Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Season of Change

Eric Otto

Al Gore is going to be in our town tomorrow, in the large basketball venue that we used to call the the Super Drum. I checked out the tickets and it looks like the good seats are gone, and the rest are going fast. I'll probably go anyway.

Not only are these tickets going fast, so is our climate, and the time we have to actually stop it from going into a runaway feedback mechanism.

Here is part of piece from Sharon Astyk that gives you an idea of how fast climate change has occured in the past.

"My husband, an astrophysicist who teaches environmental physics, also tracks the same material. And what, overwhelmingly I'm seeing, and most scientists seem to be seeing, is that global warming is progressing far faster than anyone would ever have expected. For example, as recently as this spring, the IPCC report was estimating that arctic ice might disappear in the summers as early as 2050, but more likely towards the very end of this century.

Research by James Hansen and other scientists at NASA projected an ice free arctic as early as 2023 this year, which stunned the scientific community.

In fact, however, this summer's ice retreat was so dramatic, that in, fact, the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center is now suggesting that the arctic could be ice free as early as 2015, 8 years from now. In less than six months, we've jumped our predictions for a major tipping point factor up by a minimum of 30 years. That's astonishing - and terrifying.

The IPCC's assessment of when major climate induced famines may occur originally focused on 2050, but yesterday the IPCC released a study suggesting that all agricultural production in Africa may halve in 12 years.

Given that Africa presently has millions of people struggling to feed themselves, we can only imagine how horrifying this may be. Or rather, we don't have to imagine it - almost all of us will live to watch it. India, set to become the world's most populous country, also stands to lose up to 40% of its agricultural production by mid-century. (clip)

According to James Hansen's most recent studies at NASA, an ice-free arctic would virtually ensure we pass the critical 2 degree mark, setting in motion a sea level rise of up to 25 meters.

A 1 meter rise could happen as early as 2019, 11 years from now, if sea level rises continue as predicted. Such a rise, incidentally, would do irreparable harm to American, Canadian, Australian and European coastal communities as well. clip

12,800 years ago, the Younger Dryas climate change occurred. It was the last great climactic shift of the great ice age, and is notable mostly because of its tremendous rapidity - in less 20 years, the world went from warm to cold, entering a 1300 year old ice age.

In Maine, over a decade, average temperatures dropped by 28 degrees. But believe it or not, that's not the disturbing bit of data. As Richard Alley, of Penn State University documents in his studies of Greenland ice cores, when the Younger Dryas ended, it did so even faster, within a decade. Fred Pearce quotes Alley as saying, "Most of that change looks like it happened in a single year. It could have been less, perhaps even a single season." more

Will our current leaders act now to immediately move to a Post Carbon economy to avert this calamity? With the exception of Mr. Gore, and a few others,

Probably not.

David Tattershall finishes his piece on rapid accelerated climate change with this:

"In truth, many people do not want to change and it has been established that to avoid change, four specific factors are used to influence human thinking: denial, escapism, scapegoating, and cynicism.

Warnings by Dwight D. Eisenhower (in his final speech) relative to the necessity to limit the power of the industrial/military complex have been long forgotten and if Rachel Carson were to publish ‘Silent Spring’ today it is most likely she would be hounded into the ground.

We are without leaders and thus it is totally implausible that until the disasters are well beyond comprehension, that anything will be done beyond the most marginal actions by the professional political community.

The consequence is quite simple: if one considers we are currently at 11:59 PM on the ‘doomsday clock’, then we are most certain to pass through midnight and start a new day. Some people have a tendency to react to such statements as a ‘doom and gloom’ scenario thereby employing denial and cynicism in the same breath. clip

Long before 12:01 AM the world, as we know it, will have been taken from us by our own neglect as stewards of this planet. The damage can be minimized and a new world can be created: potentially within a few hundred years, we could even restore the Holocene Period.

Right now, we have to deal with the mess, and either you will know how to steer through it, or you will become one of the many casualties."

Last thursday, during a dinner with a west texas land owner, I talked about how I believe that humankind will repond to the challenges that lay ahead; that humankind, as Churchill said of the Americans, will do the right thing once all the other alternatives have been exhausted.

I still believe that.

I just hope that our season of change,

comes before that other season of change.


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art courtesy of Eric Otto


Friday, September 28, 2007

These are the stakes.

Last night, Colbert had a guest from, a website that has all the old presidential TV ads back to 1952. They showed the famous daisy ad from 1964. As the mushroom cloud emerges from the little girl's eye, Lyndon is the voice from the grave.

These are the stakes: To make a world in which all of God's children can live or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die.

Colbert and his guest chuckled.

As things fall apart, no one pays much attention.

Jesus Buddha and the space between us that does not exist, maybe it's something as small as a prayer that will save us.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sohrab Sepehri, poetry and art

From Water's Footsteps

by Sohrab Sepehri, who lived from 1928-1980,
Water's Footsteps was published in 1965
(these are small excerpts from a longer piece
Translated by Karim Emami
Sent to earthfamilyalpha by our poet friend
Farideh Hasanzadeh in Tehran

I come from Iran.
I lead a modest life.
I earn a morsel of bread,
I have a bit of intelligence, an iota of taste.
I have a mother, better than the green leaf.
I have friends better than running water.

I am a Moslem.
My Mecca is a rose.
My mosque is a spring,
my prayer stone the light.
Fields make my prayer rug.

In this land, I am close to the damp anonymity of the grass.
I can hear the flower beds breathing,
And the sound of darkness, as it trickles down from the leaves.
And I can hear daylight coughing behind the trees.
And water sneezing out of every pore of the rock.

