Women’s Rights

What is needed is a constitutional amendment that says that government shall pass no law that legislates a person’s physical body – its form, appearance, intelligence, or composition. The physical body is the most personal space an individual has; one that must be lived with 24/7. It is indeed oppressive to have someone legislate this at a distance.

Interestingly, such an amendment would also prohibit the death penalty, and allow humane euthanasia when a person wishes it.

I think the court ruled consistent with the Constitution as it stands. I think that the minority voice rightly represented the majority sentiment of the country, in the interest of peace.

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Dealing with the Tragedy in Uvalde

It is so hard to see the 19 young innocent lives taken in this tragedy. How to make peace with the situation so that it does not happen again?

Not knowing what the motivation was, one looks at the fact that it was a school. Perhaps this was a frustration at a lack of access to education? I looked at those communities where education disparities are enormous in our country and sent a donation for summer school supplies to children that might otherwise drop out. As if money could solve the problem. Social barriers are also significant. Bullying. Lack of access to mental health. How is it that a young boy could drop out of school and not have mental health support?

And then there is the seemingly close temporal and spatial proximity to the NRA convention. Did someone want us to rethink gun laws? In the context of the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, one realizes that even a very stable superpower like Russia can destabilize and induce conflicts that could otherwise have been prevented. The fact that the Russians are armed with nuclear weapons is disconcerting given that they have threatened to use them.

We are funding a massive armament of Ukrainians to fight the Russians, and the fighting has grown so intense that now, the Ukrainians can’t stop with what would otherwise have been a pretty awesome deal when Kiev was under siege. They want it all. It seems to me that when people have invested so many lives in a conflict, that some compromise is needed. The Russians need to save face or we will have reactionary crises like WWII.

The more I think about the Uvalde tragedy, the more I wonder whether the crisis happened precisely because a young Spanish-speaking boy dropped out of school and hence off of the radar. One doesn’t know for sure that there wasn’t an attempt to address his phone message threat by getting the car off of the road i.e. was he really the one who crashed his own (or probably his family’s?) car? If so, why could the same satellite intervention not disable his weapons and lock the school? Was there a hostage situation at the border, or a possible retaliation for the children that were held in detention camps at the border? An angry young man (possibly being deported) who wanted to fight. If he wasn’t picked up by one group, another one would want him.

The police response seemingly bordered on civil disobedience along the lines of response to “defund the police”. Our top executive seems to think more law enforcement is the answer. I wonder how much surveillance was already at the border which is pretty militarized.

Universal background checks are a serious pathway to political oppression of groups that want to defend themselves. Bringing up the Ukrainian-Russian conflict again, one wants a certain level of ability to defend, and a universal “switch” is probably too easily flipped by oppressors once they get power. Most people probably want to feel safe, and for a large population (particularly in rural remote areas), they feel safer with a gun. The counter argument to this is the risk of insurgencies like the Capitol riot. One defends against that by not having presidents who lack experience with political process (i.e. not a governor, not a senator or a congressman). That said, I do think our country was “overdue” for a political outsider to challenge the status quo. That done, we don’t need another insurrection.

One gun control limit I can surely agree with is that an unemployed (?) 18 year old who buys a machine gun (with what money? they cost about $800, and he not only had 2, but he also apparently had another gun that only fired once at his grandmother) needs more surveillance after the purchase than your average Joe. Perhaps on the order of needing to check out and use a weapon in the presence of an older adult for 3 years. Some kind of sponsored ownership where training in the proper safety and maintenance of weapons would be provided. Would this be a check to implement on all adults who purchase assault weapons or indeed any guns? Of course, we have to think about militaries then, and the young men who kill children in remote countries.

It is sad to know that someone has been so injured that he would take the lives of young children. I still think supervision is generally a much better response in terms of new legislation rather than labeling, where the level of detail and scrutiny needed to be accurate is enormous. Guns should definitely be withdrawn or withheld in certain cases and locations, though. It is interesting to note that I am quite unique in my peer group of nonviolent intellectuals in my support of gun rights. My reason for this is that there are many different abilities besides guns that could also be legislated – including the ability to learn. In a broader context, or more generally, I don’t support limits imposed by others on one’s freedoms (except the obvious freedoms of privacy, property, and respect for person and the environment), when they may affect one’s ability to protect oneself, one’s family, or one’s community. These questions, though, are highly context dependent, and influenced by personal history, and thus probably shouldn’t be legislated for long periods of time (up for periodic review). I am sure that East Europeans feel differently today than they did 1 year ago.

