve seen Trump get right on it to make sure folks who tear down statues as they seek social change pay a hefty price for it. We’ve seen our legislature gin up reform bills designed to go exactly nowhere. We’ve seen the presumptive Democratic nominee suggest reform, and, oh, more funding to re-educate police (again).

So, for all that the people made it pretty damn clear they want change, it’s kind of a nothing sandwich from our illustrious “representation.” How could anyone be surprised?

Seems like the government rarely rises to the moment unless it’s on behalf of the only class they care about. 

So as we call for defunding of police, i.e., shrinking police budgets while diverting funds to programs that actually help build socially and economically healthier communities and individuals, I cannot help but ask, why stop there?

I can think of a lot of things that make excellent candidates for the defunding treatment. 

For starters, how about the legislature? They seem to be doing jack on behalf of the people these days. What say we just cut the budget for salaries and benefits for pretty much everyone in the House and the Senate right now? We could put those funds to actual good use. That’s at least $300 million in salaries and benefits alone, but if we throw in other federal departments and agencies, we’re talking hundreds of billions.

For example, how about the Environmental Protection Agency? I think it’s pretty clear it’s become an anti-environmental sort of body — time to cut the budget for that. There’s more than $8 billion with which we could actually do something. We could net a few billion more if we defund the sold-out FDA while we’re at it. The Department of Agriculture – almost $150 billion. We could net another $55 billion or so if we give the CIA and the rest of the National Intelligence Program the defunding treatment.

How about the war machine? Sure Sen. Bernie Sanders is proposing a 10 percent cut to military spending, but it’s almost guaranteed that legislators will make sure that the initiative goes nowhere — like they always have. We could shift an astonishing amount of money from military endeavors to peace endeavors. The 10% that Bernie Sanders is talking about amounts to $74-frick’n-billion.

How about prisons? The US predilection for locking people up translates to $80 billion each year in taxpayer dollars, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. I think we all know we’re overdue for scaling back on incarceration.

How about animal agriculture? We currently subsidize this environmentally destructive, human and animal health hazardous industry with about $38 billion in taxpayer funds. Come on, this is a no brainer. What could we do with $38 billion?

This is just a smattering of budget items that leap to mind.

It is not to say that there aren’t some worthy programs and purposes to which our tax dollars are directed, but it blows my mind the way our government just squanders a jaw-dropping amount of our tax dollars for things none of us actually want or need. Many of these things we pay for are things we actually resent or to which we have ethical objections, while there are other things that go lacking.

I think it’s high time for a little defunding.

a better candidate

We learned yesterday that Democratic presumptive nominee Joe Biden does not support police defunding. That didn’t take long.

Considering that Biden was responsible for the 1994 tough-on-crime bill that exacerbated problems rather than solve them, his rush to rule out defunding should come as no surprise.

It’s interesting that a lot of folks seem uncomfortable with defunding. I would guess that comes from a lack of understanding, and, of course, resistance to change. 

Defunding doesn’t mean we drop everything overnight and suddenly find ourselves in some kind of ‘wild, wild West’, every person for him/her self. No, it means reallocating funds to support people in the ways they really need help, so that crime and distress are not such prevalent realities for so many people in the first place. It also means developing a new vision for the kind of policing we really need and want in our communities, and then making that happen, too. It also means rejecting a form of policing that does not serve our population well.

It’s a radical step toward making actual systemic changes. And it showcases other areas that need radical overhaul. Our mental health, education, and health systems are not so great, nor are they equitable. All of them need reform. Plus, defunding forces us to look at the fundamentals of meaningful work for a meaningful wage, secure housing, and availability of nutritious food. 

We’re talking about basic respect for each human being.

But back to Biden. He’s got a lock on the nomination. He’s doing well, by doing nothing, in recent polling against Trump. It’s pretty sad commentary that this is what we’re down to.

