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Monday, August 20, 2012

The Glass-Steagall Act

The Glass Steagall Act was designed to protect us from the greed of bankers through regulation.  It was passed in the 1930's as a result of the major stock and banking collapse to regulate the financial industry and dismantled later at the prompting of banking lobbyists to allow the kind of activity that lead to  our recent financial collapse.  Instead of rules to protect the economy, bankers expect to be bailed out when there speculation goes awry.   This is a link to apetition asking for The Glass Steagall Act to be reinstated.   

Saturday, August 18, 2012


I noticed her walking "The Ave", as the non-avenue, University Street, near Seattle's University of Washington campus is known.  Then I saw her sitting at a table in the neighborhood Tully's Coffee Shop.  Or perhaps I should saying sitting over, her head and hair hovering over the table as a result of her weak and deformed back.  Perhaps an extreme case of  osteoporosis, or perhaps something else.  I didn't have the medical knowledge to know.   An old women with long grey here, hunched over completely, almost as through she could break in two. She looked incapable of standing erect.  And old woman in dress and attachments, the classic bag lady.  One look at her sufficient to evoke sorrow for suffering humankind.

Nightly, I do a bible study, inclusive of reading the gospels. That night the gospel spoke to me about her. I opened the pages of Luke and it spoke to me.  In chapter 13, v.10-17 it spoke to me about her.  There we find Jesus teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath. v. 11-13 reads "And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit; she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect.  When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said , 'Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.' He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God."  The remainder of the section is a dispute between Jesus and those who think he should not heal on the sabbath, where he triumphs by saying she has been set free from bondage.  I prayed for her.

Another day, while I waited for my morning bus for work and was feeding quarters into a newspaper vending machine, I saw her walking down the street.  She was asking people for something, but I couldn't hear what she said.  A couple people walked away from her.  After I pulled my newspaper out of the machine, I stepped away from it towards her and said, "I'm sorry I couldn't here what you asked."  She pushed forward a card in her hand and said, I want to sell my Mcdonalds gift card, because I need money.  I said, "I'm sorry, I don't usually eat there", but then I gave her a dollar.  Suddenly she rose nearly erect and said "Thank you" before resuming her posture.  Heal.

Declensions of Virtue

Faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love, writes the Apostle Paul. In the development of theology in the church these three became known as the theological virtues.

But while grouped together both in scripture and tradition these three have often been separated by theological disputes and the disposition of believers.   Some shout for salvation by faith alone and it's companion--solo scriptura. Some place all their marbles on hope, as if salvation were a gift of humanist psychology.  Others, using some mangled near universalism,   seize on the smallest charitable act or sentiment of brotherhood as absolute proof that people totally alienated from the gospel are just as saved as the greatest Christian saints, and that what you believe has absolutely no bearing.

The last is a rootless love, destined to topple as surely as a tree whose roots have rotted through.  The sentiment of love without a relationship with God is dying.   Faith without hope and love is a dark dead end  alley, where we box ourselves in thinking God is there.  Hope without faith and love is merely despair on Prozac.

True faith is a walk, like a marriage; an ongoing relationship that bears fruit.  We have to view faith, hope and love in the nature of the Trinity:  That the Father loved the Son and the love that existed between them was the Holy Spirit.  These three theological virtues are declensions, in human terms, of the relationships within the Trinity, which is always, ultimately, love. Hence, because faith and hope are never divorced from ,love, the three are declensions, each of the other. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Will you help Farmworkers Today?

Since I was quite young I have supported, and will continue to support, the just struggles of farmworkers.  Here is a very simply way to help.

Tomato workers are close to getting a contract after waiting 23 yrs. Will you sign the petition?

Wyatt Earp and Commonsense Gun Control

In the aftermath of the killings  a Colorado theater, a Seattle coffee shop over the past few years at Congresswoman Giffords rally in Tuscon it's time to reconsider our polices toward guns.  America has a Cowboys and Guns mythos that hangs over every effort traditionally discuss guns.  For many Americans, gun ownership, our most dangerous right, is also considered our most absolute right.   Historical untruths and legal fictions abound on the subject and  are even accepted by our legislative and judicial leaders.

The first the Second Amendment right of retaining guns was provided to "The People", not to individuals.