People overall probably need to feel that the system is working, or has the ability to work, for them. If their power doesn’t derive from belonging, then some may want the feeling of individual power that comes with weapons ownership. We need to work on more flexible systems where people can belong, and have influence short of needing or wanting to use force.

Our sin is one of exclusion, and of failure to heal hurt. How does one re-stabilize after our consciousness has been shocked by behavior that was never anticipated? I don’t think absolutes are the answer. Connectedness is. One hand holding another hand that will tolerate it until we are all connected in a way that does not make us want to destroy one another.

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Stopping Bloodshed in Ukraine

There is a lot of misunderstanding on the part of the US of Russia’s intent. First, many people in the US still believe that Russia is communist. It hasn’t been for over 30 years since 1991, when the flag with the sickle and hammer was lowered. The Soviet Union was considered to be an acceptable solution to world war Il. There is no way that people should be considering world war lll over a potential russian invasion of ukraine. The Ukrainians speak Russian in addition to Ukranian. They share a common history.

Putin does not want to rebuild the Soviet empire. He wants security, and he believes that maintaining some level of control in Ukraine will help Russian security. Is he likely to feel more or less secure with the buildup of troops (NATO or US or EU)?

So Putin flushed out NATO. He had simply asked that Ukraine not become a NATO ally, to avoid the exact positioning of forces directed toward Russia that NATO has recently done. So we are now at a standoff with billions of dollars invested in destroying one another.

What Russia will not gain is strength with an invasion of Ukraine. There is too much insurgency. Security, yes; strength, no. He will always have to invest a lot of resources to maintain influence, there. If Western forces do not invest in destabilizing the area, which after all, does speak Russian in addition to Ukrainian, the Ukrainians will be much more likely to get what they want in the long run. Remember, we are talking about people losing their fathers, sons, brothers, here. It isn’t an abstract struggle.

All Ukraine has to say is: Ukraine will not become a part of NATO in the next 50 years. Is that too much to ask for us all to be able to relax again?

Apparently yes. So lots of lives invested, here. I say the smart thing to do now is to say to Putin: “ok, if you want to invade Ukraine, go ahead.” No immediate reprisal. Threats aren’t working. He can’t buy goodwill, though. He looks like he wins, but he will have no good credit with anyone in NATO in the end, unless, given respect for his strength & ability to stand up to NATO, he chooses peace instead.

NATO is the problem. I think the only possible aversion to war is for NATO to back off. NATO is what infuriates Putin to the point of complete disregard for all of Europe (and the US). Are the Crimeans that unhappy under Russian rule? At most, we are talking about less than the afghan war (20 years) of some part of eastern europe under a government that is distasteful. I say avoid the loss of life. NATO has already taken on more than it can defend without great catastrophe. Putin can win by showing that NATO can’t honor its obligations, or he can win by weakening NATO militarily. When the letters start having to be sent home to the families of fallen soldiers and innocent victims, will there be an acknowledgement that these people died because of our pride?

So Putin, in a moment of fury, “purchased” a part of Ukraine on the world market, giving up the pipeline with his closest European ally, terrifying his neighbors, and losing a lot of goodwill and trust in his show of strength. Did he intend to do it all along? He cannot, I repeat, cannot be the enemy if this situation is to resolve well. We need to sit down and respectfully listen to what he wants, not in exchange for good behavior on his part, but because thousands of lives are at stake.

Making him mad does not bring out his better side. Respect might. Still, the situation that we are dealing with now is “0 trust”. Statements need to be followed by actions that correspond to the statements. That will be progress. Not threats, but “I will do this in the name of peace.” Ukrainian lives matter, Russian lives matter, European lives matter, American lives matter.

The Ukrainians cannot defend themselves. Their military will be crushed and/or broken in political prisons. Putin could have chosen peace and respect, he chose war instead. I don’t think he has thought of a political way out of this situation.

Assuming that we are dealing with Putin, and not a Russian military coup, we are still confronted with an incident that, although premeditated, has, thus far, cost less than many natural disasters, and been targeted to the military.

In my opinion, the correct response is not broad sanctions, but rather sanctions that proportionately weaken Russia’s military. Someone needs to invent a switch so that, for example, only 1 in 5 Russian arms is capable of firing.