I am close to the beginning of the earth.
I feel the pulse of the flowers.
I am familiar with the wet destiny of water
and the green habit of trees.

I have never known two poplars to be enemies.
I have never seen a willow selling its shade to the ground.
The elm lets its branch to the crow for free.
Wherever there are leaves ,my enthusiasm blossoms.
A poppy plant has bathed me in the rapid flow of being.

Life is a pleasant custom.
Life's wings spread out as much as death's.
life leaps as high as love.
life is not something to be left behind by you or me
on the edge of the habit's shelf.

Wherever I am , let me be.
The sky is mine.
The window, the mind, the air, love, earth are all mine.
What does it matters
if mushrooms of nostalgia
grow from time to time?

I am a Moslem.
My Mecca is a rose.
My mosque is a spring, my prayer stone the light.
Fields make my prayer rug.

The Primeval Call

Translated to English by M. Alexandrian

Where are my shoes?
Who was it who called Sohrab?
It was a familiar voice like the touch of the wind on the leave.
My mother is asleep.
So are Manouchehr and Parvaneh and perhaps all the townsfolk.
The June night passes gently over seconds like an elegy,
And a cool breeze from the corner of the blanket sweeps my sleep.
It smells of separation:
My pillow is full of the song of the swallow plumes.

Morning shall break,
The sky will migrate
With this cup of water.

I must go tonight!
I who spoke to the folk in this region through the widest window,
Never heard a word that matched time;
No loving eye stared at the ground;
Nobody was enchanted by looking at the garden,
Nobody took a magpie seriously at a farm.
I am dejected like a cloud.
When I behold Houri - the neighbor's full grown lass -
Studying theology
At the foot of the rarest elm tree on earth.

There are other things also - moments of exaltation
(For example I saw a poetess
So absorbed watching the horizon
That the sky laid eggs in her eyes;
And one night out of other nights,
A man questioned me:
"How long does it take to the rising of grapes?)

Tonight I must go!
I must take a suitcase
Big enough to contain my shirt of loneliness
And walk in a direction
Where epic-singing trees can be seen;
Towards the vast wordless expanse which keeps calling me.
Someone called me again: Sohrab!,
Where are my shoes?

Sohrab Sepehri, poet and painter was born in 1928 in Kashan Iran. After obtaining his high school diploma, he attended and obtained a Bachelor of Arts from Fine ArtsFaculty of Tehran University. In the first twelve years after his graduation he worked in several government agencies while on the side pursuing his personal interest in poetry and painting. During these years he also traveled on numerous occasions to Europe, and Africa.

In 1964 he completely resigned from his governmental position and began focusing all his time and energy on poetry and painting. He moved and lived in USA for one year, and subsequently spent about two years living in Paris. During this time period he painted numerous paintings applying the same soft and gentle style, which can be found in his poems.

In 1979 he was diagnosed with cancer (lukemia) and for the last time he moved to England for treatment. A year later, in 1980, he passed away in Tehran and now he rests in his birthplace, Kashan.

He is regarded as one of Iran's most important modern poets.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Overcoming Paralysis

As all the nations and their leaders gather in New York, one leader stands above them all. He's the one that won, but didn't get selected.

Gore urges U.N. to "overcome paralysis" on climate

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore bluntly told a U.N. conference on Monday that the planet would be better off if people cared more about global warming and less about O.J. Simpson and Paris Hilton.

Gore, the star of the Oscar-winning film "An Inconvenient Truth," joined the head of the United Nations and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to speak with one voice to urge quick global action to stem emissions that heat the Earth.

But it was Gore, who has become a guru for environmentalists, who stole the show as the United Nations turned its attention to the global ramifications of climate change and the need to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

"We have to overcome the paralysis that has prevented us from acting and focus clearly and unblinkingly on this world crisis, rather than spending time on Anna Nicole Smith and O.J. Simpson and Paris Hilton," Gore said, drawing applause in referring to widely chronicled U.S. scandals. (clip)

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined that call to action in his remarks to about 80 world leaders who met to focus on the problem of climate change. "Today let the world know that you are ready to shoulder this responsibility and that you will address this challenge head on," he said."

And well they should, a recent BBC poll shows that "nine out of 10 people said action was necessary, with two-thirds of people going further, saying "it is necessary to take major steps starting very soon".

According to the conductors of the poll, Globescan President Doug Miller said growing awareness of global warming had awoken people's self-interest.

"The impacts of erratic weather on their property, on their person, on their country is tangible and real to people across the world."

He said "the strength of the findings makes it difficult to imagine a more supportive public opinion environment for national leaders to commit to climate action".

On Monday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the highest-level UN gathering on climate change that "the time for doubt has passed".

Mr Ban is hoping to inject a sense of urgency to the political negotiations on global warming that are due to be held in Indonesia in December. "If we do not act now, the impact of climate change will be devastating," he said.

Representatives from about 150 countries, including 80 heads of state or government, were at the meeting, held on the eve of the UN General Assembly.

However, US President George W Bush was not present. Instead, he is hosting a meeting of 16 "major emitter" countries in Washington on Thursday and Friday. (more)

Meanwhile, there is some possibililty that Mr. Gore will once again be in the limelight, should the Nobel Committee decide to award him the Peace Prize.

Who would have known that the Supreme Court

in its landmark decision of Bush vs Gore,

was really deciding War vs Peace?

Will we remain frozen in time?


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Introducing the President

(Parody of Lee Bollinger's shockingly rude introduction of The President of Iran at Colombia University, 9/24/07)

Suggested Introduction To the Honorable President Bush
At the United Nations Today:

Before introducing the President of the United States, I have a few critically important points to emphasize.

