2007
11.24

My ad policy

I wanted to let regular readers know that I have started to accept ads on JMBzine.com (as I already mentioned in this post about changes to the blog). I’m not crazy about it, but I also know that I put a lot of work and time into this blog and would like to at least recoup my expenses.

It also should go without saying, but I don’t necessarily agree with what the ads might say.

2007
11.23

This is cross-posted at PineRidgeOklahoma.com:

How do I begin?

PineRidgeOklahoma.com has been around since, oh… I think January 2002. I created the page a couple of weeks after I first moved back to Oklahoma, after having lived in Austin and later San Marcos, Texas for the previous 4-1/2 years.

During the previous semester, I was confused as all get out about what my direction was to be. I was religiously searching (and a bit disilliusioned), politically evolving and dead-broke. I was working as a pedi-cab driver in Austin and taking one grad school class at Southwest Texas State (now TexasState.edu) in Mass Communications.

Towards the end of tha semester, two things drew me to the farm. First, I was introduced to the writings of Wendell Berry (who is now my favorite author) by a fellow pedi-cab driver. The book was called Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community and it changed how I thought about everything. Wendell made me realize that it was less important how one voted or what organizations you supported, than how you lived. I also learned from Wendell that one’s roots are important and are not something you should ignore.

The second thing that drew me to the farm was the death of my grandfather, Lawrence McCullough. When my grandpa died, I felt like a big part of my family had died today. Even though my parents and my siblings had lived most of our lives in a small bedroom community (which was rapidly morphing into a soulless suburb), we also had that tie to “The Farm” (which was how we always referred to it). We might not have lived on The Farm, but we spent lots of time out there on weekends and sometimes for longer. It definitely felt like it was part of who are and to lose that was unfathomable.

So I moved to The Farm. I had no idea what I was going to do there, but at least I had a home to live in. And I knew that despite my enjoyment of the mellow vibe of San Marcos and Austin, that in some real way it wasn’t truly home either.

I ended up spending a few months at The Farm. My experience was very mixed. I had the joy of spending lots of winter days there (gloriously snowed in with chili on the stove) and in reveling in the quiet and solitude of the place. I also struggled to deal with my own problems while missing my friends and my beloved Austin. Finally in the spring, I began to spend more and more time in Newcastle, where my employer (my Dad’s law firm) was at) and over time spent less and less time at the farm.

In the years that followed, I saw those months at the farm as a good experience but also settled into life in the City. I spent a while in Newcastle before moving to Oklahoma City. I loved the vibrancy and diversity of the City, but still longed for The Farm too. I did feel like I had found a home in the City, but something was still missing.

So, now I’m back at The Farm again. As always, I’m not exactly sure why, except that it feels right. Maybe I’ll understand more in time, but for now it is enough to know that it feels like home.

I’ll also mention for my regular readers here at JMBzine, that I’ll be posting thoughts and reflections on living at The Farm over there. JMBzine.com will be reserved for political and social commentary. Anything else that is just for friends to see can be found on my Facebook profile.

2007
11.20

Old cars into hybrids!

CNN: Gas guzzlers get new lives — as tire-smoking hybrids

WITCHITA, Kansas (CNN) — On a beautiful, crisp late fall afternoon, rock icon Neil Young took his 1959 Lincoln Continental for one last spin before a team of mechanics ripped out its gas-guzzling engine to make way for an electric motor.

Car buffs may think it’s sacrilege to tear apart an automotive classic, but Young wants it to have a new life as a fuel-efficient hybrid.

“If we’re going to make a difference, truly make cars more environmentally friendly,” Young said, “we have to make that emotional connection.”

Young said everyone has a connection with an old car like the Lincoln.

FastCompany.com: Motorhead Messiah — Johnathan Goodwin can get 100 mpg out of a Lincoln Continental, cut emissions by 80%, and double the horsepower. Does the car business have the guts to follow him?

SAEEnergy.com: Upcoming hybrid conversion projects

2007
11.17

Updated November 19, 2007

CNN: Saudi court ups punishment for gang-rape victim

ArabNews.com: Gang-Rape Victim Vows to Fight On

JEDDAH, 18 November 2007 ? Upset with a sentence of 200 lashes and six months in prison, the 19-year-old Saudi gang-rape victim known as ?Qatif Girl? is appealing the verdict even as the judge in the case said her sentence could be increased as a result, the woman?s husband told Arab News yesterday.

The woman is charged with being in the company of an unrelated man shortly before she and her companion were brutally gang-raped by seven men, all of whom have been found guilty and sentenced to between two and nine years in prison with lashes for the crime.

In the absence of her lawyer, whose license to practice law was recently revoked by the Qatif General Court, the young woman agreed to fight the verdict.

?She was very determined and strong facing the harsh ruling. Even I was surprised,? said the victim?s husband, whose name is being withheld to protect the woman?s identity.

The husband said the judge warned that if the defendant lost her appeal her sentence could be increased.

The rape victim had already lost a second hearing (which was not considered an appeal) by the Higher Court of Justice, after her lawyer requested they review the ruling of the Qatif General Court, which had sentenced the woman to 90 lashes.

On Wednesday the Higher Court of Justice not only upheld the guilty verdict but also increased the sentence to 200 lashes and six months in prison. . .

I left a message of outrage with the Saudi Arabian consultate general’s office in Houston (their # is (713) 785-5577, you can also get a list of all of the Saudi Arabian consular offices in the US by clicking here) and would encourage you to do the same.

