Dec 30, 2008

For Auld Lang Syne

Happy New Year, Cherubs at Moon

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New Year's Eve is probably my least favorite holiday. Something about the forced frivolity over the single tick of a clock. I've always felt tremendous pressure to have a lot of fun on New Year's, whether I've felt like it or not. I've spent huge sums of money, only to find myself sitting the corner of some bar, crying into my champagne. Why? Boredom. Boredom and the incredible sense of peer pressure to have mad, stupid fun. The best New Year's Eves I've ever spent have been quiet gatherings with family and friends, so that's how I'll be spending this one. If I'm lucky I won't even know when the ball drops. It will slip quietly away like any other moment. Time simply passes. That's it's nature.

I realized this morning that I had no idea how the tradition of celebrating New Year's Eve began. Nor, how it was determined that January 1st was designated the beginning of the year. Because understanding the underlying and forgotten myths that weave quietly through our traditions is my passion, I did a bit of googling. It's really kind of interesting. This, of course, pertains to New Years in our Gregorian calendar. The year has many different start dates around the world. But, we can thank Julius Caesar for placing our holiday in the bitter cold days following the solstice.

The Romans continued to observe the New Year in late March, but their calendar was continually meddled with by a number of emperors so that the calendar became out of synchronization with the sun. To set the calendar right, the Roman senate declared January 1st as the beginning of the New Year in 153 BC.

Tampering continued until Julius Caesar established the Julian calendar in 46 BC, once again establishing January 1st as the New Year. But in order to synchronize the calendar with the sun, Caesar had to let the previous year drag on for 445 days.

The first of January was dedicated by the Romans to their God Janus of Gates and Doors — a very old Italian god — commonly portrayed with 2 faces … one regarding what is behind and the other looking toward what lies ahead. Hence, Janus represents the reflection on the activities of an old year while looking forward to the new.

January: Janus

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From a mythological standpoint, that at least makes sense, marking a metaphorical threshold into the new year.

From there, things got even more interesting.

Caesar celebrated the first January 1 New Year by ordering the violent routing of revolutionary Jewish forces in the Galilee. Eyewitnesses say blood flowed in the streets. In later years, Roman pagans observed the New Year by engaging in drunken orgies -- a ritual they believed constituted a personal re-enacting of the chaotic world that existed before the cosmos was ordered by the gods.

As Christianity spread, pagan holidays were either incorporated into the Christian calendar or abandoned altogether. By the early medieval period most of Christian Europe regarded Annunciation Day (March 25) as the beginning of the year. (According to Catholic tradition, Annunciation Day commemorates the angel Gabriel's announcement to Mary that she would be impregnated by G-d and conceive a son to be called Jesus.)

After William the Conqueror (AKA "William the Bastard" and "William of Normandy") became King of England on December 25, 1066, he decreed that the English return to the date established by the Roman pagans, January 1. This move ensured that the commemoration of Jesus' birthday (December 25) would align with William's coronation, and the commemoration of Jesus' circumcision (January 1) would start the new year - thus rooting the English and Christian calendars and his own Coronation). William's innovation was eventually rejected, and England rejoined the rest of the Christian world and returned to celebrating New Years Day on March 25.

So we're clear, under an ancient Christian calendar what we're actually celebrating is a Bris. The date became firmly solidified again under Pope Gregory XIII; he of the Gregorian calendar.

On New Years Day 1577 Pope Gregory XIII decreed that all Roman Jews, under pain of death, must listen attentively to the compulsory Catholic conversion sermon given in Roman synagogues after Friday night services. On Year Years Day 1578 Gregory signed into law a tax forcing Jews to pay for the support of a "House of Conversion" to convert Jews to Christianity. On Yew Years 1581 Gregory ordered his troops to confiscate all sacred literature from the Roman Jewish community. Thousands of Jews were murdered in the campaign.

Throughout the medieval and post-medieval periods, January 1 - supposedly the day on which Jesus' circumcision initiated the reign of Christianity and the death of Judaism - was reserved for anti-Jewish activities: synagogue and book burnings, public tortures, and simple murder.