First, I want to emphasize the UN’s standing tradition of serving as a major forum for robust debate, especially on global issues. It should never be thought that merely to listen to ideas we deplore in any way implies our endorsement of those ideas or our weakness of our resolve to resist those ideas or our naivety about the very real dangers inherent in such ideas. It is a critical premise of civilized dialogue that we do not honor the dishonorable when we open our public forum to their voices; to hold otherwise would make vigorous debate impossible.

Second, to those who believe that President Bush should not be allowed to speak, I want to say that I understand your perspective and respect it as reasonable. The scope of free speech in geopolitics should itself always be open to further debate. As one of the more famous quotations about free speech goes, it is an experiment as all life is an experiment. I want to say, however, as forcefully as I can that this is the right thing to do, and indeed it is required by the existing norms of free speech in the world forum of the United Nations.

Third, to those among us who experience hurt and pain as a result of this President’s military and economic annihilation of your country, I say on behalf of all of us that we are sorry and wish to do what we can to alleviate it.

Fourth, to be clear on another matter, this event has nothing whatsoever to do with any rights of the speaker, but only with our rights to listen and speak. We do it for ourselves. We do it in the great tradition of openness that has defined this nation for many decades now. We need to understand the world we live in, neither neglecting its glories nor shrinking from its threats and dangers. It is inconsistent with the idea that one should know thine enemies, to have the intellectual and emotional courage to confront the mind of evil, and to prepare ourselves to act with the right temperament. In the moment, the arguments for free speech will never seem to match the power of the arguments against, but what we must remember is that this is precisely because free speech asks us to exercise extraordinary self-restraint against the very natural but often counterproductive impulses that lead us to retreat from engagement with ideas we dislike and fear. In this lies the genius of the idea of a world forum.

Lastly, this international body has a deep and almost single-minded commitment to pursue the truth. We do not have access to the levers of power, we cannot make war or peace, we can only make minds, and to do this, we must have the most fulsome freedom of inquiry.

Let me now turn to Mr. Bush.

First, on the brutal crackdown on scholars, journalists and human rights advocates. Tariq Ramadan, for instance, who is regarded as a leading moderate Muslim intellectuals, has had his visa revoked to teach at the University of Notre Dame under Section 411 of the Patriot Act, which permits the government to exclude non-citizens from the country if in the government’s view they have “used [their] position of prominence to endorse or espouse terrorist activity or to persuade others to support terrorist activity.

Let me say this for the record, I call on the president today to ensure that Tariq will be free to return to to his teaching position at Notre Dame. Let me also report today that 30 world universities have extended him a teaching position should his reinstatement be continually denied.

The arrest and imprisonment of these Islamic Americans for no good reason, the denial of habeas corpus, is not only unjustified, it runs completely counter to the very values that allow today's speaker to even appear at this forum.

According to Amnesty International, 41 people have been executed in the United States so far this year. Your criminal justice system affords different standards to whites and to people color. Just this week thousands of demonstrators gathered in Jena, Louisiana to protest against imprisonment of black children. The United States is one only six countries in the world that continues the barbaric practice of capital punishment.

More than 500 Iraqis a day since the US illegially invaded Iraq have been killed by the war mongering policies of this man.

There is more. The world witnessed the horror abu ghraib prison – bestiality, torture, sexual assault – where Iraqi citizens were locked up without any recourse to legal representation.

This has been done in the name of freedom — which is an insult to the intelligence to all the world’s peoples and to all the national leaders gathered here.

In this very room, we have seen Mr. Bush bring false evidence to justify war against Iraq, and today he is trying to do the same thing against Iran.

Let us then clear at the beginning. Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator. And so I ask you -- (applause) -- and so I ask you, why have people of color become targets of persecution in your country.

Why, has your government declared war on Science. Repeated Nobel Laureate protests and letters have decried your intolerance of any information you don’t yourself manifacture. Why are you so afraid of the citizens of the world, of facts?

I propose further that Mr. Bush let me lead a delegation of students and faculty from world universities to address your universities about free speech with the same freedom we afford you today.

Secondly, the denial of US backed proxy wars all over the globe – why do you deny your country’s complicity in the millions of deaths of indigenous peoples all over the world – the Iraq invasion of Iran which resulted in the deaths of more than 600,000 people is just one example.

And so I ask you --

Why did your country give Sadaam Hussein chemical weapons to use against Iran? Why do you deny this? Why did you support the Israeli invasion of Lebanon? Why does the US daily drop bombs on other people’s homes, countries? Why is it ok for the United States to be on it’s fifth generation of nuclear weapons, to refuse to abide by the nuclear arms treaty — but it is not acceptable for other countries to develop peaceful uses of atomic energy?

We challenge your nuclear arms race with whom? With yourself. You are the biggest rogue nation in history.

When you have come to a place like this, this makes you, quite simply, ridiculous. You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated. You should know -- (applause) -- please -- you should know that the United Nations is the world center of humanitarian relief – civil debate – negotiation. Why have you refused to speak to world leaders you don’t agree with, world leaders of countries whose natural resources you want to steal?

Why have you armed Israel? Why do you refuse to grant Palestinians the right to sleep in their homes without being bombed? Why do you insist that these people who had nothing to do with WWII and the holocaust pay the price of sins committed elsewhere, by other people. Why do you support the apartheid occupation of the Palestinian people?

Why do you fund terrorist invasions all around the world? According to reports of the Council on Foreign Relations, it's well-documented the United States and the Bush Administration is the largest state sponsor of terror on the planet.