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

 In the legal parlance of the day, the terms "The People" was a collective, not an individual term, and the practice of the militias reflected that.  While in rural areas and small towns, militia members were usually allowed to take there guns home, in large cities armories existed to store weapons.  While congress required able bodied men, at one point, to buy a gun for militia duty, the insane and were usually forbidden gun ownership. Most of our founding fathers thought of the right as invested in the collective people, not individuals.  The only supreme Court interpretation of the  Second Amendment, U.S vs Miller, 1939, held the individual rights to gun ownership provided  under the amendment contingent on their usefulness to a civil militia (which have now been replaced by state National Guards).   So if any constitutional right to personal gun ownership  exists it is under the tenuous ninth amendment, that simply says that other rights that exist, still exist.  You have a right, for instance, to mobility, but that don't give you an unlimited right to a drivers licence.

The second great source of the idea of the right to gun ownership was the ever expanding American west.  As pioneers, trappers, traders, farmers, ranchers, etc pushed westward and settled land, the gun went with them.  Guns were not not necessarily viewed here as having anything to do with militias, but more with personal protection, hunting and property protection. Even a Quaker pacifist would be ill advised to wander among grizzly bears without protection.    If we take a Common Law view of the evolution of rights, we could hold that the practice of the American west established and conferred some right to use guns for these purposes, independent of the second amendment.

 But rights that evolve in this manner also evolve with terms, conditions and limits. In fact the one absolute thing we can say about rights, conferred by document or practice, is that there are no absolute rights.

In the face of the myth of the free wheeling, gun toting, fire at will American cowboy, let us remember a real American hero, Wyatt Earp.  Wyatt Earp was a true hero of the post civil war west.  His older brothers had fought in the war and he sought out being a lawman as a way to live out some of the pro-union values they fought for.  Gun slinger image aside, there is one thing that Earp was always insistent on.  He was, everywhere he worked in law enforcement,  a gun control advocate.  In both Dodge and Tombstone he got passed by local government and enforced rules requiring people to park their guns when they came into town.  What he saw was that hard working cowboy getting drunk at the local saloon and that guns and booze didn't mix.  His famous shoot out at O.K.Corral was all about enforcing the local gun control law against the wishes of an unruly family of free range riders.

The ammo clips that Jared Loughner used in his killing spree had been previously outlawed under the automatic weapon controls that have expired. The shooters in recent Seattle and Colorado shooting bought weapons and ammo legally, even though there mental health was rapidly disintegrating.  Please, in honor of both Wyatt Earp and the victims of this senseless tragedy, let us pass into law legislation to outlaw the kinds of ammo clips and weapons used in these tragedies again  them again.    Let us lengthen the waiting periods for guns, regulate handgun ownership and private weapons sales tightly, and put better controls on mental health and criminal records issues pertaining to buying guns.  If Wyatt Earp were still a law man in Arizona, we might have a fearless advocate for common sense gun control there.  Instead we will have to supply that voice.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Drought Grows More Perilous

Last week I gave a worst case assessment of the effects of the drought on corn, soy and other crops, and it's potential political effect as hunger grows.  Now evaluations of the damage to the corn crop are moving in my direction, but the media is still underplaying it's potential effect on hunger.

Poverty in this country has returned to the early 1960's level and hunger near that as food stamps, in real dollars, don't stretch to feed low income families.  Last month the government said that food prices will increase by 3-4%, now they are admitting to more, but they say it doesn't matter because people will adjust by changing what they will by.  With the House trying to cut back on food stamps, I have to ask for poor families to what: white rice and potatoes? Meat and dairy, corn flakes, prepared foods, etc will soon be out of reach for the a wider segment of low income of people.

Meanwhile 20% of our corn crop is committed to the production of ethanol, when much more efficient sources for ethanol are available.    This when PBS reports last night that half  the U.S. is plagued by the drought. (

Again we call on Congress to increase, not decrease, resources for food and to post pone cuts to farm subsidies, or implement a better, rational system of agricultural management now.  In addition we need to reduce the percentage of our grain crop invested in corn and increase the percentage of corn that is drought resistant. For years it has been known that our corn crop was vulnerable to drought by comparison with high desert forms of corn, such as the Hopi Blue Corn and Hopi Red Corn .  (See:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Giving it Away For Free

Making life more comfortable in the margins of America depends on a few freebies now and then.  I've written about dumpster diving a few times in the past, but there is my passion for free piles, both the giving and receiving ends of them.  

Once I prayed to God for 3 free things that I needed, then went out to the corner the next day and found those three things and only those three with a sign that said "free".  Living in the University district when the students move, free piles appear.  When I do spring clean I reciprocate. I have been know to dumpster dive and take clothing I didn't need, wash it, and put it out with a free sign.

