Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Party to Murder

by Chris Hedges
Published on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 by TruthDig.com

Can anyone who is following the Israeli air attacks on Gaza-the buildings blown to rubble, the children killed on their way to school, the long rows of mutilated corpses, the wailing mothers and wives, the crowds of terrified Palestinians not knowing where to flee, the hospitals so overburdened and out of supplies they cannot treat the wounded, and our studied, callous indifference to this widespread human suffering-wonder why we are hated?

Our self-righteous celebration of ourselves and our supposed virtue is as false as that of Israel. We have become monsters, militarized bullies, heartless and savage. We are a party to human slaughter, a flagrant war crime, and do nothing. We forget that the innocents who suffer and die in Gaza are a reflection of ourselves, of how we might have been should fate and time and geography have made the circumstances of our birth different. We forget that we are all absurd and vulnerable creatures. We all have the capacity to fear and hate and love. "Expose thyself to what wretches feel," King Lear said, entering the mud and straw hovel of Poor Tom, "and show the heavens more just."

Privilege and power, especially military power, is a dangerous narcotic. Violence destroys those who bear the brunt of its force, but also those who try to use it to become gods. Over 350 Palestinians have been killed, many of them civilians, and over 1,000 have been wounded since the air attacks began on Saturday. Ehud Barak, Israel's defense minister, said Israel is engaged in a "war to the bitter end" against Hamas in Gaza. A war? Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely crowded refugee camps and slums, to attack a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armor, no command and control, no army, and calls it a war. It is not a war. It is murder.

The U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, former Princeton University law professor Richard Falk, has labeled what Israel is doing to the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza "a crime against humanity." Falk, who is Jewish, has condemned the collective punishment of the Palestinians in Gaza as "a flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law as laid down in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention." He has asked for "the International Criminal Court to investigate the situation, and determine whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law."

Falk's unflinching honesty has enraged Israel. He was banned from entering the country on Dec. 14 during his attempt to visit Gaza and the West Bank.

"After being denied entry I was put in a holding room with about 20 others experiencing entry problems," he said. "At this point I was treated not as a U.N. representative, but as some sort of security threat, subjected to an inch-by-inch body search, and the most meticulous luggage inspection I have ever witnessed. I was separated from my two U.N. companions, who were allowed to enter Israel. At this point I was taken to the airport detention facility a mile or so away, required to put all my bags and cell phone in a room, taken to a locked, tiny room that had five other detainees, smelled of urine and filth, and was an unwelcome invitation to claustrophobia. I spent the next 15 hours so confined, which amounted to a cram course on the miseries of prison life, including dirty sheets, inedible food, and either lights that were too bright or darkness controlled from the guard office."

The foreign press has been, like Falk, barred by Israel from entering Gaza to report on the destruction.

Israel's stated aim of halting homemade rockets fired from Gaza into Israel remains unfulfilled. Gaza militants have fired more than 100 rockets and mortars into Israel, killing four people and wounding nearly two dozen more, since Israel unleashed its air assault. Israel has threatened to launch a ground assault and has called up 6,500 army reservists. It has massed tanks on the Gaza border and declared the area a closed military zone.

The rocket attacks by Hamas are, as Falk points out, also criminal violations of international law. But as Falk notes, "... such Palestinian behavior does not legalize Israel's imposition of a collective punishment of a life- and health-threatening character on the people of Gaza, and should not distract the U.N. or international society from discharging their fundamental moral and legal duty to render protection to the Palestinian people." Read rest of this excellent article here.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Yesterday in Meeting

Yesterday in Meeting
at Wellesley
feeling so tired
and sad.

Reciting the serenity prayer.
Saw my hands reaching up to the ceiling.
Maybe a dream?
Reaching towards the angels.
Something or maybe someone was coming down to meet them.

Something refreshing
But I didn’t get a clear look.

Because a man stood up right then and started talking about what peace means.
After he had finished, the hands were gone.
I don’t blame him.

But now.
More sad.
More glad.

Is this what people call Spiritual Work?


