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A Visit from Saint Nicholas IN THE ERNEST HEMINGWAY MANNER

It was the night before Christmas. The house was very quiet. No creatures were stirring in the house. There weren't even any mice stirring. The stockings had been hung carefully by the chimney. The children hoped that Saint Nicholas would come and fill them.   The children were in their beds. Their beds were in the room next to ours. Mamma and I were in our beds. Mamma wore a kerchief. I had my cap on. I could hear the children moving. We didn't move. We wanted the children to think we were asleep. "Father," the children said. There was no answer. He's there, all right, they thought. "Father," they said, and banged on their beds. "What do you want?" I asked. "We have visions of sugarplums," the children said. "Go to sleep," said mamma. "We can't sleep," said the children. They stopped talking, but I could hear them moving. They made sounds. "Can you sleep?" asked the children. "No," I said. "You ought to sleep." "I know. I ought to sleep." "Can we have some sugarplums?" "You can't have any sugarplums," said mamma. "We just asked you." There was a long silence. I could hear the children moving again. "Is Saint Nicholas asleep?" asked the children. "No," mamma said. "Be quiet." "What the hell would he be asleep tonight for?" I asked. "He might be," the children said. "He isn't," I said. "Let's try to sleep," said mamma. The house became quiet once more. I could hear the rustling noises the children made when they moved in their beds. Out on the lawn a clatter arose. I got out of bed and went to the window. I opened the shutters; then I threw up the sash. The moon shone on the snow. The moon gave the lustre of mid-day to objects in the snow. There was a miniature sleigh in the snow, and eight tiny reindeer. A little man was driving them. He was lively and quick. He whistled and shouted at the reindeer and called them by their names. Their names were Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen. He told them to dash away to the top of the porch, and then he told them to dash away to the top of the wall. They did. The sleigh was full of toys. "Who is it?" mamma asked. "Some guy," I said. "A little guy." I pulled my head in out of the window and listened. I heard the reindeer on the roof. I could hear their hoofs pawing and prancing on the roof. "Shut the window," said mamma. I stood still and listened. "What do you hear?" "Reindeer," I said. I shut the window and walked about. It was cold. Mamma sat up in the bed and looked at me. "How would they get on the roof?" mamma asked. "They fly." "Get into bed. You'll catch cold." Mamma lay down in bed. I didn't get into bed. I kept walking around. "What do you mean, they fly?" asked mamma. "Just fly is all." Mamma turned away toward the wall. She didn't say anything. I went out into the room where the chimney was. The little man came down the chimney and stepped into the room. He

message from a Hopi elder

You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour. Now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour. And there are things to be considered...   Where are you living?   What are you doing?   What are your relationships?   Are you in right relation?   Where is your water?   Know your garden.   It is time to speak your Truth.   Create your community.   Be good to each other.   And do not look outside yourself for the leader. There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are torn apart and will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above water. And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt. The time for the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

a poem for the holidays

The Art of Disappearing   When they say, "Don't I know you?" Say "no". When they invite you to the party Remember what parties are like Before answering. Someone telling you in a loud voice They once wrote a poem. Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate. Then reply. If they say we should get together Say "why?" It's not that you don't love them anymore. You're trying to remember something too important to forget. Trees. The monastery bell at twilight. Tell them you have a new project. It will never be finished. When someone recognizes you at the grocery store Nod briefly and become a cabbage. When someone you haven't seen in ten years Appears at the door, don't start singing him all your new songs. You will never catch up. Walk around feeling like a leaf. Know you could tumble any second. Then decide what to do with your time. ~ Naomi Shahib Nye

a respectable bird

"For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him. With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping and Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: the little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country. I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America. He is besides, though a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on." --Ben Franklin in a letter to his daughter