And then there are the oddities of freebies.  Eventually they will take almost anything, and sometimes sooner than you think.  I have an old TV once that "snowed" a little.  If you banged it the snow went away.  So I put it out with a sign saying, This is a good waiting for your unemployment check to come in TV, but sometimes you have a bang it a little."  When I went down with more stuff five minutes later it was gone.    I think it was a drive by snatcher, but my sign told the truth...

My landlord once put out a piece of furniture that had some nice drawer handles on it.  It disappeared quickly, but showed up the next day without the handles.  That doesn't seem like fair play. 

More and more Americans are redistributing our glut manufactured items to those in need through free piles and free lists on line, or similar means. I encourage such sharing, but be careful to examine furniture and such for little tiny blood spots or small black insect bodies --i.e. bed bug infestation. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Ravenna Creek

The rooming house where I live  is near Ravenna Creek Park, which was once an old logging area.  The park has suffered ecological set backs through the years and is being  restored.  It includes an entry subset park called Cowen Park, which is an open area suitable for  things like frisbee tossing, a baseball area, a picnic area, and lots of hiking trails under heavy canopy.  It touches on the Ravenna neighborhood, the University District, Roosevelt and University Park areas. It has two bridges over it.

I have been taking pictures of the park and surrounding urban area as a wildness/development contrast, looking especially for quirky shots. This doesn't have a lot to do with the theme of  the blog, but it's fun.
I'm presenting part 1 of the photo essay here  I am also working on a photo essay on homelessness, but that may take more time.

A neighborhood grocery about a block from the park.

This grocery/cafe is typical of the relaxed atmosphere in the surrounding neighborhood.

One of the two bridges over the park, this one is reserved for pedestrians and bicyclists.

A stairway down from the picnic area to the trail area.

There are many old gnarled trees with interesting trunks and holes.


A side pond.

A tree fungus.

Under one of the bridges. 

Friday, August 3, 2012 - Bain Capital: Save American Jobs - Bain Capital: Save American Jobs:

'via Blog this'

A Heart in the Hands of God

A former pastor of mine, Fr. Michael Sweeney, O.P. used to say that a Dominican is permitted one heresy per homily, and he had better know which statement it is. As a blogger in a Dominican run parish I fell entitled to toy with a heresy now and then in a blog, and I very much do know where it is.  Bear with me, faithful readers, while I push through this heresy to the truth.

It has come to me, in reflected on the repeated references to faith and love in gospels and epistles what an unresolved dilemma of priority this poses to believers. We are saved by faith. Charity is required of us.

I imagined my dilemma brought to a head  by the appearance of an angel of God posing a question. The angels says you must lose either your faith  or your love and you must choose.  You will be punished in measurement to your choice.  Which do you choose to forfeit?

I would tell the angel that I forfeit faith because I know I would be punished more severely for lack of love than for lack of faith.  And because I know that love, being the greater virtue, may eventually restore my faith, but faith without love is a horrible dark dead end.   And so accordingly I place my heart in God's hands. Pray for me dear reader, that I place the proper priority on things. 

Wither Goes the Corn?

One of the most under played news stories in the national media right now is the potential impact of the mid-western drought on food security in the United States.  According to Forbes 75% of food on supermarket shelves has corn in it.  Having already destroyed, stunted or delayed much of the corn crop, the heat is now working it's way on the soybean crop.  The Agriculture Dept conservative estimate is that food prices will rise by 3-4% this year as a result. 
However this is based on the current, incomplete assessment of the drought's impact on corn and other crops.This drought is a new phenomenon-- a global warming drought based on fundamental alteration of weather patterns.  Already about one quarter of the country is in severe drought. Other estimates of potential price impacts range as high as 15% and the latent fear that eventually, for a time, the U.S. may become a net importer of food may play havoc with the crop futures market.  Food inflation may undermine economic recovery. 

The problem is magnified by the current rightest orientation of the House of Representatives, for whom no ideological stonewalling of reality  is too great.  The house is tampering with food security by  undermining crop subsidies and cutting food stamps. If the extent of crop loss is no greater than currently envisioned we will skate by with the usual increase in hunger and misery for the poor.  If the disaster proves epic while Congress runs in the other direction, by spring we may have food riots and demonstrations beginning in poor neighborhoods. If Romney is elected, having already shown his response to Occupy demonstrators as less than civil, and with his money ensconced abroad, expect the demonstrators to be crushed rather than placated.  Wither goes the corn: to seeds of discontent.