Sortie after Sortie

Sitting at our gate in the Cleveland Airport.
Just after Christmas

CNN showing Israel bombers making “sortie” after “sortie”. (I find that word, sortie, rather nauseating, makes a bombing run sound like…..going for a bike ride, visiting the farmer's market, or something equally innocent).

How about a murder run? Stukas over Poland. The terror. The British and Americans over Dresden during the Second World War. Flying sortie after sortie after sortie. The sorcerer’s apprentice of firestorms and death. Endless..

Then cut to Israeli tanks roaring into Gaza.

Blitzkrieg. Lebensraum. (wow, lebensraum is even in my spell checker!)
Everything old is new again.

The news voiceovers a scene of a house demolished saying “the Israeli army is destroying houses as they go”. Casually. Like the Patriots demolished the Bears yesterday with a strong ground game of football.

Over 300 dead, the voice says.
But they never show the dead.
On either "side".
All lined up.
Or all blown up.
The pieces, both humans and.....
The fragments of bombs and rockets made in the USA.

The announcer calmly mentions that a refugee camp has been “overrun” but she doesn’t say where. Or exactly what “overrun” means. She does look serious behind the makeup. I’ll give her credit for that. Cut to commercial for exercise videos. Oh, and a plug for good old Oprah. Overrun. Sortie. Numbing words.

I voiced my anger and horror.
An old man overheard.
Looked at me.
Said grimly, “It’s a tough time”.
Pulled his hat down over his ears, and walked away.

They’re human, my friend says. Yes, I agree.
It's not just Jews against the Palestinians. Good guys vs bad guys.
But I want to vomit.

Another friend opined: “I lost family in the camps. If we don’t defend ourselves, they will kill us all”.

My head is dizzy.

I’m flying west, now, enjoying my inflight beverage as I write this, above the clouds, into the sunset bloody red.

Goodbye to all that.
Until I turn on my television and let some of the world leak into my privileged life.


Cleveland Airport

Pretty exciting.

Sipping a diet Pepsi while Julia wanders around the airport
Stretching her legs.

I hear the voice of a Friend who is also a friend.
The whole family is flying back to Madison after THEIR holidays, too.

So we hopped on our plane and off we went.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Word for the Day

Learned a new word today. "Meaniac". Prominent meaniacs include George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Elmer Fudd, Wily Coyote, Chris Matthews, Lord Voldemort, Pat Buchanon, Darth Vader, Genghis Khan, Mrs Williams (my 5th grade teacher) and Ty Cobb. To name a few. History is overflowing with meaniacs. Is there a a reason for having meaniacs? Why do they exist? Is there an "antidote" to meaniacs?

Milky Way

Walking back to the house last night, the Milky Way stretched from horizon to horizon. I slept well that night, knowing we are not alone. And knowing I'm an insignificant part of the universe. Kind of takes the pressure off, really.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day: The Truth

A comment on an earlier blog of mine by world famous blogger, Ms Ether, got me wondering just what the heck Boxing Day actually celebrated. I just didn't know if it had to do with boxing gloves or with making boxes or boxcars or what. So this is a quick sketch of what I've learned.

Stolen from Wikipedia with a grain of salt:

"Boxing Day is a public holiday in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong and countries in the Commonwealth of Nations with a mainly Christian population. In South Africa, this public holiday is now known as the Day of Goodwill. It is based on the tradition of giving gifts to the less fortunate members of society. Contemporary Boxing Day in many countries is now a "shopping holiday" associated with after-Christmas sales.

This day is historically England's name for St. Stephen's Day. Saint Stephen was the first Christian martyr, being stoned to death in Jerusalem around A.D. 34-35. St. Stephen's Day is usually celebrated on December 26, which is a public holiday in some countries or areas in Europe (UK, Germany, Alsace, northern part of Lorraine, Catalonia) and around the world with predominantly Christian populations. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, St Stephen's Day is celebrated on the 27th of December, although in Greece the Greek Boxing Day (Synaxis Theotokou, Σύναξις Θεοτόκου) is also celebrated as a public holiday on the 26th of December and is not related to the English version.[citation needed]

In Ireland the Bank Holidays Act 1871 established the feast day of St. Stephen's Day as a non-moveable public holiday on December the 26th, although since partition the name "Boxing Day" is used by the authorities in Northern Ireland and it has become a moveable public holiday in que with the rest of the UK. The Banking and Financial Dealings Act of 1971 established "Boxing Day" as a public holiday in Scotland. In the Australian state of South Australia, December the 26th is a public holiday known as Proclamation Day.