Is it any wonder I hate this holiday?

Dec 21, 2008

For When the Metal Ones Decide to Come for You

... and they will.

Robotics professor Noel Sharkey is sounding the alarm about the pressing need for ethics guidelines for robots.

Outside of military applications, Sharkey worries how robots - and the people who control them - will be held accountable when the machines work with "the vulnerable," namely children and the elderly.

He notes that there are already robotic machines in wide use, such as the Japanese meal assistance robot 'My Spoon'.

Robots could also soon be entrusted by parents to guard and monitor their children, replacing a flesh-and-blood carer and posing potential problems in long-term exposure to the machines, Sharket said.

. . .

Experiments conducted on monkeys suggest there is reason for concern, said Sharkey, with young monkeys left in the care of robots becoming "unable to deal with other monkeys and to breed".

I know I was a little creeped out when I saw this:

Sharkey says he is unconcerned about any kind of AI nightmare scenario, like Asimov's "I Robot." But, I don't know...

Alternate Video Option

Dec 18, 2008

Standing Still Sun

Cosmic Womb of Creation

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There's a really beautiful piece about the Winter Solstice, on The Huffington Post, that speaks to cosmic essence of its quiet darkness.

Dec. 21st, we enter the belly of the night.

Winter Solstice: We come to the portal that separates darkness from light. Standing in this arch of time where Earth takes a breath before facing us back towards the sun, we too, take a breath, turn inward, pause in this pregnant moment and let darkness reveal its gifts:

Winter Solstice: A time to look back at the year gone by, gather its lessons and put them in the stew of your life. Time to let the heat of your presence cook the stew. Render the lessons into the sweet nectar of wisdom. Then drink of it. One-small-sip-at-a-time.

Winter Solstice: A time to let the longest night of the year seduce you into stillness. Time to silence inner voices, listen to the beating of your own heart. Time to breathe slowly, become the breath. Linger here. The night is long...

Winter Solstice, by any other name, is the celebration of this celestial mystery, observed from time immemorial.

Long before the "war on Christmas," the early Christian Church waged its own war on Sol Invictus, and co-opted numerous pagan traditions that celebrated the mystery of the virgin darkness giving birth to the glorious sun.

Constantine may not have completely established the date of Christmas, but what is clear is that he had considerable influence in setting the date of December 25 as Christ's birthday. After Constantine's victory, in perhaps 320 or 353 C.E. the church decreed that December 25 would become the standard day of observance for the birth of Christ. However, this date had long been recognized in antiquity as the return of the sun, for in ancient times, before the establishment of the Gregorian calendar, December 25 was the date of the winter solstice, the point when the sun has reached its southern most trek below the equator, where it appears to stand still for three days. After that time it begins to move back toward the northern hemisphere, gaining strength with each passing day the "sun is born," or the "light comes into the world," or "the light of the world" is at hand. Christmas, during the early centuries, was the most variable of the Christian feast days, and was often confused with the Epiphany, and celebrated in the months of April and May. Pope Julius I, in the fourth century commanded a committee of bishops to establish the date of the nativity of Jesus. December 25 (the day of Sol Invictus, the invincible sun) was decided upon. Not coincidentally, that is the day when the "pagan world celebrated the birth of their Sun Gods-Egyptian Osiris, Greek Apollo and Bacchus, Chaldean Adonis, Persian Mithra-when the Zodiacal sign of Virgo (the sun is born of a virgin) rose on the horizon. Thus the ancient festival of the Winter Solstice, the pagan festival of the birth of the Sun, came to be adopted by the Christian Church as the nativity of Jesus, and was called Christmas" (Crosbie). The church found itself:

By the end of the fourth century the whole Christian world was celebrating Christmas on that day, with the exception of the Eastern churches, where it was celebrated on January 6. The choice of December 25 was probably influenced by the fact that on this day the Romans celebrated the Mithraic feast of the Sun-god (natalis solis invicti), and that the Saturnalia also came at this time(Collier's Encyclopedia, CD-ROM).

Sol Invictus was also a hybrid of many sun god myths; most notably that of Mithras (Mitras, Mithra).