Biden may be a familiar, perhaps friendly-looking face, but take a serious look at his record in terms of peace, justice, and equality. This is a candidate that has authored legislation that has hurt people of color, among others. He is another candidate who has allegations of sexual assault and harassment against him. His cognitive abilities are seriously under question. His engineered rise to the forefront has alienated many progressive voters, perhaps for the long haul. And he has made no effort throughout the campaign thus far to instill confidence or enthusiasm, hat tip to corporate donors.

Folks, we can do better than this.

We should not be surprised that there is actually a movement afoot. Believe it or not, a March Against Biden is set for June 27. These are not Trump supporters. Nope, these are voters who fear a loss to Trump because Biden is such a demonstrably lousy candidate. They are all about finding a better candidate. Check out @BidenMarch on Twitter.

Dems, are you listening? It’s not too late. We really could have a decent candidate if we put our minds to it.

We are witnessing firsthand the power of the people in the ongoing protests. Things are changing in our society entirely due to the people’s fearless and persistent demands right now. Another thing we can absolutely demand is a better candidate, not just a perhaps-lesser evil. One actually worth voting for.

a whole new kind of garden

Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey gets credit for showing up and engaging with the protestors there. He’s all about police reform, just like we’ve been hearing for years all over the country. 

When asked, however, he indicated that he would not support fully defunding the department at the epicenter of the current unrest. That response was met with immediate scorn from the gathering of protestors surrounding him. They jeered him from the event, the crowd parting for his shamed departure.

Calls for reform, at this point nothing more than a tired rejoinder, are just not enough.

And if you weren’t convinced that reform is not enough, have a moment to consider the members of the Buffalo, New York emergency response team — all of whom resigned their roles on that team (though not their jobs) in solidarity with the two now charged with felonious assault on a 75-year old protestor. They and others assembled to cheer those two after their release. Do the citizens of Buffalo feel safer now?

What is this group of people really about? They can avert their eyes and walk past a bleeding old man laying on the ground after members of their own delivered blows to him, but they’ll show up enthusiastically in a way that ultimately communicates the notion that laying blows on a 75-year old non-violent protestor is somehow justified in their world.

It is not enough to talk simple reform. All of the various attempts at reform still led to this day.

Defunding these departments and diverting the monies to positive, supportive development in the communities makes all the sense in the world. After watching so much police violence now and through the years, and considering some of the toxic police union rhetoric, fully defunding does not sound unreasonable.

As in disband. Let ‘em all go. Phase our current departments out, and start over with a whole new approach. 

We wouldn’t even call our new groups ‘police’ or use the militarized moniker ‘officers’ — or, for that matter, captains, sergeants, units, etc. Forget all that military stuff, including the weaponry.

No, I’m not sure what we’d call them but their objective would be laser focused on peace and safety for the people. They would be trusted community partners, not an opposing, militarized force acting as the muscle of the government and the privileged. They would value life and quality of life over property. 

It will require a lot of rethinking.

It is something that needs to be fleshed out in a community process. One that ought to get started in communities across the nation.

Let’s start a whole new kind of garden. Let’s do it permaculture style – sustainable, supporting life, resilient, caring, and fair.

black and white

the moth alights in front me. i later learn it is the eight-spotted forester, but that’s just the name the English-speaking humans give to it. i don’t speak eight-spotted forester, so i do not know to what name the moth would actually answer. it speaks no language i understand. i don’t know its ways. it lives a life beyond my comprehension. but there it is, comfortably paused just there where i can’t help noticing its stark splendor. i reach out and touch the very tip of its wing. it does not move but spreads its wings out for me to see. this moth is part of my world, both ordinary and exotic, living its own life its own way while i live mine – and it is easy to see how beautiful and perfect that is.

speak against censorship

Each morning, after some time of my own quiet reflection, I eventually face up to the news.

Now, more than ever, there is a lot of sorting out to do. Trying to find the truth of things is a job. And it doesn’t help things one little bit when someone somewhere decides for me what information or opinion I can or cannot access.