I think also might be worth contacting our political leaders to ask them why the US is continuing to be a close ally of one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchies, particularly when this nation is committing such horrid human rights abuses. Saudi Arabia was and still is a far worse abuser of human rights than Iraq. I’m not saying we should invade Saudi Arabia, but I do think we should disengage our nation from that regime and quit providing military and financial support to it.

Lastly, if you’re a person of faith, please pray for this courageous young woman, her lawyer and her family. It would be so easy to give up and accept injustice but they are not giving up. In particular, I can’t help but admire Abdul Rahman Al-Lahem (the victim’s attorney) for his refusal to back down, even though he has lost his bar license for doing the right thing.

Update

CNN: Rape victim sentenced, lawyer’s license revoked

. . . Shying away from criticism of key ally, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called the case and the punishment “surprising” and “astonishing.”

“While this is a judicial procedure — part of a judicial procedure — overseas in courts outside of our country, still while it is very difficult to offer any detailed comment about this situation, I think most people would be quite astonished by the situation, ” McCormack said.

“I can’t get involved in specific court cases in Saudi Arabia dealing with its own citizens. But most people here would be quite surprised to learn of the circumstances and then the punishment meted out,” he said.

Give me a break! Seriously, how can our government say it can’t give any “detailed comment” about the situation? WTF!?

HRW.org (Human Rights Watch): Saudi Arabia: Rape Victim Punished for Speaking Out — Court Doubles Sentence for Victim, Bans Her Lawyer From the Case

Human Rights Watch called on King Abdullah to immediately void the verdict and drop all charges against the rape victim and to order the court to end its harassment of her lawyer.

?A courageous young woman faces lashing and prison for speaking out about her efforts to find justice,? said Farida Deif, researcher in the women?s rights division of Human Rights Watch. ?This verdict not only sends victims of sexual violence the message that they should not press charges, but in effect offers protection and impunity to the perpetrators.?

The young woman, who is married, said she had met with a male acquaintance who had promised to give her back an old photograph of herself. After she met her acquaintance in his car in Qatif, a gang of seven men then attacked and raped both of them, multiple times. Despite the prosecution?s requests for the maximum penalty for the rapists, the Qatif court sentenced four of them to between one and five years in prison and between 80 and 1,000 lashes. They were convicted of kidnapping, apparently because prosecutors could not prove rape. The judges reportedly ignored evidence from a mobile phone video in which the attackers recorded the assault.

Moreover, the court in October 2006 also sentenced both the woman and man who had been raped to 90 lashes each for what it termed ?illegal mingling.? Human Rights Watch is particularly concerned that the criminalization of any contact between unmarried individuals of the opposite sex in Saudi Arabia severely impedes the ability of rape victims to seek justice. A court may view a woman?s charge of rape as an admission of extramarital sexual relations (or ?illegal mingling?) unless she can prove, by strict evidentiary standards, that this contact was legal and the intercourse was nonconsensual.

In an interview in December, the rape victim described to Human Rights Watch her treatment in court:

    ?At the first session, [the judges] said to me, ?what kind of relationship did you have with this individual? Why did you leave the house? Do you know these men?? They asked me to describe the situation. They used to yell at me. They were insulting. The judge refused to allow my husband in the room with me. One judge told me I was a liar because I didn?t remember the dates well. They kept saying, ?Why did you leave the house? Why didn?t you tell your husband [where you were going]???

?Victims of sexual violence in Saudi Arabia face enormous obstacles in the criminal justice system,? said Deif. ?Their interrogations and court hearings are more likely to compound the trauma of the original assault than provide justice.?

2007
11.17

I decided to retract this post for personal reasons.

2007
11.17

The Centennial

I’m working on a longer post as well as pictures from today’s American Indian protest of the Oklahoma Centennial celebrations, but for now let me say it was a tremendous day.

2007
11.13

Life has been pretty intense lately and I simply haven’t had time to blog like I would like to. I’ve also been rethinking how I want this blog to function and how I will be spending my creative/writing energy.

So, what I’m planning to do is this…

JMBzine.com – will be newly focused on commentary by myself. I’ll mostly talk about politics, faith and local concerns. I won’t talk about my personal life that much on JMBzine anymore, and will seek to make the blog a bit more “professional.” And in fact, literally professional, because I will be running advertising. I’m not sure all of the details yet (probably I’ll use google adwords, as my brother Dan Branum is doing), but I’m hoping to make some money and have the blog be a more focused voice for my opinions.

PineRidgeOklahoma.com – I’ll be reviving this blog to talk about life on the farm (I’ll post more about that in another post). Posts will focus on what is like to move to a farm after having lived in an urban setting for the last 5 years or so, and also on the practical side of trying to live more simply and freely.

My facebook profile – OK, this is where the purely personal stuff comes in. Friends and family who want to stay in touch are welcome to do so via my Profile on Facebook. I used to be ok with posting this kind of stuff on JMBzine, but the world is changing. Certainly Facebook isn’t private either (as way too many beauty pageant contests have discovered), but it isn’t quite so public.

There’s some other projects in the works. Thanks to the help of my extraordinary webkeeping friend, Rena, who I’ve hired to help me, I’m going to be posting resteraunt, wine and beer reviews soon on a blog especially for that.

Anyway that’s the news for now. It will likely be later this month before all of the projects go live but change is coming.

2007
11.12