Why do you deny your own gay and lesbian couples the right to marry? Why do you ban openly gay or lesbian people from the military? Why do women earn 30% less in your country than men for the same work? Why do your corporations exploit workers around the world?

My question is this: Why do you support well-documented terrorist organizations that continue to strike at peace and democracy in the Middle East, destroying lives and the civil society of the region?

Why has the United States consistently armed all sides of the sectarian conflict in Iraq? Why has it installed a corporate army in Iraq (Blackwater) which threatens the very sovereignty of the government Mr. Bush pretends to support?

Can you tell us why the United States is arming a proxy internal wars in Iraq which result in countless deaths every day of innocent civilians.

You continue to defy this world body by claiming a right to develop a nuclear weapons of mass destruction, which you are the only country on earth to have used. You continue to issue military threats to neighbors, instead of negotiation to solve international issues and conflicts.

Why does your country continue to refuse to adhere to international standards for nuclear weapons non-proliferation, in defiance of treaties? And why have you chosen to make the people of your country vulnerable to the effects of international economic disasters that threaten to engulf the world in nuclear annihilation?

Let me close with a comment. Frankly -- I close with this comment frankly and in all candor, Mr. President. I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions. But your avoiding them will in itself be meaningful to us. I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mindset that characterizes so much of what you say and do. Fortunately I am told by experts on your country that this only further undermines your position in your own country, with all the many good-hearted, intelligent citizens there.

A year ago, I am reliably told, your preposterous and belligerent statements in this country, as at one of the meetings at the Council on Foreign Relations, so embarrassed sensible citizens of the world that this led to your party's defeat in the upcoming elections. May this do that and more.

I am only one person.

And today I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for. I only wish I could do better.

Thank you.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Tilted Playing Field

From: No Justice: No Victory — The Death Penalty in Texas
by Susan Lee Campbell Solar, edited by Susan Bright
Excerpt from Chapter One: Tilted Playing Field

Race and capital murder charges

A report by the Government Accounting Office on racial bias in capital sentences included the observation that in 1993, for example, Texas had executed 17 men, 11 of whom were black, and the victims of 8 of those 11 had been white. The report inspired a provision in a 1994 Congressional House crime bill to allow “statistical evidence of racial bias in executions” to be used in defending minorities against capital charges. The provision was opposed by “national associations for attorneys general, district attorneys and law enforcement groups,” including Texas Attorney General Dan Morales, who said the provision “would effectively end the death penalty,” a deeply disturbing comment and conviction.

At the end of January 2001, 180 of the 439 men on Texas death row were black — about 41% in a state where the black population is less than 12%. Among women on death row, three of seven were black, for a similar percentage of 43%. Of the 39 men and one woman executed in the state in 2000, 40% were black — exactly the same proportion as of blacks executed in the nation that year. Between 1982 and 1999, of the 30,000 homicide arrests in the state, blacks were about a third. Hispanics constituted just under a third, and whites were arrested just slightly more frequently than blacks — despite the fact that whites were over 60% of the population. Blacks were arrested for murder at a rate almost three times their proportion (12%) of the citizenry. Whites were arrested at a rate about 40% lower than their proportion of the population. Beyond that, blacks were being condemned in even higher proportions (41% versus 33%) than the proportion of their arrests. Hispanics constituted 22% of the Texas men’s death row in 2001, a few percentage points less than their 25% proportion of the population, but much less than their arrests might lead one to expect.

It is easier to gain a capital conviction against someone with a prior felony record. A report, released in the fall of 2000 by the Justice Policy Institute, revealed that “one of three young black men (29% of the black male population between 21 and 29) are in prison, jail, probation or parole in Texas on any given day,” and that blacks “are incarcerated at a rate seven times greater than whites,” a rate that is “nearly 63% higher than the national incarceration rate for blacks.” In fact, blacks constituted 44% of the total prison and jail population of Texas, almost four times their representation in the total population.

Racial profiling at the street level may initiate a domino effect — arrests and jail time, even if brief, affect employment possibilities and personal finances, and this then makes police, judges and juries more likely to believe a person is guilty the next time around. Furthermore, blacks receive lower proportions of probationary sentences (21% of the total caseload) and are under-represented in substance abuse programs (27%) compared to their proportion of the incarcerated population.

Studies released in 2000 and 2001 by Building Blocks for Youth, backed by a coalition of groups including the American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Center and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, reveal “negative race effects at one stage or another of the juvenile justice process” which result in over-representation of youth of color in detention. These studies made the astounding observation that 82% of cases filed in adult courts were for minority youth.

The “Youth Crime/Adult Time” study, released in October 2000 by Dr. Jolanta Juszkiewicz, studied juvenile felony cases prosecuted in adult courts in 18 large urban areas in the US, including Harris County. One of the findings of the study was that, compared to the number of felony arrests of African-American youth, blacks were sent in higher percentages than whites to adult courts and were more likely to be held in adult jails pretrial, although they were granted lower bail than whites. They were also less likely to be represented by lawyers hired privately than whites. Eleven percent of blacks had private attorneys versus 21% whites. White youth were twice as likely to see their “charges reduced to a misdemeanor.” African Americans (58%) and Latinos (46%) were more likely than whites (34%) to be sentenced to jail, and if sentenced for whatever offense, African-Americans got longer sentences than Latino or white juveniles.

In Harris County 83% of juvenile cases filed in adult courts concerned minorities. “African American youth accounted for approximately one out of four felony arrests, but represented one out of two felony cases filed in criminal court.” All youth in Harris County who were detained awaiting trial were held in adult jails. There, only 36% of African-American youth and 33% of whites had private attorneys, versus 75% of the hispanic youth. All youth with private attorneys had a better shot at escaping conviction or getting transferred back to juvenile court, and — presumably because more had private attorneys — hispanics were more likely to receive split sentences or probation.