Censorship is damaging and disempowering – which is the intent. And I am alarmed at how rampant it is becoming.

There is so much we don’t know. Scientists don’t know everything. Doctors don’t know everything. One political party or another does not know everything. The CIA does not know everything. Fact checkers don’t know everything. 

And all of them have biases.

Investigation of both facts and ideas is a healthy thing. Discourse is a healthy thing. Awareness and education are fundamental. Critical thinking is – ahem – critical.

Even without outright censorship, the information made available to us already suffers from a lot of control and manipulation. There are the stories that rise to the front page, and the stories that don’t. 

There’s been plenty of censorship relative to the Coronavirus. This is a situation that should allow more information and viewpoints, not less. Still, viewpoints from certain perspectives, expert or otherwise, are routinely disappeared, suppressed, or disparaged.

As the protesting going on around the country progresses, one has to consider how censorship has played a role in both producing the situation and covering it. We often see in the news the police account of a given incident, with little to no input from individuals involved and with a complete lack of context. At the very least, this can easily create a bias towards certain people, or classes of people. And, as we have seen in far too many instances, it may not even be the truth at all. During the current crisis, we are repeatedly seeing journalists roughed up and arrested. Now, what would be the point of that?

On an entirely different matter, Jeff Gibbs and Michael Moore’s documentary, Planet of the Humans, was taken down for an alleged copyright violation. It was available free for viewing until the movie’s criticism culminated in this allegation which apparently concerns 4 seconds of footage that Moore alleges was “fair use.” Rather than pursue the matter through appropriate legal channels, the aggrieved party appealed to YouTube which settled the matter by taking the movie down. So much for legal process. 

I did watch the movie before it went away. It is a disturbing and thought-provoking work which leaves the viewer with questions. That is the point. To ask questions. To wonder about the truth. To evaluate the path we’ve been on and see where we might be headed. I have been very disappointed to see people in the environmental movement just pile on against this film rather than to seize the opportunity for dialogue.

With such a constant barrage of information coming at us 24 hours a day, it is more important than ever to allow free thought and discourse. When we acquiesce to allowing “someone” to control what we are allowed to view or read, this is dangerous and dark. It is counter to a healthy and free society. 

The masks we now routinely see covering people’s mouths are emblematic. It is hard to see them and not think what censorship and control of information is doing to our society. 

Today marks the sad anniversary of the crackdown in Tiananmen Square. In the context of the ongoing protests we are seeing now, coupled with the aggressive stance the president has articulated, it is more important than ever to speak up – to be able to speak up.

Say NO to censorship.

Update 6-6-20: Planet of the Humans is now back up on YouTube, free viewing.

let us resound

Last night marked a fearful and determining moment for this country. When the sitting president deploys police/military forces to rout peaceful protestors, we have turned a terrible corner. 

He demonstrated his capability by using those forces for the purpose of shoving his way to an astonishingly hypocritical photo op. That photo should live in infamy not only in its disgusting display of hubris but its grim disdain for the people, freedom, and, yes, religion.

It is terrifying to see police/military personnel participate in this destructive farce, turn against the people, and walk all over the oath they vowed to uphold as well as the Constitution. That they are capable should be deeply troubling in light of the president’s clear, expressed intent.

This cannot stand. We, the people, must be strong and united in the peaceful defense of freedom, peace, justice, and equality. Where voices have called out all week in the name of justice, let us resound with it.

This moment cannot be allowed to pass without redress. It is time for all of us to take a stand against this debased breach of trust and revilement of the premises upon which we agree and presume our government and country should abide. Our legislature continues to fail us, no matter which party, but we must demand they step up in defiance to this egregious development. We must demand they respond to our calls for a moral justice.

It is also time for a true leader, one that boldly stands up for the people, to come to the fore. I don’t think that person is the one hiding out in a Delaware basement, but I know they’re out there somewhere. There’s still time, and, in fact, that time is now.

Step up.
Stand up. 
Stand for freedom.
Stand for love.