Major Elliott Garrett, an American journalist who is chief Washington correspondent for CBS News, states (with certainty), “Ukraine is a sovereign country invaded by a hostile neighbor.” I think that, for Putin, and many Russians, the USSR is very much intertwined with Russian identity. The USSR was a state that formed after the Russian revolution in 1917 and ensuing three year civil war. Encompassing what was formerly the Russian Empire, it was initially a confederation of the states of Russia, Belorussia, Ukraine and modern day Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. This history may help us to understand why Putin is willing to pay such a high price, and why he perceives foreign intervention, in what in his mind is a civil war, to be so wrong.

If there is any insight in this, it may be that Putin may not feel the same way about Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary. Indeed the army is not positioned for invasion of these countries.

If the frame of reference remains civil (war), and the Ukrainians move toward guerilla tactics, then the conflict could be a long and protracted one as in Afghanistan with a puppet government likely already promised to someone by Putin. The immediate concern is for the safety and welfare of Zelenskyy and his military. The less said, the better. They should go underground like David did when he fled to the mountains.

I still am not entirely convinced that Putin hasn’t been replaced by a bot that is channeling Stalin… He needs to do something that Stalin would never do. He needs to show a more human side in the middle of what has been the greatest political catastrophe since WW2 in light of what is happening to his country. In any situation (& with a little creativity it is generally possible), it is usually better to have friends. Autocracy has its place when situations devolve to the point where people cannot work or go to school or safely travel. Still, Putin has virtually guaranteed that Ukrainian people will never be Russian. The hatred has boiled over because of the use of force.

So now the Ukrainians are left with 2 immediate concerns:
1) how to stop a tank (fuel pump switch?)
2) how to stop a car from deploying an oxygen-consuming bomb (fuel pump switch?)

A survival plan may involve the separation & preservation of Ukrainian cultural identity from its historical attachment to place. When most of the Ukrainians are gone, the land will be populated by militant Russians, and will be the “Ukraine” that Putin/Stalin, or whoever is running the show over there, wants. Russia will increase in land mass by 3% – an increase that will allow it to feed itself and get energy.

What a miserable way to treat people! Are we really no better than that? Were we not given so much to have so little to offer to those who want/need something from us? Who gives up their friends & neighbors for this price?

Ok. So a little progress, at least the two sides are talking with clearly arguable demands. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov revealed Russia’s demands to end the conflict [1]:

  1. Ukraine halt its military activity.
  2. Ukraine change its Constitution to include neutrality so it can’t join the EU or NATO
  3. Ukraine recognize Crimea as Russian territory and
  4. Ukraine recognize independence for the separatist regions of Donetsk and Lugansk.

At least Russia is not asking for complete disarmament. That would be stupid and unrealistic given what has just happened. Generally, the Ukrainians are a peace-loving people. They at one time held the third largest arsenal of nuclear weapons, and have dismantled their arsenal and become signatories to the Treaty for the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons[2].

I can’t help but notice how the Ukrainians are being transformed into Syrians. And then even darker into Darfurian refugees, hungry, without water or electricity, but thankfully not yet so desperate that they are willing to risk bullets to escape.

I think point 2 should be worth serious consideration in exchange for peace. The country is salvaged from further bombing. People can be Ukrainian, return home, sow their land, feed their families, rebuild their homes, go back to school.

No one should get more by war than they can get with peace. Wouldn’t the Ukrainians rather have their very popular leader?

I would think even points 3 & 4 could be on the table in exchange for the complete removal of every Russian soldier and intelligence officer from the rest of Ukraine, the establishment of a no-fly zone, and other concessions.

So in the heat of battle, the rhetoric can get pretty inflamed, and it can lead to a lot of public grandiose statements on all sides. this makes it difficult to talk rationally about a settlement because all sides are out of touch with how small and alike they actually are. Russia – Ukraine is a Syrian Arab Spring scaled up, complete with a leader that many feel is no longer viable on a world stage. We said that about Bashar Al Assad, too.

Putin’s Russia was the best Russia most of us have known – open, economically engaged, in its better moments, compassionate to the suffering of others. Putin is not Russia, yet it is difficult to imagine a stable Russia without him. At heart, I believe that he will always put Russia first, but his Russia has now become a spartan isolationist one – one whose power cannot be trusted.

Still, the man and country are not defined by one deed or even this war, as horrific as it has been.

And, what was a NATO base doing in Western Ukraine, anyway? The same is of course asked of the invading Russian troops invited in by the two colonized “independent” states.

Peace must be made over the ruined country. Enough arguing about world image and principled speech when the arguing translates into dead bodies.