The striking parallels to Christianity in Mithraism have long been pointed out, for Mithras was said to have been: born of a virgin birth, had twelve followers or disciples, was killed and resurrected, performed miracles, and was known as mankind's savior who was called the light of the world and his virgin birth occurred on December 25. Indeed, the resemblances are so striking in that all of the Christian mysteries were known nearly five hundred years before the birth of Christ that later church fathers claimed that Satan had created all of this prior to Christ's birth so as to confuse the laity.

The Banquet of Mithras and the Sun, 2nd-3rd Century AD

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Reverence for the reborn sun may be as old as religion itself, predating not only Christianity, but even recorded history. It stretches back at least as far as the Neolithic Era. Stonehenge, whose earliest artifacts date to Neolithic origins, is believed by many modern pagans to be a celestial observatory marking both the summer and winter solstices, although there is some archaeological evidence pointing to its being entirely dedicated to the Winter Solstice.

The latest archaeological findings add weight to growing evidence that our ancestors visited Stonehenge to celebrate the winter solstice.

Analysis of pigs's teeth found at Durrington Walls, a ceremonial site of wooden post circles near Stonehenge on the River Avon, has shown that most pigs were less than a year old when slaughtered.

Dr Umburto Albarella, an animal bone expert at the University of Sheffield's archaeology department, which is studying monuments around Stonehenge, said pigs in the Neolithic period were born in spring and were an early form of domestic pig that farrowed once a year. The existence of large numbers of bones from pigs slaughtered in December or January supports the view that our Neolithic ancestors took part in a winter solstice festival.

Stonehenge, Winter Solstice

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Older still is the amazing structure at Newgrange in Ireland, with an internal passageway oriented toward the sun at Winter Solstice.

At Newgrange, in Brugh-na-Boyne, County Meath, in eastern Ireland. It is perhaps the most famous of the 250 passage tombs in Ireland. It covers an area of one acre, and has an internal passage that is almost 60 feet (19 m) long. The tomb has been dated at about 3,200 BCE; it is one of the oldest structures in the world -- and the roof still doesn't leak after 5,200 years! Above the entrance way is a stone "roof box" that allows the light from the sun to penetrate to the back of the cairn at sunrise on and near the winter solstice. The horizontal dimension of the box matches the width of the sun as viewed from the back of the passage. In the years since the tomb was constructed by Neolithic farmers, the Earth's tilt on its axis has changed from about 24 to about 23� degrees now. As a result, the sun rises about two solar diameters farther south today. The monument is surrounded by a circle of standing stones that were added later during the Bronze Age.

Newgrange, County Meath, Leinster, Republic of Ireland (Eire)

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When we observe this sacred pause in the sun's transit in this timeless holiday, we participate in a ritual that may be as old as humanity itself.

"Shall we liken Christmas to the web in a loom? There are many weavers, who work into the pattern the experience of their lives. When one generation goes, another comes to take up the weft where it has been dropped. The pattern changes as the mind changes, yet never begins quite anew. At first, we are not sure that we discern the pattern, but at last we see that, unknown to the weavers themselves, something has taken shape before our eyes, and that they have made something very beautiful, something which compels our understanding."

~ Earl W. Count, 4000 Years of Christmas

Tyger! Tyger!

Via The Huffington Post, an exploration of Thailand's Tiger Temple; a refuge for the endangered species. From ABC News an exploration of the temple and tourist attraction where tigers and cubs mingle with monks and visitors.

They call it the Tiger Temple, and its story is the stuff of fairy tales. According to Abbot Pra-Acharn Phusit, a tiger cub orphaned by poachers was brought to the temple years ago.

The abbot cared for her and, as word spread, more people brought sickly and orphaned cubs to the temple's doorstep. Those cubs went on to have their own cubs, and nine years on there are now 34 tigers living here.

The Buddhists believe in reincarnation and the abbot feels that these tigers are his family. As he told ABC News, "I think they are my babies: my son, my daughter, my father, mother. If not in the present life, in the past life."

Buddhists also believe that animals, like humans, are sentient beings.