Marquart and Sorenson report that a person of any race who murders a white person is over five times more likely to wind up on death row in Texas than someone who kills a black. And while almost one of every four state homicide victims are black males, only about one in 200 of those put to death in the same era were there solely because they had killed a black male. In Texas, it hasn’t happened that a white has been executed for killing a black since pre-Civil War days, when a white man killed a plantation owner’s favorite slave and was hanged for stealing. In the United States through September of 1999, only 10 whites had been executed for killing blacks out of the 600 or so executed to that point since executions resumed in 1977.

Former Court of Criminal Appeals judge, Morris Overstreet, commented during a panel on capital punishment at the University of Texas Law School, Hemann Sweat symposium in April 2001, “There are no African American District Attorneys in Texas. Since prosecutorial discretion (judgment about whether to press capital charges and go to trial) is so important in deciding who gets the death penalty, that African American perspective needs to be there.” St. Mary’s Law School professor, Jeff Pokorak, authored a study in 1999 showing that 98% of the District Attorneys in capital cases in the U.S. are white — only 1% black.

People of color are also under-represented in the legal profession. In May of 2001 the Texas Bar Association’s membership was 11% people of color, whereas the population was 40% people of color. Only 3.6% of the Bar members were African-American, less than 6% Latino, barely over 1% Asian.

Overstreet suggested that “prosecutors should have to present to a judge a public statement whenever they don’t go for the death penalty when the facts show they could.” This would make racial imbalances in prosecutorial discretion more transparent. He also pointed out “not enough is done about the exclusion of African American jurors.” Defense attorneys say the Court of Criminal Appeals winks at these problems.

In the fall of 2000, the Texas Defender Service, a small non-profit group of attorneys who work on capital defense primarily at the appeals stage, released A State of Denial: Texas Justice and the Death Penalty. The study included an analysis of homicides between 1995 and 1999 in Montgomery County, a suburban and rural area northeast of Houston — 85% white, historically a conservative area sharing the racial and political views of East Texas.

East Texas is dominated by members of the Baptist Church and other fundamentalist Christian religious expression. It was the Texas slave and plantation center prior to the civil war. Between 1995 and 1999, nearly a third of the homicides in Montgomery County were against people of color, but none of those led to death sentences. In over 40% of the crimes against people of color there were no arrests, compared to a 92% arrest rate when the victims were white. While all but 10% of the cases involving white murder victims went to trial, including three that led to death sentences, the murders of seven Latinos in separate incidents led to only one arrest. The daughter of one black man killed when his home was invaded said she was treated rudely by the district attorney’s office, which didn’t even acknowledge her loss, in contrast with the intensive media coverage and solicitous treatment received by relatives of a white couple killed in similar circumstances. Clearly some victims were valued more than others.

One would like to believe Montgomery County is unusual, but it is widely acknowledged in Texas, and confirmed by studies, that the pattern is all too typical of the state, probably of the region and possibly of the nation. The Wall Street Journal reported in March of 2001 that of the 85 persons executed in the US in 2000, 40 were black while the percentage of blacks in the nation is less than 13%. Texas accounted for nearly half the total executions. 40% of those were black, neatly mirroring the national image, and the percentage of black males on Texas death row. A recent study in North Carolina of 502 homicides from 1993 through 1997 showed a similar pattern of racial discrimination. Murderers who kill white people are 3 1/2 times more likely to get the death penalty than those who kill nonwhites,” but the race of the killer doesn’t seem to affect the verdicts much.

To put this in national perspective, an analysis of the 707 executions in the United States until April 10, 2001, revealed that 83% of those capital cases involved white victims, although only 50% of the nation’s homicide victims were white. Thirty-five percent of the executed persons were black males, almost three times their proportion in the population as a whole. A 1998 report for the American Bar Association by Professor David Baldus found that the race of the victim mattered more in the South and the race of the accused mattered more in the North in capital prosecution and conviction. A Philadelphia study of homicides indicated blacks there received the death penalty at a rate 38% higher than others accused.

A Justice Department study of the federal death penalty released in September of 2000 showed “minorities account for 74% of the cases in which U.S. attorneys recommended the death penalty.” There were 19 federal death row inmates that year; 13 of those were black; six (five blacks and one hispanic) were from Texas.

Yale and Florida State University professor and NAACP assistant counsel George Kendall says, despite the 1972 Furman ruling which temporarily halted the death penalty on the suspicion that race played a role in its application, and in spite of subsequent attempts to write better laws “race is still a factor . . . . Since we can’t remove race from the death penalty, we should get rid of it.”

(Footnotes removed for space reasons, available upon request.)

No Justice — No Peace

From: Editor's Note: No Justice: No Victory, by Susan Bright

Susan Lee ran for governor against George W. Bush because she thought he was dangerous. When she first encountered him, he wanted to use Texas as a site to dump nuclear waste which indicated to her that he was uninterested in protecting the environment. He presided over the execution of more people than did most countries in the world during his time in office, which indicated to her that he didn’t mind killing people.

He came to power on a tough on crime platform that was an early manifestation of the politics of fear, as did his father. He worked to fast track habeas appeals because he thought habeas corpus law, which guarantees a citizen’s constitutional rights, was a waste of time. His take on clemency was the result of a complete misunderstanding of tripartite government. It didn’t’ bother him that people were condemned to die without evidence of their innocence ever making it into court. He didn’t much care about evidence.