I am the autumnal sun

Sometimes a mortal feels in himself Nature -- not his Father but his Mother stirs within him, and he becomes immortal with her immortality. From time to time she claims kindredship with us, and some globule from her veins steals up into our own. I am the autumnal sun, With autumn gales my race is run; When will the hazel put forth its flowers, Or the grape ripen under my bowers? When will the harvest or the hunter's moon Turn my midnight into mid-noon? I am all sere and yellow, And to my core mellow. The mast is dropping within my woods, The winter is lurking within my moods, And the rustling of the withered leaf Is the constant music of my grief.... -- Henry David Thoreau Photos by David James Walden, my boy

Woe to the lowly in Rio

Despite the efforts of Oprah and the Obamas, it didn't take the International Olympic Committee long to eliminate Chicago from the competition to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Expected to be one of the final two candidates, the city was ousted in the first round. I'm sure this intends a complex message to reach feeble American-warmonger-greedy-capitalist-bully-imperialist-fat-faced-consumer-run-amok ears, and one that I'm sure we'll not take time to understand. Okay, so, whatever. Congrats to Rio! But, no! Woe to the poor and marginalized of Rio is a more authentic sentiment. Olympic victory has put them all in harm's way, to be sure. According to the Geneva-based Centre of Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), hosting the Summer Games is an excellent excuse to have a big ol' poverty crack down. COHRE has documented the following housing trends in Olympic host cities: evictions of tenants from low-rent housing; evictions resulting from gentrification; significant decreases in boarding-house stock; inflated real-estate prices; weakened legislation protecting tenants; criminalization of poverty; temporary or permanent privatization of public space; and temporary or permanent suppression of human rights and, particularly, freedom of assembly. Congrats to Chicago are in order.

the food revolution starts here. only the healthy will survive.

There is a spate of recent films spilling the beans about the corporate takeover of the global food economy. Many are available online or through Amazon and Netflix.   Please watch some of these. Show your kids. Host a screening in your community. Donate a copy or two to the local library or public school system. Encourage teachers to show the films. Spread the word! Subvert the dominant food paradigm! Refuse to play along anymore! Food, Inc., the first enviro-food movie to be screened in major theaters across the country, has brought food consciousness in the United States to a new level. Fresh: The Movie is the perfect follow-up screening to Food, Inc. because it shows the flip side—positive change being created by farmers, students, thinkers, and business people in the U.S. today. French Fries to Go documents Telluride, Colorado's quest to run city buses on recycled fryer oil. Garden Cycles: Faces From the New Farm is the story of three women on a three-month bicycle-powered tour of urban gardens throughout the Northeast. Polycultures: Food Where We Live looks at communities in Northeast Ohio that are coming together to grow a more sustainable, just, and local food system. The Greening of Southie is about Boston's first LEED-certified residential green building and the way it affected a community. Eating Alaska is a documentary by a vegetarian filmmaker who moves to Alaska and marries a hunter. The film looks at the ethics behind food choices and how politics, society, religion, and taste all play a role. Sustainable Table: What's on Your Plate? traces West Coast food production from field to table. To Market to Market to Buy a Fat Pig tours outstanding farmers' markets from Baltimore to Hawaii. The Real Dirt of Farmer John looks at one man and his family farm. Farmer John and his story will have you reconsidering stereotypes about farmers. The Garden examines the largest community garden in the U.S., 14 acres of green in South Central Los Angeles, and the fight to keep it there. The World According to Monsanto looks at this behemoth of a multinational agricultural biotech corporation and their dominance of patents on genetically engineered seeds and pesticides. Seeds of Deception focuses on how genetically engineered food is making its way into our daily diets. Bad Seed: The Truth About Our Food looks at who is controlling the world's food supply and the consequences of genetically modified food on health. The Future of Food examines the complex web of market and political forces that affect what we eat and what we will eat in the future. Food Matters takes a look at the often overlooked connection between food and our nation's current state of health. With the health-care debate raging, watching this film feels extra-timely and important. King Corn investigates the staggering scale of the corn related food economy in the U.S. in an entertaining way. While you're at it check out Carey's two part quest to go corn free. Two Angry Moms shows two angry (and awesome) moms striving to improve school lunch with simple changes, like having fresh fruits