While I completely support de-escalation of the armed conflict to prevent it from greater world catastrophe, if the anger doesn’t translate into arms, it seems to go to labels and ultimatums. The irony is the more lives are lost, the more there seems to be a need to justify the loss of life. It took us 50 years to break down the wall. An isolated Russia or an isolated Putin are not steps in the right direction.

Still, we will not fund war. Many times the decision to fight is motivated by the difference between change that could happen overnight vs. change that could happen over years. Put the element of time into the peace negotiations. Putin may not be acting right at this point, but we still should have respect for what he has accomplished in the past.

Have both sides come up with their respective plans for peace, and then have 3 independent plans for peace be drawn up based upon the original 2 proposals by arbitrators, one chosen by each side, and then 1 agreed upon by the arbitrators. For example, peace plans could be proposed by China, Israel, and Mexico. Then have both sides choose which of the plans they like best.

Finally, make a line with one plan at either end & a marker in the middle (or a 5 point star.) Each life that is lost moves the marker against the party responsible for the loss of that life. A computer program can then decide what 50% looks like, what 60% plan A or B looks like, 75% plan A or B looks like, etc.

It is time to get real, here. On both sides. Ukraine won’t cede any territory to Russia, but it is sending 1/4 of its population to foreign lands in a state of utter desperation. Russia, on the other hand, does not want peace otherwise it would be talking to Zelenskyy. It can’t envision a “new Russia” with him in the picture. Russia wants respect. And because so much was not negotiated in good faith, but rather taken as in Georgia and Chechnya, we are now confronted with that model as a minimum, and at the maximum, a renegotiation and honoring of the original agreement (in writing?) that NATO would not expand into the Eastern block.

The fact that the narrative that is being spewed by the authority structures on both sides is so disconnected means the iron curtain has once again fallen. What is supposed to happen? Peace and then apology for the wrong story? No. It will be 2 different worlds for a while now.

Putin, or the Kremlin, is redoing the 2nd WW when Ukraine was occupied by the Nazis.

Biden shows up in Poland. I have so much respect for his heart, being so willing to be so close to the conflict, to see with his very own eyes. His achilles heel however is a tendency to see things in black and white. In his eyes, there are real enemies, people not like us who are incapable of change, who need to be removed.

It is true, the world has been changed like it has not been since wwII. It will be a long time before we will trust again. We will now have militaries to defend against imagined tyrannies or loss of country name. Hopefully they will not fall into unstable hands. Nonviolence did not win. In reality, because of the escalation, it could have ended up as ethnic extermination – at least locally. It remains so easy to harness man’s territorial assertions of identity into aggression toward one another. That said, countries are different, and no one man can be responsible in a war between two peoples.

Progress in peace talks should have small goals: 1) the ability to agree on sentences where both countries are mentioned in the same sentence in a way that makes them both happy. 2) the ability to agree on sentences where both countries exist in isolation if deemed necessary. They should end with 3 small steps. For example, 3 completely demilitarized areas, a 3% reduction in arms on both sides, food and water for 3 weeks to both sides.

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The Rittenhouse Trial

What could have been different?

Black Lives Matter protests have been overwhelmingly nonviolent. Protesters have the right to express themselves.

A 17 year old white kid “trespassed” into a domain that had otherwise been defined by a majority group. He became a target for people whom, i believe, probably had a legitimate moral argument to ask him to leave to protect the peace. He stood his ground. Tragically, lives were lost. I am pretty sure he regrets the whole thing and will live with what happened the rest of his life.

How right does everyone want to be? Is it worth peoples’ lives? Other peoples’? One’s own?

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Nathan Matzinger



Nathan wanted more comfort for those around him.  Whether it was buying a TV for his grandfather, or a new refrigerator for his aunt, he cared that they were comfortable.

On the farm, he worked hard.  He put up solar panels on the barn so the animals would be warm in the winter. He made beds for the vegetable garden so that the slugs and snails would not get into the vegetables. He would put up the free-range chickens in the evening so that the foxes wouldn’t get them. He fed the sheep, sometimes picking the lambs up to carry them where they needed to be when everyone around him was too tired. On the farm, giving the sheep injections to keep them healthy, he found a new and better way of doing it – less painful to them and also safer.

IMG_2357Around the house, he made the house warmer.  He put insulation in the green room so that the winter garden would last longer. He liked to cook. His neighbor’s twelve year old daughter trusted him with her horse.  She taught him how to ride. She remembers him as a problem solver.  Often entrusted with farm chores, Nathan was the go-to guy whenever there was a problem. Putting up fences  or sorting sheep, she wanted Nathan around for help.  The dogs really loved him!