The temple has drawn controversy, as well as tourists. Many speculate that the tame tigers must be drugged. But, the monks insist that their docility is explained by the fact that they have been nurtured by human hands from the time they are three weeks old. Their ultimate aim, according to the abbot, is to find suitable land to release them safely into the wild and allow them to repopulate. In the meanwhile, they feel they are keeping them safe from the deforestation and poachers that have put this and 5 other subspecies of tigers on the endangered list. (The other three subspecies are already extinct.)

For now, the abbot is content to continue pursuing his dream of repopulating the forests of Thailand with the descendants of his tigers. As the Buddhist proverb goes, "if we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep walking."

The Tyger

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forest of the night
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And What shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

~ William Blake

Dec 16, 2008

Meditation Break

Sri Yantra

Yantras come from the more than 2000 years old tantric tradition. A yantra is the yogic equivalent of the Buddhist mandala.

Sri yantra is called the mother of all yantras because all other yantras derive from it.

The meditation tools provided herein work for me. That doesn't mean they'll work for you.

Meditation is, by definition, simple. You don't really need much, if anything. Simply sitting quietly is meditation. A walk in the park is meditation. But, for me, the aim of meditation is to really slow my brain frequency, and shut down the beta frequency; the chatter, or "monkey mind." For this, I find certain auditory and visual cues helpful. A Sri Yantra (see above) is a very powerful visual, but a lit candle will do. Tibetan bowls make a nice, soothing soundtrack, which offers the added benefit of having no easily memorized and anticipated melody. I also find sitar music very powerful. My mother had a live Ravi Shankar album that I practically wore out, in my youth.

Probably the most effective and targeted meditation music I've come across is from Master Charles Cannon and his Synchronicity method. His website is back up, after being taken down following the tragedy in Mumbai, which resulted in deaths and injuries of some Synchronicity members traveling there. Master Charles is both a mystic and a musician, whose audio tracks are designed to very quickly move the brain into a primarily alpha, theta, or even delta brainwave pattern. His website offers some sample audio tracks, as well as an online meditation room, providing an assortment of music tracks and a moving mandala presentation. I highly recommend taking advantage of this experience, which is free on the Synchronicity site. I've listened to a lot of high tech meditation audio, through the years. None of it has impressed me like his. It does exactly what it says it will do.

The use of scent can also be very helpful. By this, I mean natural scents, not chemical fragrance. Essential oils, resins burned on charcoal, or prepared incense made from only natural sources. The primary meditation scents are sandalwood and frankincense. This is because they slow the breathing and heart rate and assist you physically into a meditative state. Again, this physiological response can only be achieved by the use of high quality, natural sources.

I share these tools now, because finding and holding our center is of increasing importance as we undergo the current global changes. Enjoy.

Why I Meditate

I sit because the Dadaists screamed on Mirror Street/I sit because the Surrealists ate angry pillows/I sit because the Imagists breathed calmly in Rutherford and Manhattan/I sit because 2400 years/I sit in America because Buddha saw a Corpse in Lumbini/I sit because the Yippies whooped up Chicago's teargas skies once/I sit because No because/I sit because I was unable to trace the Unborn back to the womb/I sit because it's easy/I sit because I get angry if I don't/I sit because they told me to/I sit because I read about it in the Funny Papers/I sit because I had a vision also dropped LSD/I sit because I don't know what else to do like Peter Orlovsky/I sit because after Lunacharsky got fired and Stalin gave Zhdanov a special tennis court I became a rootless cosmopolitan/I sit inside the shell of the old Me/I sit for world revolution

~ Allen Ginsberg

Dec 13, 2008

Earth Changes & Energy Shifts

Earth and Star Field

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This will be quick. I'm off to bed, but I've been meaning to post something for a while about some of the energy shifts we're experiencing currently. By "we" I mean lightworkers and sensitives, whether or not we choose define ourselves that way.

I'm calling this time period "the rewiring," because that's what I keep getting. I experienced a massive energy crash the day after the election, when, by rights, I should have been in a great mood. Since then, I've noted that a number of my clients and friends are experiencing varying degrees of exhaustion, fatigue, and overwhelm. When I asked my guides what was going on for me, personally, they showed me that I was being "rewired." A lot of us are feeling kind of like marionettes who've just had all our strings cut.