sweet lies of high fructose corn syrup

I'm sure you've seen the Sweet Surprise commercials. There are several to target different consumer groups, but all involve a person #1 expressing hesitation at the offer of a high fructose corn syrup-laden "treat" and a smug HFCS-pusher asking sneeringly, "Oh yeah? Well, what's so bad about HFCS?" In the ads, person #1 hems and haws and has trouble articulating a satisfactory reply. HFCS person pats person #1 on the head condescendingly and says, "I thought so. Don't worry, high fructose corn syrup is just like sugar. In moderation, it's part of a healthy diet." Person #1 quietly accepts the offered Frankenfood while DDB Chicago, the creator of the ads, and the Corn Refiners Association, creator of the poison, high five at their clever game, played to the grave detriment of the confused end-consumer. I'm going to enlist my fledgling filmmaker son to help me produce a commercial of my own. The script will look something like this: ---------- Corporate Shill Cornelia: High fructose corn syrup is just like sugar. In moderation, it's perfectly peachy for you. Vigilant Consumer Veronica: Oh, no, Cornelia. Fortunately for you, I have a PhD in molecular biology and can help you understand how terribly you've been duped. When an individual consumes sugar, the pancreas responds by increasing the production of insulin which enables the glucose in the bloodstream to be transported into cells and used as energy. The body also increases the production of leptin, a hormone that helps regulate the appetite and send a satiety signal to the body. This tells us that we've had enough to eat, a crucial component in the pursuit of "moderation." HFCS, in contrast, doesn't cause insulin or leptin production nor increased cellular energy. You see, every cell in the body can metabolize glucose, but HFCS is only processed in the liver, like fats and alcohol, where it's converted into triglycerides. The "energy" locked in HFCS stays largely inaccessible to the body, and most people know that elevated triglycerides -- which we commonly refer to as high cholesterol -- can lead to a whole host of health problems, including hardened arteries and heart attack. With HFCS, the moderation mechanism is never triggered; we never feel satisfied. Maybe this explains why 30% of American children are obese and sluggish, and why Lipitor, which is used to treat high cholesterol, is the best-selling drug in the country today. With approval by the American Academy of Pediatrics, doctors are now prescribing it to children as young as 8. Cornelia, I know this is a lot to digest and, believe me, I've only begun to scratch the surface. The dangerous way HFCS is made, the genetically-modifed corn and enzymes that are used in its production, the fatty deposits and liver cirrhosis that may result from its over-consumption, the criminal complicity of the FDA, even the tale of interference with free-market mechanisms that led to its prevalence in the food supply, are all feature-length films in themselves. Please, Cornelia, take my advice. Get educated about HFCS. Read labels. Protect yourself and

Judge Larry Naves mocks justice in Ward Churchill ruling

Yesterday Judge Larry Naves vacated the jury verdict in the Ward Churchill trial and refused to compel CU to reinstate Churchill saying that to do so would send a message to students that the University of Colorado "tolerates academic misconduct." This, despite the fact that the jury found that charges of academic misconduct were made in order to silence Churchill without appearing to violate his free speech rights and wrongly fired him based on the trumped up charges. The judge also failed to award any damages to Churchill, nor did he rule that CU must pay his legal fees. Further, Judge Naves' 42-page ruling indicated that CU was a quasi-governmental body and, as such, should have been shielded from litigation to begin with. Of course, Churchill attorney David Lane will appeal the ruling to a higher court, hopefully one that has more respect for the judicial system and the Constitution. This isn't over, but how unfortunate that the bastard Judge Naves has prolonged the charade.