It is usually celebrated on the 26th of December, the day after Christmas Day[1][2]; however, unlike St. Stephen's Day, Boxing Day is not always on the 26th of December, its associated public holiday can be moved to the next weekday if the 26th of December is a Saturday or Sunday. The movement of Boxing Day varies between countries."

I have to wonder what St Stephen would have thought about folks going shopping in his honor. Perhaps they are buying Pet Rocks? It's good to know he was the first Christian martyr. I have been curious about this for a long time. When and where did the first martyrdom occur? Were Christians the first to have martyrs? Or did they coopt this idea, too? But in all seriousness, I will have to look into this....

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Red Pines

I could hear the fog blowing through the trees as my head hit the pillow. Air full of water rippling the red pines. Creaking and whistling, the trees have much to say. Planted years ago to become telephone poles. A plan that never worked. Trees that were raised to carry wires an voices from countless humans, sing to me goodnight.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A life that is new

Noises in the fog today. Men’s voices booming through the trees while fixing the power lines. A boy’s laughter as he hits me with a snowball. My son on the phone, far away and moving farther away. Chopping of ice on the steps. Breath shoots from my mouth joining the fog, making it denser. Everything’s changing. Constantly. The pace of change slows in the dense fog. With a long wintry sigh, I lay down for a nap in a bed and a life that is new to me.


Cozy living room in New Hampshire. The kids are playing with my camera. A cardboard tube from Christmas wrapping paper becomes, in rapid succession, a juggler's pole, a sword and a gun. It's foggy outside and I'm contemplating a walk to the other house.

I tried to call my son because I was missing him, seeing all this kid energy. I reach his mom, who says he'll call me later from Phoenix, where I don't think it ever gets foggy.

Dark Prayer

by Robert C. Koehler

The water churned and pushed against the ice with a dark seriousness that reminded me of prayer.

Subzero Chicago night at the edge of the year, the edge of change, the edge of what's bearable. I stood on an old breakwater, a long, crumbling construction of concrete and steel that jutted into Lake Michigan — just stood, feeling the wind scrape my face. Whatever thoughts came to me were honest ones. Or maybe I just needed to grieve.

"Courage grows strong at the wound."

Someone said this to me earlier this year and I felt a rush of reverence as I contemplated wounds and war, a wrecked economy, a wasted planet, hope, illusion, the holidays, the human condition. My niece just got married; the same day, a friend was mugged in the alley behind her house. The dark water undulated beyond the ice, gurgling, whispering. Dear God . . .

I don't pray easily. At least not for the big stuff. But there I was, praying, it seemed, against the tide. Dear God, let us find the courage to endure whatever is to come and the wisdom to pull together around the worst of it. Europe, shattered after World War II, finally understood this. Grant us transformation at the point of our wounds and the vision of a future beyond them. Grant us a president who believes in something beyond the military-industrial consensus that surrounds him and would own him. Grant us sanity and the courage to face our worst fears. Grant us peace.

"Peace activists in Pakistan and India are attempting desperately to be heard above the din raised by warmongers . . . in the wake of the Mumbai carnage. Jingoism is in the air — be it from so-called nationalists (posing as analysts on television) advocating a nuclear attack for the defense of their country, or the man on the street. Be they from Pakistan or India, they speak of war with great abandon as if it is child's play."

These are the words of Zubeida Mustafa, writing for The Women's International Perspective (published a few days ago on Common Dreams). They scratch at the collective unreason of our age, the unyielding obstinacy at which I felt my dark prayer hurling itself. It's so much easier simply to be angry. How do we get beyond our national — our global — impasse over what empowerment means?

We live in a world in which no word is more feared than "disarmament" — and the logic of that fear brooks no compromise. There seems to be an unbroken line of logic that runs from personal sidearms to nuclear weapons. My prayer as the year ends is that a few more stalwarts see the greater logic of laying down both their weapons and the fear that makes doing so unthinkable.