It didn’t bother him that his state executed people who were under age, mentally ill or mentally incapable of understanding their situation or crime. It didn’t occur to him that prosecutors, judges and investigators should be held accountable if they contributed to wrongful convictions. George W. Bush believed the system which had elevated him to office worked just fine. Susan Lee didn’t.

She wanted to finish the book before the 2000 election, but the scope of the work was overwhelming. When I began work on it in the summer of 2002, George W. Bush was in office and 9/11 had scared America senseless. We closed our eyes as he fast tracked trade agreements that sent our jobs overseas.

The Patriot Act made short work of the constitutional rights of many Americans. Non-military combatants were being held in Guantanamo Bay. Arab Americans had been arrested and held without being charged, no word to families or friends, all over America, and George W. Bush was clamoring to invade Iraq, which has to date resulted in the death of between ten and thirteen thousand civilians and a thousand American soldiers.

When the Abu Ghraib prison scandal hit the world press, it read to me like the next chapter in Susan Lee’s book.

Now that I have arrived at the end of what seemed along the way to be an endless work, I realize the stories Susan chose to tell in depth were harbingers. Gary Graham (Shaka Sankofa) thought of himself as a political prisoner. The world saw Odell Barnes in the same way, not because either of them were above fault or started out in politics, but because they were black, poor, on death row and spoke out about their situation. Michael Toney was convicted of a terrorist bombing just after the 1998 Anti-terrorism and Death Penalty Act. Evidence against him was primarily hearsay, later contradicted by facts yet to make to before a jury.

Pablo Melendez was a gang kid so messed up from sniffing paint he didn’t remember whether he did the crime or not, but it was good politics to get gang members off the street. Larry Robison endured the devastating mental illness we call paranoid schizophrenia and slipped through the holes in the Texas mental health system, which ranks last in the country. He was violent only one day in his life, the day he killed six people, for their own good, because the voices said to do it.

What links these men condemned to die in a system George W. Bush braggs about, to the fundamental horror of American foreign policy under his administration is that in both circumstances people die from state sanctioned retaliatory acts of vengeance which result, with alarming frequency, from incompetence, racism, and/or because of an astounding disregard for evidence and human rights.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

How Peace Comes

I'm still in the time machine. Here is an oldie from over two years ago.
Today is the equinox. Sun rises and sets due east and due west.

Is there anything an individual can do to stop the impending war?:

War is the spectacular and bloody projection of our everyday life, is it not?

War is merely an outward expression of our inward state, an enlargement of our daily action. It is more spectacular, more bloody, more destructive, but it is the collective result of our individual activities. Therefore, you and I are responsible for war and what can we do to stop it?

Obviously the ever-impending war cannot be stopped by you and me, because it is already in movement; it is already taking place, though at present chiefly on the psychological level. As it is already in movement, it cannot be stopped- the issues are too many, too great, and are already committed.

But you and I, seeing that the house is on fire, can understand the causes of that fire, can go away from it and build in a new place with different materials that are not combustible, that will not produce other wars. That is all that we can do.

You and I can see what creates wars, and if we are interested in stopping wars, then we can begin to transform ourselves, who are the causes of war.

Obviously what causes war is the desire for power, position, prestige, money; also the disease called nationalism, the worship of a flag; and the disease of organized religion, the worship of a dogma. All these are the causes of war; if you as an individual belong to any of the organized religions, if you are greedy for power, if you are envious, you are bound to produce a society which will result in destruction.

To bring about peace in the world, to stop all wars, there must be a revolution in the individual, in you and me. Economic revolution without this inward revolution is meaningless, for hunger is the result of the maladjustment of economic conditions produced by our psychological states – greed, envy, ill-will and possessiveness.

To put an end to sorrow, to hunger, to war, there must be a psychological revolution and few of us are willing to face that. We will discuss peace, plan legislation, create new leagues, the United Nations and so on and on; but we will not win peace because we will not give up our position, our authority, our money, our properties, our stupid lives.

What will bring peace is inward transformation which will lead to outward action. Inward transformation is not isolation, is not a withdrawal from outward action. On the contrary, there can be right action only when there is right thinking and there is no right thinking when there is no self-knowledge. Without knowing yourself, there is no peace.

If you realize the suffering, if you see the urgency of immediate action and do not postpone, then you will transform yourself; peace will come only when you yourself are peaceful, when you yourself are at peace with your neighbour. J. Krishnamurti1948, second public talk, Bangalore, India

Scott Ritter, former UNSCOM weapons inspector says that the geographic state of the United States is going to War with Iran in June.Seymour Hersh, the award winning jounalist is saying the same thing.The POTUS says it is rediculous.

You can say that again.

This will be a real war,

Not some video game

that you watch on CNN.

It's the oil you know.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Iraq Moratorium

The Iraq Moratorium is about to begin. Initiated by antiwar activists from several groups around the country, it calls for local, decentralized, personal action or statements against the ongoing war and occupation of Iraq on the 3rd Friday of every month. This Friday, Sept. 21st, is the first of what promises to be a growing movement in the coming months.

United for Peace and Justice is enthusiastically supporting this effort. The delegates at our National Assembly a few months ago agreed: It is critically important to offer as many opportunities for a wide range of people to express their opposition to this horrendous, criminal war.

The idea is simple: Everyone, wherever you are, should try to do something that publicly says, "I am against this war -- and I want it to end now!"

The Iraq Moratorium is something everyone can get involved with, either as an individual or as part of a group. Here are just a few ideas for what you can do:

1) Wear an antiwar button or sticker to work or school.

2) Wear a black armband to let people know you mourn the overwhelming loss of life in this war.