Agents of injustice

"Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice. A common and natural result of an undue respect for law is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder-monkeys, and all, marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart. They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined. Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power? Visit the Navy Yard, and behold a marine, such a man as an American government can make, or such as it can make a man with its black arts — a mere shadow and reminiscence of humanity, a man laid out alive and standing, and already, as one may say, buried under arms with funeral accompaniments, though it may be 'Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note, As his corse to the rampart we hurried; Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot O'er the grave where our hero we buried.' The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus,etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others, as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders, serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God. A very few, as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men, serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it. A wise man will only be useful as a man, and will not submit to be "clay," and "stop a hole to keep the wind away," but leave that office to his dust at least: 'I am too high-born to be propertied, To be a secondary at control, Or useful serving-man and instrument To any sovereign state throughout the world.'" --Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

Zionism’s unholy alliance

Tonight is Colorado Springs' first annual A Night to Honor Israel, an event put on by the local chapter of Christians United for Israel. On the face of it -- at least on the flyer for it -- the gathering appears to be an outreach of the Christian community to our Biblical compatriots in their "hour of need", whatever that means. Ostensibly a lovely gesture, but below the surface it's murkier. Does anyone remember Jerry Falwell? In 1979, Falwell founded the political lobby known as the Moral Majority on the following four principles: 1. opposition to abortion 2. support of the traditional family 3. strong American military 4. unconditional support for Israel Abortion, family, even military I understand. But unconditional support for Israel? Why would right-wing Christians be unabashedly pro-Israel? Jerry Falwell saw Israel's fate as a crucial international issue for Christians because of the role it plays in Biblical eschatological schemes. To Christian Zionists, the land of Israel is covenant land -- land that belongs not to Jews or Arabs but to God himself. It is on God's land that the Second Coming of Christ will occur. It is on God's land where the Chosen, the Jewish people, will perish by the millions in the battle of Armageddon, excepting those few Jews who accept Christ's final offer of salvation. To Christians, Israel is a key player in the Biblical apocalypse and little more. Christian Zionism is, at its core, supremely self-centered and anti-semitic. Not surprisingly, Christian Zionists are a major obstacle to a just peace between Palestine and Israel, pressuring both the U.S. and secular Israeli governments to refuse to cede a single inch of the Promised Land, indeed to take the entire West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and all of Jerusalem -- a message that American Jews are more than happy to embrace. Since 9/11 a growing contingent of the Christian Right has been aligned with Israel in another important respect. Both see militant Islam as the greatest threat to Judeo-Christian culture, a common enemy that must be defeated. Pastor John Hagee, who founded Christians United for Israel with the active assistance of none other than Jerry Falwell, has called for Israel to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran, not to ensure the safety of the Jewish homeland, but to hasten Christ's return to earth and the certain annihilation of the Jewish people. I guess it is acceptable to be anti-semitic as long as you're pro-Israel. Although called to be peacemakers, Christian Zionists are happy to warmonger in the Middle East and will keep continued pressure on the U.S. government to support Israel's right to exist and be safe in the midst of the Islamic world -- at least until the Second Coming provides the Final Solution.

Phony Sedon-y meet Social Ecology

I mentioned in my last post that I'd had a visceral negative reaction to Sedona -- undeniably one of the most beautiful places on earth -- which surprised and dismayed me. I had a vague sense that I was offended by the opulence and pseudo-spiritualism of the place, but that didn't completely explain my snarky attitude which, I've come to understand, usually masks a deeper response to perceived injustice or dashed hopes. I found an answer in the form of a book I happened to pull from my brother's bookshelf: An American Child Supreme -- the education of a liberation ecologist, by John Nichols. It's a memoir of sorts, and tries to decipher how any of us -- born into a culture that very nearly ensures that we become bigots, greedy consumers, warmongers, and environmental parasites -- develops a social conscience. John Nichols tells of the life-changing -- often seemingly innocuous -- events, people and books that transformed him from a product of a privileged upbringing and Mayflower pedigree to a liberation ecologist (as opposed to naturalist or environmentalist), a more radical superstratum of social ecology. I won't go into any of that, although it was fascinating to me. I'll just write the words that I scratched frantically into my little notebook so I'd not lose them or allow myself to forget them. I wasn't sure how they related to Sedona, but somehow they did. Myself, I do not have the courage or the fanaticism that motivated Diana Oughton (of the Weather Underground) to build bombs, but I cannot envision the changes we need without some sort of apocalyptic reaction against the current levels of violence generated by the daily economic activities of the multinationals that feed and clothe us. Territorial shooting wars are only a small fraction of the greater (and more horrific) violence of a world market that levels forests, pollutes the oceans, impoverishes people and toxifies topsoil in order to bring us our hamburgers, polyester golf slacks, and Marlboro cigarettes. "The human murder by poverty in Latin America is secret," writes Eduard Galeano. "Every year, without making a sound, three Hiroshima bombs explode over communities that have become accustomed to suffering with clenched teeth. This systemic violence is not apparent but is real and constantly increasing: its holocausts are not made known in the sensational press but in Food and Agricultural Organization statistics." Environmental collapse is now universally caused by monopoly capital plundering earth's biological and human resources for profit. The profit is generated by the labor of those underdogs, whose energy is thus co-opted to destroy the environment. This means that our most destructive environmental problems are tied to their inequality. . . . That inequality is causing a downward social spiral on earth and eco-devastation. Profit requires demolition. The racism that deforms our nation (and the globe) is a tool used by a capitalist society to maintain class divisions for profit-making reasons, so racism is also a main component of biosystem toxicity. John Nichols sums up the philosophy of

