I got the kitchen clean for Passover. No flour or yeast in my possession. Admittedly, I missed the night before deadline, and ended up doing some cleaning in the morning before the first Seder. I figured that the Jews in their ancient wisdom had planned for people like me to “get it right” as I imagined in the old days the Rabbi coming over the night before to inspect the house, shaking his head, and saying, I’ll come back right before Pesach…

This was one of the nicest Seders I’ve had in a while. I celebrated it quickly and properly (with all the prayers) with my dogs who each got some matzos from the soup. As I had cleaned out the fridge, I had found some pickled beets I had made from last summer (I think they are called Torsha? I know they are Jewish). I used this for the lamb shank bone. Vegetarians substitute a beet as the rabbis say we are supposed to. It may be supposed to be roasted, but I was very interested to see how the raw beet had turned out with just salt after all this time.

As I laid out the cooked egg, the beet, the bitter herb pesto, the charoset (mix of apple and nuts), the karpas (that I had cut off of some overgrown onions), and the matzo, I thought to myself that the bare necessities for a balanced meal were present (and sufficient) on the Seder plate.

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Changing a Hard Line to a Dance

When we can see some of ourself in the other, the need to destroy is not so strong.

There is a unifying argument to be made between the Arkansas death penalty cases, the Syria attacks, the Afghanistan bombing, and the potential threat in the North Korean conflict.

One could argue that the maximum “legal” force used in the situation in Afghanistan to “end all conflict” would be justified in terms of lives saved if one wishes to sanctify the value of human life and force peace. I see the chemicals that were deployed – trinitrotoluene TNT – in the explosions as massive damage to the environment – fracking and pollution to the point of loss of 33 human beings who had families, loves, passions, and value.

G_d gave each of us individually the choice in how to use force. Society additionally constrains or empowers some relative to others. Maximum irreversible force to solve a problem can always be substituted with elegant artful small movements. Ask any engineer – it’s the nature of the game! To apply your mind to create a solution to a problem that could otherwise be solved with a sledgehammer.

The principle of minimum force creates the most jobs and saves the most lives except in an emergency. In Jesus’ times, when the ascetics lived up in the cliffs where the dead sea scrolls were buried, if fighting had destroyed the very cliffs that offered sanctuary…

And force almost always leaves a legacy which ultimately must be confronted (see slavery).

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Thoughts on Rights

I’ve been thinking a little about the aftermath of Syria. Chemical weapons are wrong. I did not see the pictures, but I feel horrified that they were reported to be used. That said, they have been extensively used since World War I, by all sides in wars. There were no good guys and bad guys relative to their use in the past. It is the United Nations role to police this since the Geneva convention was signed. There was an agreement not to use them. Many were removed, and Russia was to some extent responsible for making sure that they did not get used anymore in Syria.

What we have seen is that there is difficulty in some situations to create 100% secure environments, and the more repressive the government is in this regard, the more likely there are to be breaches. It is the nature of the balance between security and expression. Syria is far from a secure environment, so the fact that the weapons were apparently still there, makes it vulnerable to security breaches even if Russia is overseeing it.

I agree with Putin that there were much better ways of handling this. I disagree with him when he says that all rebels are terrorists. Although I am nonviolent, I do accept that there are others who may wish to fight with their life rather than verbally discuss their differences. So, no the rebels are not terrorists, and no the Assad regime forces are not terrorists either. Assad is a trained medical doctor. I think that what happened, was “an Arab spring” started a movement that was very destabilizing for Syria. Then people took arms up to fight for “nationhood” which is not new, almost every country has had to do this in order to have a border and leadership. So, many years later they are still fighting. Most of the people who did not want to fight have been allowed to leave. Some rules of conflict have been breached, as is likely to happen in insecure environments. It is up to the UN to decide in the overall scheme of conflict how it will address this with Syria.

It would be tragic to use this vulnerable situation as a power grab, either for Russia or the United States. I don’t think puppet governments are fair to the people in place. So, if either Russia or the United States is supporting a leader that cannot sustain him or herself with respect to his or her own people, then that needs to be addressed by the UN.

So, the antiwar movement needs to start now and early – now that we have seen that 58/60 very expensive missiles could be deployed, and the ship has moved out to the Korean peninsula. I wish I could hug a North Korean and tell them it will be ok. But, to be honest, I don’t trust either government to stay out of a conflict at this point. It is up to us to let our governments know that their is NO POLITICAL WILL for a war, that elections will be lost if they go to war. The protests must start.  We can’t wait until a “surprise” war happens.

The right-wing media is trying to scare people away from protesting. I’m not anti right-wing, but when every protest is portrayed as a violent leftist “black lives matters” event… the voice for peace is being distorted.

See here.

Regardless of my affiliations, I’m politically savvy enough to realize that the peace base is being eroded by forcing polarizing labels onto it. And no, black lives matter is not violent or leftist. There are many MLK advocates for nonviolence who also participate in BLM.

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Variations on 2 Fish and 5 Loaves: MLK 50 Years Later

Back up in the DC area, I put together a little Jewish dish for the Quakers, kind of wondering about the 2 fish and 5 loaves event as I did it.

It’s served room temperature, and kind of like a bruschetta. Pretty tasty.