Since I was out, I decided to walk on this raw night to the Barbara Tree. That's what I call it — the tree I had specially planted by the Chicago Park District some years ago to honor my late wife, who died of cancer in 1998. Originally the tree was a linden, but that one died in its second summer, during a drought. Eventually another tree was planted on the spot; a cherry, I think. It's still, at any rate, "her" — leaning, just like the other one did, irreverently off square.

Death is the ultimate fear and the ultimate enemy, but when Barbara died I learned that death wasn't the enemy at all — rather, it was something like the waves and the darkness, unknowable and beckoning and maybe no more than a doorway. What does this awareness change? I don't know, but if I hated death, my grief could have no dimension, no restorative power, and would be as trite and hellish as regret.

As I thought about Mustafa's observations about nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, and the carnage in Mumbai, I found myself groping along the seam of the horror for the wrong turn toward revenge and a desire to hurt back, consequences be damned. "They speak of war with great abandon as if it is child's play."

The turn is political: the instant promised land of victory. This real estate always appears attainable at a bargain rate, even in the nuclear era that mocks the very idea of victory. The face I see at the juncture of this wrong turn is that of our own Departing Fool, whose greatest (known) crime, in my view, was steering the United States down the path of revenge after 9/11. But he didn't do it alone.

Dear God, let George Bush be the last of his line, the 20th century's smirking bookend. Let his successor be a true leader, whose agenda transcends the interests that surround him. Courage grows strong at the wound. Let us move as a planet to a unity greater than the blood cult of nationalism.

I stroked the cold bark of the Barbara Tree one last time, then turned, struck out across the snow toward the lights of the city and the life waiting for me there.

© 2008 Tribune Media Services, Inc.


Went for a short drive through the New Hampshire countryside. A bit gray and rainy. I was astonished by the tree damage from the ice storm two weeks ago. Looked like some of those old photos of the woods near the front lines in World War One. Limbs split off everywhere. Mailboxes along the road have small, hand-written signs saying "power out". Back to lunch. We have power from the propane generator. So we are lucky.


Waking up in New Hampshire. Kids awake. Nice Christmas tree which is great because I didn't get one this year, being out of town and all. Light saber duels in the living room. I sit in the corner, cup of good coffee in my hand, except when I'm typing. It's gray and raining on the snow. Looks like a day to be inside. Don't mind the snow and cold. Rain on top of snow seems so................distasteful. Well, maybe yucky is a better word.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Off to New Hampshire!

Tomorrow morning it's off to New Hampshire to spend Christmas with Julia's family at their lovely house in NH. Then its back to Boston for a day, then back to Madison. Should be fun.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Letter Czar

This last month, since the wonderful, historic election of Barack Obama, it's become quite common to write and publish letters to the President-elect. Letters advising him on what he should do on various matters from human rights to the environment to food production. I've read some of these letters. They are generally compassionate, well-reasoned and informative. Lots of good ideas.

But............does Mr Obama read the letters? I mean, there's a lot of them and he's pretty busy naming his cabinet and all, picking a dog, etc. Does he have time to read them all? What happens to them?

I've been imagining a "Letter Czar" who's job as part of the "transition team" it is to read all the letters and hand Mr Obama a digest of the letters. Maybe. I think it would be excellent if he did at LEAST get a digest. I am growing uneasy as I read about his choices for cabinet. Very conservative. Change? Hmmmm. I'm not optimistic. Hope? Keeping Robert Gates on as Defense Secretary? I am left shaking my head. Yes, it's a historic occasion. I'm happy about this. But how much are people willing to give up to get out of this "economic downturn"? Maybe those pesky unions? If only those unions weren't so demanding about workers rights, pensions and health insurance, we wouldn't have to do these bailouts. Yes, I hope there's a letter czar and Mr Obama is getting the message.

Otherwise, they're just like letters to Santa.

Shoe Bomber?