Ya’at’eeh from Tuba City, Arizona!

I'd envisioned myself hiking alone in Sedona for three magical days, vortexed into a frenzied energy, taken by wizened hippies to a hillside lair for impromptu meditation. Instead, in spite of the brazenly gorgeous Sedona landscape, I felt the whole place to be a pseudo-spiritual, wildly affluent, corporate-run and supremely phony tourist trap. I was slightly horrified to feel this way about such a beautiful place, and tried to lecture myself into giving further consideration, but to no avail. I got the hell out of Nirvana Dodge after a single (albeit lovely) hike. That was yesterday. Today I headed north out of Flagstaff on Highway 89 with no particular plan. Shortly after the city faded from the rearview and I was facing the open road, I turned on the radio and heard "You're listening to Indian Public Radio." This heralded a perfect Tony Hillerman-esque adventure, I was sure of it, and I was flooded with good cheer. From the radio came gentle Indian flute sounds, haunting-dancing-with-wolves-vision-quest sounds, which had the hair on my arms standing instantly at attention. Within thirty seconds, however, a techno track and a Navajo-accented rapper barged into the song, resulting in a somewhat bizarre Eminem/Kokopelli kind of thing. I was enthralled. A retrospective about Harold Drake's radio show "The Church in Your Hogan" was next, followed by a short discussion of cultural taboos associated with Indian suicide, and an admonition to speak openly about such things. Fleetwood Mac, Peter Frampton, and then this song by some sweet-voiced Hopi girls: Hey, Cousin! Nice to see you again! Do you have any duck tape, Cousin? Because my muffler fell off again. Duck tape. Sigh. Indian glue. I was becoming giddy. I took the Navajo Trail (Highway 160) east onto the Navajo reservation and soon came upon Tuba City, a dusty little town of 8,000 residents and seemingly little else. I drove down Main Street and saw house after house boarded up and nothing but dry dusty fields all around. I don't know where the actual people live, but the town seems reserved for ghosts. In front of the elementary school, at two in the afternoon, were twenty long yellow school buses awaiting what couldn't possibly be that many kids. In fact I didn't see any kids, yet one after another the buses pulled slowly away from the curb. Maybe each rural denizen has his or her own bus. I went into the trading post/interactive Navajo museum ($9)/internet café hoping to find authentic Indian crafts. The store had some very nice moccasins which, on closer inspection, were made by Minnetonka Moccasins -- a big corporation headquartered in Minnesota. I tried on a cute black straw cowboy hat made by some beachwear company in Oregon. Then I spied a truly adorable backpack purse of Indian-patterned wool and leather, manufactured -- big sigh -- by Pendleton, the company responsible for the boiled wool jackets of my Junior League days. I couldn't find anything else to do in Tuba City, so I ate some trail mix in the car, drank some warm