3) Hang an antiwar sign in your window, or put one on your lawn.

4) Call a local radio talk show and explain why you want this war to end.

5) Today, or tomorrow, write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper and let people know about the Iraq Moratorium and how they can get involved.

6) With just a few people, you can make a large antiwar sign or banner and hang it from a busy overpass where people traveling to or from work will see it, or from some other highly visible location.

7) Put together a small group to stand vigil in front of a military recruiting station, your local federal building, or the office of your senator or representative in Congress.

8) Call the Washington, DC, offices of your senators and your representative.

For more information about the Iraq Moratorium, visit:

And remember, if you are planning anything that others are welcome to join, please be sure to post it on UFPJ's online calendar.

We encourage each of you getting this message to do something as part of the first day of the Iraq Moratorium this Friday, Sept. 21st!

And don't forget: United for Peace and Justice has initiated a call for a massive national mobilization against the war on Saturday, October 27th. This mobilization will be different from others -- instead if everyone going to Washington, DC, there will be 11 regional actions spread out across the country. In the coming weeks we will be sending you more details, and we encourage you to check for updates.

Save the date! Saturday, October 27th
National Mobilization to End the Iraq War!
11 Massive Demonstrations for Peace!

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Time Machine

Yesterday I pulled the trigger on the plane tickets, the car, and the hotel.

I'm going back to my home town for my fortieth class reunion.

I'm not sure how this can be true.

After all, I am still a young man,

at least somewhere in me I am.

And when I get there, there will be a bunch of old, fat, wrinkled people

who will probably act and talk just like they did

when we really, actually were young.

My old home town has not changed that much either.

Progress is a very slow train in small town America.

You don't knock down perfectly good depreciated buildings

to build brand new undepreciated shoddy shells

just because it makes sense according to the tax code.

No, you use the building until it just can't be used any more.

In this world where progress marches to a different drummer,

I suspect that the things that I will be talking about this weekend

will not be that different from the issues we talked about then.

We will talk about people, each other, our parents, and maybe

a little about our lives, our real lives.

A few will talk about the giant wind farms that are now planned

for the area, and how it will help rejuvenate the economy.

A few will remember my first wind project there

Where I first sold electricity to the utility 27 years ago..

I suspect that virtually no one there thinks much about climate change,

or resource depletion, or their President on the War Path.

(Even though Jay says I will be pleasantly surprised)

I suspect that only a few will have their computers with them.

The businessmen will have their palm pilots of course,

and many of the women will have their Rolex watches on.

Perhaps a few will know what a blog is,

But only one or two will read them or get their news from the web.

Many of them, like me, left when they were young,

and they moved to places like Dallas and Houston.

But quite a few will still be living in the area, in Amarillo,

or perhaps in Lubbock.

Last January, Stone Phillips had a segment on 20/20

about our football team, our beloved Fighting Harvesters.

Friday night, I will see the old green and gold

for the first time in fourty years.

And they will be, like me,

transfixed in a time machine,

that moves in the slow deliberate beat,

of each eternal moment of time,

through the soft warm glow

of our immortal ageless hearts,

and our timeless transcendent minds of light.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Solar Reality

As we continue to hurdle towards World War III, so that we can control the Persian Gulf, so that we can burn more oil, and ultimately set the entire biosphere of the earth on fire, some of us are working everyday to get large amounts of solar and wind energy on the ground, and in the air, and in the energy mix right now. Others are working equally hard to keep more coal plants, more nuclear plants, and more car city investments from being made.

If you see the 11th Hour, which I did last night, you will likely come to the conclusion that moving boldly forward, on a real wartime basis, against the real enemy (ourselves) is the only course that any of us should be pursuing at this moment in history.

To that end, here is some good news for affordable solar energy today.

Ausra secures Series A funding to build and operate utility-scale solar thermal electric power plants

Khosla Ventures and Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers back technology and utility veterans in making renewable energy price competitive with fossil fuels.

DAVIS, Calif.—Sept. 10, 2007—Ausra Inc., the developer of utility-scale solar thermal power technology, has secured more than $40 million in funding from Silicon Valley venture capital firms Khosla Ventures and Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers (KPCB). The company has assembled a world-class team of solar power scientists, power project developers and financiers to make reliable, large-scale solar thermal power a reality today for electric utilities.

"Worldwide, the electric power industry creates 40 percent of total carbon emissions, and electricity use is rapidly growing. Ausra's technology serves a critical need for utilities seeking large-scale affordable sources of clean power to meet the dual challenges of economic growth and carbon constraints," said Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures and Ausra investor and board member. "Ausra's technology replaces smoke with mirrors by eliminating fuel use for power generation, and sets a new benchmark for the cost and scale of solar power."

Ausra's power plants drive steam turbines with sunshine. Locally manufactured solar concentrators made of steel and glass focus sunlight to boil water, generating high-pressure steam that drives conventional turbine generators. New thermal energy storage systems using pressurized water and low cost materials will provide for on-demand generation day and night.

Ausra's core technology, the Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector (CLFR) solar steam generation system, was originally conceived in the early 1990s by founder David Mills while at Sydney University. Mills later worked with Graham Morrison to develop the idea between 1995 and 2001.

Ausra aims to expedite the utility industry's transition to clean energy, helping utilities meet renewable portfolio standards while keeping rates low and the power on for consumers day and night. "Economic development around the world, coupled with recognition that carbon emissions must rapidly be eliminated, has created an enormous market opportunity for companies that can deliver solar power at large scale and at reasonable cost," says KPCB Partner and Ausra investor and board member Ray Lane.