Gosh. An angry Iraqi reporter threw his shoes at George W. Bush, as Bush took his last tour of Iraq. The nerve! Throwing your SHOES at "The Leader of the Free World". As a Quaker, I've been wondering: was this a violent act? Certainly, Iraqi's have the right to be angry with Bush. His invasion of Iraq has caused the deaths of over 1.2 million Iraqi's. How many US soldiers? Over 5,000 now? Destruction of "insurgent strongholds". Sending drones to kill. Using rendition and the cozy walls of Guantanamo to hold humans for YEARS without a trial. So throwing shoes certainly pales by comparison. But a violent act? Would it be a violent act if the reporter had stood up and called "W" a "gravy sucking pig"? Most Iraqi's interviewed about the shoe throwing agreed with the action.

Bush is a man who likes killing. He's right up there with the Churchill's, the Stalins and the Hitlers. From his days as Governor of Texas, leading the nation in executions, to his wars, wiretaps and big bucks for his friends, the man likes to kill and dominate. He is evil. There IS that of God inhim, but he's chosen to listen to another part of his soul.

Throwing shoes? Today I feel like W deserved it. Maybe he should be pelted with the shoes of all his victims. Sorry Mr Gandhi. Sorry Mr Woolman. If that makes me a "bad Quaker", so be it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Burning Questions

Several burning questions have arisen lately, mostly at the dinner table. Thought I'd share these with my six regular, loyal readers for amusement, if nothing else.

1) Do men and women still have boy and girl "cooties" respectively? OR have their "cooties" grown up in some way?

2) Is the "poop deck" of an old time sailing vessel called that because of it's location at the stern of the ship or because that's where the sailors, um, poop into the ocean? This came up over dinner lsat night because Poodledoc, Jr had just finished up his sailing ship for his 8th grade Colonial Project. I've been sent pretty convincing evidence that it's called a poop deck because of location but I still remember reading IN A CHILDREN'S BOOK that it had to do with bodily functions. There was even a drawing. Yikes!

3) Sauron's eye (shown above, twice). Can we tell what kind of creature he is by examining "the lidless eye" depicted in the Lord of the Ring films? I'm still mulling this over, but this bad guy has a vertical slit pupil, so that pretty much rules out human. No surprise there. So......some creatures that have vertical pupils include cats, vipers, and Republicans, to name just a few.

4) And sticking with the Lord of the Rings theme, what happened to Gollum's eyes? Tolkien fanatics know that Gollum started his life as a fairly normal, hobbit-like creature, with presumably fairly human eyes. Then, he gets this Ring and something happens. His eyes become apparently larger. He becomes photophobic (hides from the sun), develops excellent night vision so he can find Orcs to eat in the depths of the Misty Mountains. Still working on these last two.

5) And, as long as we are on the topic of fantasy eyes, and drifting over to the fine literary classics in the Harry Potter series, how would Mad Eye Moody's eye Magical Eye work? What would we see if we looked inside? (I've examined a lot of eyes, but never a magical one. There's still time, though.)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Tagged. Again.

Ok, so here's a meme for me to do on the first cold night here in the north. Courtesy of my friend, Luminiferous Ether.

1. Five names you go by:
a) Chuck (or Charles if I'm in trouble with mom or it's a telemarketer)
b) Doc or Doctor Schobert (professional namings)
c) Bark! (feed me, walk me, pet me)
d) Dad, Daddy,, etc
e) Other personal nicknames

2) Three things you are wearing right now:
a) Crane Foundation T shirt
b) a wristwatch
c) a smile

3) Two things you want very badly at the moment:
a) a chocolate milkshake
b) 24 straight hours of sleep

Three people who will probably fill this out:
a)Enriched Geranium
c)my mom

Two things you did last night:
a) watched old Monty Python episodes with Poodledoc, Jr
b) made some bread

Two things you ate today:
a) Julia's famous squash black bean chili
b) waffles

Two people you just talked to on the phone:
a) Rebecca
b) Barack Obama (asking me to be First Veterinarian)

Two things you are going to do tomorrow:
a)develop a perpetual motion machine
b) look at eyeballs under a microscope

Two longest car rides:
a) from Matagulpa to Managua, Nicaragua after spending the night tossing my cookies
b) from San Francisco to Reno after tossing my eggrolls

Two of your favorite beverages:
a) chocolate milkshakes

A clip from my favorite movie? So many to choose from I'm going to wimp out on this one.......sorry.