Swine flu pandemic, my ass

Do you have an uneasy sense that someone's trying to pull the wool over your eyes? Does the hullabaloo over a looming swine flu pandemic seem a bit overblown? The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised the pandemic alert level (a 6-point scale) to 4 and is considering moving it to 5 today, with only 7 confirmed deaths worldwide! Keep in mind that seasonal flu kills 40,000 every year in the US alone, so why the sudden grave concern? I don't claim to understand all the factors at play here, but one thing I do know: I am FAR more concerned that my government will use manufactured fear somehow to my detriment -- likely another lost civil liberty or two and large profits or other benefits to a chosen few -- than I am about contracting the demon swine flu. A few facts to bolster your immune-to-bullshit system: --Thus far, only 97 cases of so-called swine flu have been definitively identified worldwide, mostly in Mexico (26 confirmed, 7 deaths) and the U.S. (64 confirmed, no deaths). About 1600 suspected cases, including 159 deaths, are reported in Mexico. Sad as this is, it does not add up to a pandemic swine flu outbreak. We love to make this shit up for some reason. Remember the one million Americans who were supposed to die of swine flu in 1976? WHO has forgotten about them, I suppose, because they refused to become cooperative statistics. --The virus at issue has nothing to do with swine. In fact, it hasn't been seen in a single animal. And you can't possibly get it from eating pork which I see as an unfortunate truth, because a good reason to stop eating pork would be a welcome silver lining to this "worldwide health crisis." --No existing vaccines can prevent this new flu strain. So no matter what you hear – even if it comes from your doctor – don't get a regular flu shot. They rarely work against seasonal flu and certainly can't offer protection from a never-before-seen strain. --Speaking of this strain, it doesn't seem to have come on naturally. According to the World Health Organization, this particular strain has never before been seen in pigs or people. And according to Reuters, the strain is a 'genetic mix' of swine, avian and human flu. Was it created in a lab? We don't know yet, and I doubt we'll find out anytime soon. --The drug companies are getting excited, and that's never a good thing. According to the Associated Press at least one financial analyst estimates up to $388 million worth of Tamiflu sales in the near future – and that's without a pandemic outbreak. Imagine the payday when everyone begins to flip out! --Let's not forget that Tamiflu comes with its own problems, including side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, fatigue, cough -- the very symptoms it purports to relieve! But, oh well, at least the drug company benefits financially from Tamiflu sales. No one benefits if we don't take it,

Take a pinch of psychedelic

During the kids' Snow Break last week, we chanced to visit the Denver Art Museum's Psychedelic Experience exhibit. Dozens of groovy rock posters from the late sixties, mostly advertising shows at San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium, were on display, occasionally retro-enhanced by black light. More interesting to the kids, however, was an adjoining exhibit where ancient artifacts were displayed in a seemingly authentic sixties pad. There were LPs (how they laughed!) and record players, a giant console television, magazines from the era (first man on the moon was a big hit), shabby furniture covered in tie-dyed material, and a couple old-fashioned telephone booths with rotary phones. One by one, the kids went into the graffiti-covered booth and closed the door, sat on the bench and tried to figure out how to dial the phone. Seriously, it wasn't obvious to them. The terms LSD and psychedelic were ubiquitous throughout the exhibit and the kids asked me their meanings. I think I was able to explain LSD satisfactorily but had a hard time defining psychedelic, although I know psychedelic when I see it. It turns out that today is a birthday of sorts for both LSD and psychedelic, a perfect time to answer my own question! From Today in Literature: LSD was first synthesized on this day in 1943 by Albert Hoffman, and the psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond coined the term "psychedelic" on this day in 1956, by way of a poetic exchange with Aldous Huxley. Huxley had enthusiastically volunteered himself as a guinea pig for Osmond's drug experiments and, after some initial reluctance, Osmond had agreed — he said he didn't "relish the possibility, however remote, of finding a small but discreditable niche in literary history as the man who drove Aldous Huxley mad." The two felt that a new word was needed to capture the nature of the new experience; Huxley offered his coinage in rhyme: To make this trivial world sublime, Take half a gramme of phanerothyme. Osmond replied with his improvement, and entered Far Out history: To fathom hell or soar angelic, Just take a pinch of psychedelic.