"Solar thermal power is the main event in renewable energy, and Ausra has the deep expertise and a simple, yet effective, design to fully capitalize on the opportunity to deliver the majority of our future power needs."

The thing I like about this technology is the way it uses materials. The glass is not curved and is therefore easier to make and less expensive. The glass tilts to the correct angle by rolling on its circular mount. This too should eliminate complexity.

If Ausra can deliver "Utility scale power at market prices", then this technology will be deployed by utilities as they begin to shift their generation portfolios to non carbon emitting sources.

Meanwhile, I opened up the paper yesterday to find a big story about T Boone Pickens and his giant wind farm and Warren Buffet and his transmission lines to connect them up.

The right people are finally getting in the right business.

Now, we must stop the criminal right

from committing the wrong of war,

In the face of The Solar Reality.



Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Rolling Stone

Sunday night, we listened and swayed as Bob Dylan sang to at least 60 thousand of "his friends" in our park on the lake in the middle of town. The crowd sang with him as his aged, scratchy voice gave what it had to give.

How does it feel?
To be on your own,
with no direction home,
a complete unknown,
like a rolling stone."

We were up close to the stage and the moment was full.

Tears shot out of my eyes,

like water from a spring, after a foot of rain.

Earlier, I had mentioned that music, especially big music,

from giant corporate stages, is a double edged sword.

It can raise our consciousness, and bring us to higher

more refined, sublime levels of consciousness.

But, it can also distract us from the truth of things.

For as we listened to Dylan, there were others,

perhaps 100,000, who marched in Washington,

against an illegal and immoral War.

Over the weekend, a friend and reader from the left coast sent me a piece that captures how I suspect a lot of us are feeling these days.

"This week I began to feel that I was in a parallel reality; maybe on the prow of a ‘Titanic’ heading straight for an iceberg ‘full speed ahead.’ (edit) When I turned to shout the warning, everyone was drinking Martini’s at the party, which I had decided was less important than staying alive. (perhaps not)

The press release for the Arctic on September 10 was a continuation of very bad news with more ice lost in an already record season. But reading on, the bulletin discussed the appearance in the Arctic Ocean of warm water from both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans; particularly along the Siberian Coast.

In a country that seems incapable of connecting the dots I found this terrifying. Siberia has major peat bogs that have enough methane to literally turn the planet into a raging inferno. These bogs have been sealed for over 11,000 years by permafrost, but the heat in the Arctic is melting that seal, and the warm water will only accelerate the process.

If the peat bogs follow the ice cap into a ‘feedback loop’ it is very difficult to imagine how anything living will survive on earth and Hansen’s fear of a run-away climate resulting in a ‘Venus’ end for Earth is a very high probability.

Then there was Hurricane Humberto! Read the text below:

“To put this development in perspective, no tropical cyclone in the historical record has ever reached this intensity at a faster rate near landfall,” said senior hurricane specialist James Franklin at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Meteorologists dismissed the idea that Humberto's rapid growth was the result of global warming.

Are these people mad, controlled, or just incompetent?

Let’s connect the dots: the Gulf Stream has slowed at least 30%; as a direct result less heat is being pulled out of the Gulf; the Gulf has been subjected to exceptionally warm weather, and it is hotter than it ever has been (this is a consequence of climate change); hurricanes strengthen over warm water and weaken over cold water; so why dismiss global warming?

Then, we have General David Petreaus and Ambassador Crocker testifying before congress. I am sure Petreaus is a decent man, in his own way, but please, when asked if his troop cuts matched the necessary draw down due to inadequate replacements and strain on the armed forces, he stated that he hadn’t asked about the availability of personnel.

In the same session he assured the nation, supported by Crocker, that twenty of the finest minds available had put his new plan together. Not one Senator asked the obvious question that the lowliest manager in the nation would have faced, “Are you telling us General that your team put a plan together without checking the status of the resources to accomplish that plan?”

Yes, its true, the lies, and the uncanny nature of things

just go on, and on, and on, and on.

Until they don't.

But mostly, I marvel at our collective ability to manage

the cognitive dissonance

between a real global war, and species threatening climate change

with a rock concert with AMD balloon balls bouncing on our heads.

In fairness, one concert goer didn't.

He took out his knife and punctured the bouncing black balloon

leaving it to an ignomonious deflated death on the littered turf.

How does it feel?

Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you?
People'd call, say "Beware doll, you're bound to fall"
You thought they were all kiddin' you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin' out
Now you don't talk so loud
Now you don't seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal

How does it feel

How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?


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Monday, September 17, 2007

Women For A Better World

* Stephanie Hiller arriving in Kabul, August, 2007

Report: Women in Afghanistan

In 2002 I met Stephanie Hiller
at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre,
Brazil. We shared a small room in a nunnery
several miles from the main events where
several hundred thousand activists from all
over the world met for a week for meetings,
workshops, and to hear speakers from all
over the world who gathered to manifest the
theme: Another World Is Possible.

Lula had just been elected. People were dancing
in the streets. He'd been one of the originators
of the World Social Forum, a street kid himself,
who grew up to be president, a president
with a different vision of global possibilities.
The day we flew out of Porto Alegre, Bush
began bombing Afghanistan.

This week, Stephanie returned from Afganistan
where she met with members of the
Afghan Women's Empowerment Project (AWEP).

Read her story here.

Here's an article from the Asia Times about
the Afghan Peace Process. Apparently the women
of Afghanistan aren't the only ones concerned by
the prospect of the US, the Afghans and the
Pakistanis brokering a deal with the Taliban.

Susan Bright, 2007

Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-ninety books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.

Announcement: The Plain View Press e-store is online.