A lot of us are also experiencing a range of sensations in the head, from headaches to dizziness. This, I've been told, is also part of this restructuring of energy pathways.

I do want to devote some attention to the dizziness, however. As I've explained previously, I tend to experience an uptick in tonal vibration and sometimes dizzy spells before major earth events. For the past two days I've been having the spins. So, just an oh-so-gentle reminder that we are still in the window of the earthquake predictions from the Time Monks. Their data showed a timeframe of December 10-12, but as they say, themselves, they tend to be off by a few days. There've been a couple in the 5-6 pt range, but so far, nothing that looks like their prediction. They could have been wrong, or we may have bypassed this, but I mention it, because... well... because I've been getting the spins for two days.

I'll put it this way... When the toning in my head gets really intense or I start to have other weird physical sensations -- Katrina made my joints go all wobbly for about a week beforehand -- it is generally connected to massive shifts in the collective consciousness. Often there is a physical manifestation, like a quake or other disaster. Other times we make the shift in awareness and manage to bypass the drama. I hope it's the latter. Time Monk George Ure is also hoping they were off on this one, but you might want to pay attention to animal behavior about now.

In general, take it easy. Eating and sleeping seems to be the order of the day. Take as much time as possible to self-nurture and enjoy simple comforts. And, drink lots of water.

Coffee is God

Morning Roast III

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Delicious, rich in antioxidants, and downright inspiring, coffee may fuel more than your neurons. From Treehugger, the mighty coffee bean makes good biodiesel.

Researchers Mano Misra, Susanta Mohapatra and Narasimharao Kondamundi figured that since coffee grounds contain about as much oil by weight, 11-20%, as more traditional biodiesel feedstocks such as rapeseed, soybeans, or palm oil.

And given that more than 16 million pounds of coffee is produced each year, if the waste grounds could be given a second life as biodiesel feedstock, that could be a lot of biofuel: 340 million gallons to be exact. That’s the equivalent of roughly 8 million barrels of oil, for those rushing to their calculators.

Unlike dedicated biodiesel crops, this would employ the waste product, giving the spent beans a second life. Genius. And most important:

Yes, Coffee Biodiesel Smells Like Coffee

Imagine it. Instead of the noxious smell of petrol, our highways and biways could embrace our nostrils like a coffee house. Can world peace be far behind?... I might be getting a little ahead of myself. Could be something to do with the very large morning cuppa I just finished.

"Coffee, according to the women of Denmark, is to the body what the Word of the Lord is to the soul."
~ Isak Dinesen

Dec 9, 2008

The Biblical Case for Gay Marriage

Bible and Roses

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The great bigots exodus from the Episcopal Church continues, with the blessing of church primates.

Five Anglican archbishops have backed the introduction of a new Anglican province in North America, a significant, though unsurprising boost for the conservative-led initiative.

"We fully support this development with our prayer and blessing," said the archbishops, who are called primates because they lead regional branches of the worldwide Anglican Communion. "It demonstrates the determination of these faithful Christians to remain authentic Anglicans."

Last Wednesday (Dec. 3), a group of conservative dissidents announced that they were starting a branch of the Anglican Communion called the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). The group claims 100,000 members, including most of four dioceses that have split with the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the communion, in the last year.

. . .

In recent years, both the U.S. and Canadian churches have separately moved leftward on sexual orientation issues, including the election of a gay man as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003 and the approval of same-sex blessings in some dioceses.

Well, go with God, as they say. But, by what authority do conservative Anglicans call these recent moves towards tolerance, a "false gospel." The Bible does say, after all, that male/male relations are an "abomination." Seems pretty straightforward. But, those who hold that tenant dear are pretty inevitably treating scripture as an à la carte menu, as much as anyone. Most of them don't even pass the shellfish test; let alone pork. The Old Testament wanders into such absurdities as to be impossible to adapt to modern life.