Ward Churchill is not guilty of academic misconduct

Literary theorist and legal scholar, Stanley Fish, weighs in on the report of the "committee of faculty peers" that found Ward Churchill guilty of academic misconduct.   "The verdict did not surprise me because I had read the committee’s report and found it less an indictment of Churchill than an example of a perfectly ordinary squabble about research methods and the handling of evidence." "The accusations that fill its pages are the kind scholars regularly hurl at their polemical opponents. It’s part of the game. But in most cases, after you’ve trashed the guy’s work in a book or a review, you don’t get to fire him. Which is good, because if the standards for dismissal adopted by the Churchill committee were generally in force, hardly any of us professors would have jobs." In the New York Times column, Fish concludes his Churchill-exonerating analysis by claiming that he doesn't question the integrity of the committee leading the witch hunt, excusing their dishonesty with "they just got caught up in a circus that should have never come to town." Apparently Stanley Fish didn't see any of the lying douchenozzles on the stand, or read their vomit-inducing 125-page report trashing Ward Churchill's 30-year stint as polemicist laureate. Still, I appreciate Mr. Fish setting the record straight: Ward Churchill is not guilty of academic misconduct. I hope David Lane, Ward's wildly fabulous attorney, is gearing up to sue the stuffing out of the next bastard who publicly claims he is.

Churchill juror Bethany Newill explains

A few interesting things about the Ward Churchill jury came to light today (a sigh of relief from Pirate Ballerina!). The jury thought -- right up until the judge gave them their instructions -- they were to determine whether Ward Churchill was guilty of academic misconduct. When they realized they needed only to decide only whether the 9/11 essay was a substantial motivating factor in his dismissal, they agreed very quickly that it was. Although apparently the jury took their deliberations seriously, they didn't want to have anything to do with the damages portion of the process. They hoped the judge would do the job for them but when they found out that wasn't permitted, they gave it a half-hearted shot. This from Westword's interview with juror Bethany Newill: Once Judge Larry Naves reiterated that the jury had to tackle this task, Newill confirms that "the majority of us were in favor of giving him money," but they didn't know how much to award. "We were given a four-page set of rules to determine the amount, and there was also an option that we didn't have to do it. And one of the rules said there needed to be a preponderance of the evidence to show the financial effect it had on Ward Churchill. And there was no real dollar amount other than the loss of wages." Ultimately, the jurors followed the lead of David Lane, Churchill's attorney. "He said, 'What price can you put on a reputation?'" Newill remembers. "And we all decided that there's not a price you can put on a reputation. And even though this was protected speech, there are still consequences to your actions and your words. When Ward Churchill wrote that essay, he had to think that people would be affected by that, negatively or positively, and that he would need to reap the consequences on his reputation." Still, she emphasizes that "it wasn't a slap in his face or anything like that when we didn't give him any money. It's just that David Lane kept saying this wasn't about the money, and in the end, we took his word for that." No doubt, a jury of peers! Just not Ward Churchill's peers!

Tim DeChristopher on Democracy Now!