FCNL had an organizational voice in an event commemorating Martin Luther King’s speech “Beyond Vietnam“. It was the 50th anniversary of that speech and a bunch of us got together to listen to it, and participate in various workshops on poverty, Medicaid reform, police militarization, and race relations. The panel was quite illustrious Rev. Grimes (BLM activist and reconciliation), Sister Simone Campbell from Nuns on a Bus, International Religious Freedom Rabbi David Saperstein, Imam Talib Shareef, and some Buddhist monks who had walked all the way from Massachusetts with a sign saying “Sanctuary City”.

Later we marched over to the Whitehouse carrying our signs as the monks drummed and held a vigil.

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St. Augustine and A Little Snowbird

I continued down migrating like the snow birds ,and Native Americans might have to St. Augustine, Florida. Amazingly, the citrus grows wild out in the forest here at this time, and you can just pick it when you’re hungry. I stopped in St. Augustine – the “oldest” American (European) city, taking a bike ride around the city with the pups as I contemplated a more ambitious St. John River trail. It was interesting to think about the immigration question in this context. Apparently, only 1 in 3 people who live in Florida were born in the state.

We biked around the “oldest” city, and I learned a bit of the history of the site. Settled by the Spanish, it was heavily, heavily fortified against the Native Americans. Of the descendants of the original 50 or so families, only those from 2 families have remained settled in the St. Augustine area. The rest went to Cuba. I’m kind of reading between the lines here, but I’m wondering if it was somehow easier to defend their position on Cuba.

We went on to have a nice visit sleeping out in the Ocala National Forest and visiting many of the lakes down there where you can swim with the manatees.  We saw a lot of exotic water birds, and warily gazed back at the alligators.  I contemplated how a Catawba indian would handle an encounter with an alligator.  

It would have been a spiritual encounter – I am sure.

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The Black Snake Pot

The blizzard came and I managed to get out right before it struck – my years of living out of a car having taught me that $20 worth of gas can do a lot in a weather emergency. So, while everyone else was running to the store to shelter in place – I turned off the heat and left for a few days. I probably broke even in terms of carbon costs. Down with the Catawba tribe in South Carolina, I visited their cultural center and took the beautiful trail down to the river with the pups, testing their creek water on the way back up (the river bank was too steep to do the river). The results came back pretty clean. The dogs enjoyed the water, too.

The Catawba are known for their coil pottery – a tradition that dates back for centuries as they harvested the clay from the river bank. One artist had designed the most beautiful pot and very cleverly sculpted a black snake around the pot to keep the rodents out. The black snake was invoked using stories with the children to teach them to fear the river, but also used artistically to show its place in the natural world.

We talked about the Dakota Access Pipeline protest, and the next steps that could be taken to raise awareness of the pain that this pipeline causes. The black snake pot could also be a metaphor for pulling our resources together to try to come to terms with what we are and aren’t willing to do for oil. Oil lubricates “the machine” making it easier for everyone to do everything – but with that ease comes fewer jobs because machines can do a lot of the manual labor for people. Our health becomes worse because we get out of shape. The environment and wildlife are hurt, and human cancers and birth defects occur.  In the end, there is job creation (taking care of sick and handicapped people), but are these jobs that we want to create?

There are at least 3 different ways of job creation: 1) motivated by available money, 2) motivated by the need for the work, and 3) motivated by the desire of the individual to do the work. So, how might a pipeline create jobs? 1) oil companies make money off of a natural resource that is in the land 2) This money then trickles down to employees by creating something for them to do in exchange for this money. So, with this strategy, a billionaire could create a lot of jobs with their money simply by creating jobs for people to do in exchange for it. There is no need for oil to create the job. The earth gives when the billionaires won’t.  Ultimately, as I pointed out before, oil creates fewer jobs as defined by criterion 2.

So, personally, I would like to see another couple of buttons on the tanks at the gas station – new grades of fuel that have the disclaimers: “Fuel obtained and processed in a manner approved by the Native American Tribal Council” and “Fuel obtained without hydraulic fracturing.”

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Where the Money Goes

As a poor person, I’m pretty good at fiscal discipline – being confronted with a lot of sexy ads for my money and not wanting most of it. So, although I don’t have a lot, I want to make sure that any money I spend does not go to someone who was willing to run over an Indian to make their 3rd daily trip to the grocery store in their SUV. So, let’s see who is willing to buy that oil? They are vetted to be in a class all by themselves.

According to Wikipedia “Dakota Access, LLC, a Houston, Texas based company and subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. The minor partners involved in the project are Phillips 66, Enbridge, and Marathon Petroleum.” I found this article about the banks that are backing the project.

but it is important to know where the oil ultimately goes, so that I don’t buy from any gas station that is willing to take it.

The very best solution is really for everyone to get a lot of exercise filling the pipeline back up with the dirt that was removed from it. Before any oil goes through.  It would create a lot more jobs (and fewer healthcare needs) than passively allowing the oil to drip through a pipeline (and ultimately into the environment).

Another good idea would be for some oil companies to adopt a new “proactive” logo (and policy): “This oil is certified by Native Americans not to violate any treaty rights.” Another one could be “This oil is frack-free.”

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