I quote, and not for the first time, Joseph Campbell:

[The Bible is] the most over-advertised book in the world. It's very pretentious to claim it to be the word of God, or accept it as such and perpetuate this tribal mythology, justifying all kinds of violence to people who are not members of the tribe.

The thing I see about the Bible that's unfortunate is that it's a tribally circumscribed mythology. It deals with a certain people at a certain time. The Christians magnified it to include them. It then turns this society against all others, whereas the condition of the world today is that this particular society that's presented in the Bible isn't even the most important. This thing is like a dead weight. It's pulling us back because it belongs to an earlier period. We can't break loose and move into a modern theology.

One of the great promises of mythology is, with what social group do you identify? How about the planet? To say that the members of this particular social group are the elite of God's world is a good way to keep that group together, but look at the consequences! I think that what might be called the sanctified chauvinism of the Bible is one of the curses of the planet today.

In the new issue of Newsweek, Lisa Miller takes on the challenge of examining the Biblical perspectives on marriage and concludes that it actually supports the idea of gay marriage. She points out that a traditional Biblical conception of marriage would be rejected today by church and state alike.

Let's try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. "It is better to marry than to burn with passion," says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?

So, probably, the most scripturally sound marriage model is still being practiced by splinter groups of the Mormon Church, who cleave to their practice of polygamy against all odds. The modern-day Church of Latter Day Saints have thoroughly disowned these dissidents and stopped the practice of polygamy, even as they have led the fight against gay marriage. Am I the only one who sees a delicious irony in their massive financial and political support for Proposition 8, in California?

Miller's Biblical argument for gay marriage continues:

First, while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman. And second, as the examples above illustrate, no sensible modern person wants marriage—theirs or anyone else's —to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes. "Marriage" in America refers to two separate things, a religious institution and a civil one, though it is most often enacted as a messy conflation of the two. As a civil institution, marriage offers practical benefits to both partners: contractual rights having to do with taxes; insurance; the care and custody of children; visitation rights; and inheritance. As a religious institution, marriage offers something else: a commitment of both partners before God to love, honor and cherish each other—in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer—in accordance with God's will. In a religious marriage, two people promise to take care of each other, profoundly, the way they believe God cares for them. Biblical literalists will disagree, but the Bible is a living document, powerful for more than 2,000 years because its truths speak to us even as we change through history. In that light, Scripture gives us no good reason why gays and lesbians should not be (civilly and religiously) married—and a number of excellent reasons why they should.

So, as ever, it comes down to a choice between focusing on the more punitive and archaic scriptures or those that foster love, community, and generosity. Or as Paul wrote, in one of his more inspired moments:

1. If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

3. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

4. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,

5. does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,

6. does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

7. bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.

9. For we know in part and we prophesy in part;

10. but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.

11. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

12. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

13. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

-- 1st Corinthians 13

It would seem that as a society, overall, we are moving towards the more compassionate view on gay marriage. According to Newsweek's recent polling, that's the way we're trending. They find that 39 percent now support the idea of gay marriage, up from 33 percent in 2004. Over half the country, 55 percent now support some type of civil union. The numbers only increase when polling addresses specific protections that should be afforded to couples.

When it comes to according legal rights in specific areas to gays, the public is even more supportive. Seventy-four percent back inheritance rights for gay domestic partners (compared to 60 percent in 2004), 73 percent approve of extending health insurance and other employee benefits to them (compared to 60 percent in 2004), 67 percent favor granting them Social Security benefits (compared to 55 percent in 2004) and 86 percent support hospital visitation rights (a question that wasn't asked four years ago). In other areas, too, respondents appeared increasingly tolerant. Fifty-three percent favor gay adoption rights (8 points more than in 2004), and 66 percent believe gays should be able to serve openly in the military (6 points more than in 2004).

Look, in particular, at the hospital visitation statistics. When we think of an illness coming between two loving partners -- that a hospital could actually deny a chosen life partner access to their beloved in a time of health crisis -- the vast majority of us are rightly disturbed at the heartlessness of it. It offends our inherent empathy, to a degree that overrides our bigotry. Isn't that the kind of love and compassion the church should encourage? What would Jesus do?