  Tim DeChristopher, a University of Utah disobedient civilian, was interviewed on Democracy Now! today. Amy Goodman asked him what relevance Edward Abbey had to his move to disrupt the bidding process for oil and gas leases in Utah's red rock country. His answer: I think that the most powerful relevance of Edward Abbey to what I did was his statement and really his expression of the idea that sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul, because I think that’s what I had seen throughout my work as an environmentalist previous to this, where I had seen this massive crisis and massive challenge that we were facing in climate change, and I saw that my efforts of writing the letter here and there and riding my bike and things like that weren’t really aligning. My actions weren’t aligning with my sentiment of how serious this threat was, and I knew that. And so, I felt that kind of conflict within myself. And when I stepped it up at this auction and was putting myself out there and winning all these parcels was really the first time I felt like my sentiment—or I felt like my actions were aligning with my sentiment. And I felt this tremendous sense of calm when I started doing that, because for the first time that conflict within me was gone, and I knew that when I was, you know, standing up and risking going to prison, my actions really were aligning with how big of a crisis this is. A grand jury indicted Tim DeChristopher Wednesday afternoon with two felony counts of violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Act. If convicted, Tim could face up to 10 years in the slammer. This, despite the fact that Ken Salazar cancelled the contested leases because the government failed to follow its own procedures, but more on that later! For now, tune in to KRCC at 7 to hear Tim (and then Noam Chomsky) on Democracy Now! tonight.

Churchill v Churchill

Closing arguments will be heard this morning in the Ward Churchill trial and then the case goes to the (very young and earnest) jury. Winston Churchill said "history is written by the victors" which has been a central thesis in much of Ward Churchill's work. It's scrumptiously ironic that when Ward Churchill wins his case against CU, he'll become a contributor to the "Master Narrative" he so despises. I'm guessing his chapter will be full of tales of brave Indiginists and murdering technocrats, white male regents and the soulless women who love them. Academia will be recast as the valiant protector of the ruling elite and the mighty slayer of free thought and open debate. The jury of young, multiracial unsophisticates will be consecrated as puissant defenders of justice. A few vindictive ex-wives and some illicit boys' room puffing may be tossed in to add color. When Ward Churchill prevails against the esteemed institution that called into question his academic integrity, his reputation as a scholar and a brilliant polemicist will be restored. More importantly, the master narrative will no longer be inscrutable. The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is. -- W. Churchill

Machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts

This weekend the kids and I watched Charlie Chaplin's brilliant 1940 movie The Great Dictator. The film was released before the United States' entry into World War II when our country was still at peace with Nazi Germany. Charlie Chaplin was an outspoken critic of Nazism and fascism while most Americans were either ignorant of or complacent about European goings-on. The Great Dictator is ingenious in its inexorable skewering of Hitler and Mussolini, done with complete levity and irreverance, a task made possible by Chaplin's lack of foresight into the coming Holocaust. He admits he likely wouldn't have made the film had he known about Hitler's final solution. Chaplin plays two characters in the film: Adenoid Hynkel (Adolf Hitler) and an obscure Jewish barber who resembles the great dictator. Chaplin undertook a meticulous study of Adolf Hitler's manner of speaking in preparation for the film, and some of the most brilliant scenes are of Hynkel's speeches, spoken in authentic German-sounding gibberish, delivered with all the wild-eyed passion, choking and spitting of Hitler himself. Hynkel is surrounded by cronies with amusing names: Goebbels is Herr Garbitsch (pronounced Garbage), Göring is Herr Herring, and leading the opposition is Benzino Napaloni -- a portmanteau of Benito Mussolini and Napoleon Bonaparte. In a plot twist near the end of the film, the Jewish barber is mistaken for Adenoid Hynkel and is called on to make a victory speech to thousands of Germans cheering the successful invasion of neighboring Osterlich (Austria). Bumbling to center stage completely unprepared, the imposter Herr Hynkel delivers this address to his buoyant followers: I'm sorry but I don't want to be an Emperor - that's not my business - I don't want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible, Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another, human beings are like that. We all want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery. We don't want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone and the earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful. But we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men's souls - has barricaded the world with hate; has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in: machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little: More than machinery we need humanity; More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost. The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women and little children, victims of a system that

professing to be wise they became fools

Israel's plan is to speak its truth to thousands, involve many and select and challenge a few for the purpose of reaching the world with their gospel. The result of the campaign is clear. Preying upon our hungry egos and hopeful self-importance, the Zionists have effectively co-opted Not My Tribe for their own purposes.   Congrats to you. You've chosen well, grasshopper. We'll stay up all night, all week, all month in your service.

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