His dad was his best friend, though. The two of them took an unforgettable trip across the country together. It would be his father’s last.  When he passed, Nathan would carry the box with his father’s ashes wherever he stayed. He had his dad’s old pickup brought to the farm with plans to put a new engine in it. He was going to restore it. His dad had once lived in it, and had taught him everything he knew about trucks with it. Like his dad, he was quite a good mechanic! We would listen to him describing why or how a differential would make the outer wheel of a truck move faster than the inner wheel during a turn as he cooked eggs for breakfast.

Nathan loved playing music, and aspired to be in a band like his dad was.
WREX (The Band) Memorial Day – One -1984
WREX (The Band) Memorial Day – Four – 1984

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On the Supreme Court

The fetus has value. Not just to the person carrying it, but
also to potential adoptive parents, to the person it may become,
potentially to society at large. Yes, we can argue and discuss
the value of the fetus to society. No, we should not overrule
the fact that G_d has given the first ultimate very intimate
choice of what kind of relationship to have with the fetus to
a woman.

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Remaining Calm as Lines are Drawn

Drawing a line – making a boundary – it can be arbitrarily done by the architects, the planners, those who prefer knowing where things are and how they work. It can also be done thoughtfully in response to injury by those who enjoy change rather than status quo but sense hurt associated with imagined or past injury. It prevents reexperiencing the trauma to the point of paralysis.

We know that chemical weapons exist. They have been used in the past with horrific consequences.

They were used in WW1 extensively by both sides, in WWII in a horrific power imbalance to selectively destroy 2/3 of an ethnic minority. We know how bad these can be, and how strong the weapons potentially are.

Two different presidents of the US have been given the opportunity to react to their use in Syria, simply by the fact that the US is a major world player and defender. I think that the important fact to come to grips with in this situation is that east and west, Syria and the rebels, are not comfortable with the distribution of power in Syria. When this is strongly out of balance, a crisis occurs, and the world is forced to draw lines. So, let’s focus on talking this one through to a point where weapons are not used.

In my humble opinion, the testing of the sites for chemical weapons could have been performed before a military response. However, the timing of the response was designed to be immediately correlated with the action, not diffused into the ether of diplomatic possibility. There is neither applause, nor condemnation, as the uneasy silence allows each of us to confront our own feelings about intervention and force.

May each of our actions be toward world improvement in a way that is respectful.

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Rethinking the Why of Sacrifice

Passover is around the corner, and as many plan their meals, I offer an
enlightened alternative to killing an animal. From an anthropological
point of view, I view the act as a sublimation of our own fear of
death – projecting it onto a more “acceptable” target, and ritualizing
the whole action, so that our deepest anxieties are expressed and

Rather than reenact this, why not celebrate the freedom given in the
Passover? Make better choices that respect the lives of young creatures
who surely want to live. No ritual that defines us as a people should
be above a rethought in terms of compassion and more understanding.

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More Discussion

This week’s Parashah was the section dealing with G_d opening up a passage through the Red Sea for the Israelites to escape oppression. In this time of heated discussion and attempted compromise on immigration reform, the thought arises that perhaps, if a wall is built, G_d will tunnel the people through who might need to come across. Certainly, in this case, the DACA people are for the most part free to leave. Most of them are not being oppressed, they have rights. The issue is that they also are part of our communities and families, and thus their fates are enmeshed with ours, and it is a reflection on our moral character and history to treat them generously.

At the end of the day, if it means that a young cadre of people must leave their homes and families and go out into the world, and get visas and green cards to come back when the community says “WE MISS THEM”, then this is in fact more than their parents were able to do when they came. The kids are more empowered, and should not sell out their less empowered undocumented friends by building a wall that would make it more difficult for families to unite around difficulties, etc.

So. DACA period. No wall period. We don’t want the problems of fewer than 3% of the US population to dictate the freedom of the rest of the population. And make no mistake about it, a wall will be a pain for everyone who wants to come and go across the border.

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On the question of the wall

I would rather live in the rest of the world free to move among countries than live in this country surrounded by a physical barrier.

Although I think it is disgusting for DACA immigrants to be held hostage over this question, if the only way that they can gain legitimacy is for us to agree for a wall to be built, then I (arrogantly) make the decision for them, and abandon their cause.

A country with a physical wall is not my country.

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