Martin Sheen breathes new life
into the famous letter to Dr. Laura
on "The West Wing."

Dec 8, 2008

Terry Hobbs Speaks

Terry Hobbs, he of the defamation suit against Natalie Maines, appears in this videotaped police interview. In it he tells his version of the disappearance and death of his stepson Steve Branch and his friends Michael Moore and Chris Byers. He goes on to explain how Pam Hobbs's repeated accusations that he killed her son -- and those of her family members -- led to spousal abuse incidents and divorce. Still not seeing any reports of lawsuits against Pam Hobbs and her numerous family members for accusing him of the crime that put the West Memphis Three in prison.

Dec 6, 2008

Natalie Maines Sued Over WM3 Statements

For background on the West Memphis Three, please see my previous entries here and here, and the site dedicated to their case.

Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of the slain Steve Branch, has filed a defamation suit against the Dixie Chicks and their lead singer and frequent provocateur Natalie Maines. As ever, this is being reported, hither and yon, as a case of the controversial performer in trouble again because of her big mouth. Thus far, the reportage has been very surface, and leaves a number of questions. I have yet to see a reprint of any specific comments Hobbs is calling libelous. Here's the Washington Post:

Terry Hobbs, stepfather of Steve Branch, who was killed in 1993 with Christopher Byers and Michael Moore, filed suit in Pulaski County Circuit Court on Nov. 25. The suit names all three members of the Dixie Chicks, but focuses on Maines.

The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages. Hobbs claims he suffered loss of income, injury to his reputation and emotional distress.

Maines attended a Dec. 19 rally in Little Rock, where she claimed Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley _ known to sympathizers as the "West Memphis Three" _ were innocent and that supposed new evidence pointed to Hobbs. Her comments echoed a Nov. 26, 2007, letter that was still on the Dixie Chicks' Web site on Thursday, in which she claimed that new DNA testing of hair from the crime scene linked Hobbs to the killings and that his behavior after the slayings indicated his guilt.

I suppose it could depend on how she worded this, because the over-all content is accurate. There is DNA evidence linking Hobbs to the crime scene and there are other things implicating Hobbs and a friend, who is also linked by DNA. Maines didn't make any of that up. It was information discovered by defense attorneys and forensics experts. It was part of a Habeas Corpus motion which, sadly, failed to win over the Arkansas court this fall. And, as Maines explained in a letter on her website, that evidence is probably the most compelling yet, in a case which has sane people everywhere shaking their heads in horrified amazement. The lack of physical evidence tying the three young men convicted of the Robin Hood Hills murders has set off alarm bells from the beginning. But, when forensics examiners, using the most modern DNA testing methods, found, as they did last year, that there was not a shred of their DNA found at the crime scene, it was another nail in the coffin of this erroneous prosecution. What they did find was hair strands with DNA consistent with both Terry Hobbs and a friend with whom he spent time, on the day of murders. All of this information was reported in a press conference by the defense team. (The complete presentation explaining the DNA and other evidence can be found in a YouTube series posted in my entry here.)

You'll note that Hobbs isn't suing the defense lawyers, the forensics experts, or the various news outlets which reported their findings. He's going straight for the very deep pockets of the Chicks.

Maines also did not invent or imagine the concerns of Terry Hobbs's ex-wife, who has openly stated her suspicions that he may have been responsible for her son's death. And, you'll note that Terry Hobbs doesn't seem to be suing Pam Hobbs either for her very damning comments to the press.

In July I asked Pam if her ex-husband could have been involved in the murders.

"Do you think honestly in your heart that he might have had something to do with this," I asked. "Honestly in my heart...I have to be honest. Possibly," replied Pam Hobbs.

But why did she answer that way? Four months later--the response.

"The manipulation that I lived with through 17 years of living with him, knowing honestly that he was not a loving step-father, that he tries to portray himself to be," said Hobbs.

He's not suing her for reporting that her son's pocket knife was found in his effects. He's also, apparently, not suing Pam's sister Jo Lynn McCaughey for naming him as a likely suspect. But, Natalie Maines who had the audacity to repeat the public statements of others, he's suing.

Also missing from the early reports of Maines's legal troubles, is an explanation of why she and countless others -- Trey Parker, Henry Rollins, Winona Ryder, Jack Black, Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder... me -- are so impassioned about seeing the West Memphis Three exonerated.

The Washington Post piece -- the most comprehensive I've found so far -- allows this statement to hang in the air.

Police arrested the three after a confession by Misskelley in which he described how he watched Baldwin and Echols sexually assault and beat two of the boys as he ran down another trying to escape.

Not mentioned is that Jessie Misskelley is mentally handicapped, with an IQ under 70, that he was interrogated for 12 hours without benefit of counsel or parental consent, that his confession was riddled with factual errors, that he was told he'd be able to go home if he gave them the information, and that he recanted a few hours later. That information, alone, goes a long way to demonstrating that this isn't just a case of wacky celebs running their sucks on legal matters they don't understand.

Also not mentioned in this latest flurry of press reports is the legal reasoning that put these boys behind bars. But, I guess it starts to sound a little silly to talk about convicted Satanic ritual murderers. Especially when there never was any evidence that such a ritual took place, and nothing to tie the boys to such practices except for the fondness for Metallica, black clothes, and Damien Echols's fascination with spiritual study that included some books on Wicca. Lets face it. How do you report, with any seriousness, a prosecution that doesn't hold up under the tiniest bit of scrutiny?

Let's hope that this new action from the litigious Mr. Hobbs brings some renewed focus on a miscarriage of justice that forced three young boys to grow up in prison. Natalie Maines has proven repeatedly that she is a woman of principle, who doesn't back down in the face of ridicule, or even CD burnings. The girl has grit. She'll need it, because as much as I'd like to think a lawsuit this absurd would be laughed out of court, the conviction of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, has amply demonstrated that justice doesn't always prevail.

Dec 1, 2008

Ummm... Thanks...

Aspen Trees Stand Barren Late in the Fall

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Well, the Thanksgiving weekend is now over... I hope. What a weekend it's been. In keeping with the true spirit of the season, I feel like I was given some pox covered blankets. That was some holiday, huh? Complete with a terrorist incident and murder by shopping. Am I the only sensitive who feels like they've been hit by a bus? Something in the ether, as they say. The collective unconscious has been roiling for a while, now. Well, roughly since the financial system started to collapse under its own weight, earlier this fall. And, now it feels like it's boiled over. It seems that "release language" period the time monks warned about is in full swing now. There are times when being an empath is... challenging.

I spent Thanksgiving day clutching a box of tissues to my bosom, and avoiding bright light. There is some sort of massive clearing happening that is causing the worst, prolonged allergy attack in recent memory. Something to do with being vibrationally out of sync with my environment (read: earth) and a whole lot of leaf mold. (Note to self: Never blow leaves after they've been rained on for days on end and have begun moulder. Don't know what the alternative is, but, even so, don't do it.)

On Friday, I learned that two of the casualties in Mumbai were part of a group traveling with Master Charles Cannon. This knocked the breath out of me. I do not personally know Master Charles, nor did I know Alan Scherr or his thirteen year old daughter, but Master Charles is a close friend and associate of Virginia Sandlin, with whom I studied for many years. I have heard a great deal about his work and have been enjoying his truly remarkable meditation music for some years. So, this felt very personal to me, which underscored the sense of horrific tragedy.

All in all, not the best Thanksgiving, this end. I did have one that was worse. It was years ago, when I was working at Penguin. After work, the day before the Thanksgiving holiday, I had planned to make a run to the bank and Post Office around the corner. I was stopped short by a scene playing out on the sidewalk. There was a dead body on the ground, a small crowd, and a woman screaming "I did it! I did it!" and waving her hands in the air. It was one of those truly surreal moments when everything seems to shift into slow motion. I learned the back-story, later, on the news. A paranoid schizophrenic had murdered a civil servant as she was leaving work. She had become convinced that said civil servant had it in for her, and after an escalating series of letters, had shot her in broad daylight. I spent most of the weekend in a state of low-grade shock. Oh, the humanity...

So. How was your Thanksgiving?