2009
03.26

Watch the debate live right now at: CPAC.ca

My commentary can be read at:

2009
03.22

Daniel Sandate was the second known US war resister to be deported after having first fled to Canada. (I was his lead civilian legal defense attorney in his court-martial at Fort Carson) After having been convicted of desertion, he was sentenced to 8 months of confinement. He is now free and living in Oklahoma City.

I asked Daniel to write a short statement to people in both Canada and the US on the importance of supporting Kimberly Rivera and other war resisters facing deportation in Canada. (Kimberly is currently facing deportation on March 26th) He gave me permission to share what he wrote . . .

Photo of daniel sandate


My name is Daniel Sandate. I was in a sense a simple soldier in the infantry that was deployed to Iraq. When there, I was subject to IED attacks and small arms fire. Upon my return, I was still subject to these things in my mind. They never escaped me.

Within us all, there is a place that one can find solace and peace. For such soldiers as myself that relive the horrors, such a place lays in ruins. Destroyed, this refuge is still guarded in the night from what dreams may bring. Time alone can not set the cornerstone for rehabilitation; when said soldier is ignorantly shunned by the service branch of which he or she may serve, the consequences are dire and sometimes deadly..

Upon my return from Iraq, I was stationed at Ft. Carson, Colorado. Having being ignored for both my physical and mental ailments, I fled to Canada. In Canada, I went into hiding to avoid being found, but mostly, I was hiding from myself and the problems that I could not shake. After a serious suicide attempt, I was found and put into the system to be returned to the US Army’s control. While in Canadian custody, I was promised by the US consolate in Canada that my mental health was “paramount”. With that promising hope, I found myself fighting to return to military custody.

Once I was handed over to the Army, I was tumbled through the nightmarish processes of the military criminal justice system. With my ailments still effecting and limiting my body and mind, I was still denied the services that are said to be available by my rights as a soldier. Denied despite the fact that I was not yet found guilty. Denied to mental health treatment by both the Army and the jail that housed me while awaiting the condemning court-martial.

Irrepairable harm has been done. The Canadian Supreme Court has already ruled that Robin Long would not suffer such harm and was. As it is, presently, I am a prime example of the Army’s failure to return quality service to the ones that do serve and have valiantly served it. I have suffered such harm. Not to malicious actions, but to apathetic necglect.

With this, I ask that you support such soldiers that are in Canada. Whether they are in hiding or fighting their appeals to be able to stay (to avoid prosecution for taking part in an illegal war). There are many reasons that a soldier runs. Like a trapped and neglected animal, a trapped and neglected soldier will run. To return a soldier (or any service member) to the impersonal machine that does not care for its own is, in my opinion wrong and morally irresponsible. Therefore I ask that those who feel the same reach out to support these soldiers in any way they can.

In summation, I ask that I be seen as an example of what happens when a soldier is kicked to the curb, so to speak, and is then punished for it. One such soldier that will face the same hardships is Kimberly Rivera. She is currently facing deportation and will be going through the same processes of custody that I had to endure.. One way that this can be avoided is if the people stand up and shine a light on these issues that are afflicting the servicemen and servicewomen and the ones around them. I call on to those with a conscience to stand up and voice their wants for radical reform to the governments that are apathetically doing these harms in the name of justice.

2009
03.16

From: Facebook.com: Protest homophobic actions by Grandfield, Oklahoma High School

Grandfield, OK high school teacher Debra Taylor was suspended and later forced to resign over her using the Laramie Project as part of her curriculum in her ethics class.

Meanwhile, the School’s superintendant Ed Turlington has been quoted in the press as saying that the Laramie Project is “obscene” and made comments to students (in the English class taught by his wife) that homosexuality is immoral and that gays caused AIDS.

And now to make matters worse, the Westboro Baptist Church (led by Fred Phelps, creator of the hate website godhatesfags.com) has announced a protest in support of the school’s homophobic actions.

It’s time for all lovers of equality and academic freedom to show up for a counter-protest.

Please bring signs and banners in support of equality, but we ask that all participants in this counter-protest commit to non-violence.

Our protest will happen from 2:30-4 p.m. in front of the Grandfield High School. You can find a link to a map of this location by clicking here

2009
03.13

The People’s Forum: HR 875 The food police, criminalizing organic farming and the backyard gardener

Campaign for Liberty: HR 875 The food police, criminalizing organic farming and the backyard gardener, and violation of the 10th amendment

Red flags I found and I am sure there are more………..

* Legally binds state agriculture depts to enforcing federal guidelines effectively taking away the states power to do anything other than being food police for the federal dept.
* Effectively criminalizes organic farming but doesn’t actually use the word organic.
* Effects anyone growing food even if they are not selling it but consuming it.
* Effects anyone producing meat of any kind including wild game.
* Legislation is so broad based that every aspect of growing or producing food can be made illegal. There are no specifics which is bizarre considering how long the legislation is.
* Section 103 is almost entirely about the administrative aspect of the legislation. It will allow the appointing of officials from the factory farming corporations and lobbyists and classify them as experts and allow them to determine and interpret the legislation. Who do you think they are going to side with?
* Section 206 defines what will be considered a food production facility and what will be enforced up all food production facilities. The wording is so broad based that a backyard gardener could be fined and more.
* Section 207 requires that the state’s agriculture dept act as the food police and enforce the federal requirements. This takes away the states power and is in violation of the 10th amendment.

There are many more but by the time I got this far in the legislation I was so alarmed that I wanted to bring someone’s attention to it. (to the one person who reads my blog)

Didn’t Stalin nationalize farming methods that enabled his administration to gain control over the food supply? Didn’t Stalin use the food to control the people?

OpEdNews.com: Monsanto’s Dream Bill, HR 875

HR 875, was introduced by Rosa DeLauro whose husband Stanley Greenburg works for Monsanto.

The bill is monstrous on level after level – the power it would give to Monsanto, the criminalization of seed banking, the prison terms and confiscatory fines for farmers, the 24 hours GPS tracking of their animals, the easements on their property to allow for warrantless government entry, the stripping away of their property rights, the imposition by the filthy, greedy industrial side of anti-farming international “industrial” standards to independent farms – the only part of our food system that still works, the planned elimination of farmers through all these means

Here’s the letter I just sent to Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas (minority leader of the Ag committee) on the subject:

Dear Congressman Lucas,

I just found out about HR 875. I am very concerned about it, because it would mandate that state departments of agriculture would enforce federal regulations and could in turn lead to the end of organic gardening and agriculture.

The government has no business in my garden. I live on my late grandparents’ old farm and try to grow as much of my own food as possible, using sustainable and organic methods. I am afraid that HR 875 could some day lead to the government being able to regulate or even forbid me from doing this, as it defines “food production facility” very broadly, effectively meaning that a garden that grows produce for my own consumption could potentially fall under governmental regulation.

I understand that you are on the committee that will be considering this bill. Please do all you can to kill it.

Thanks,
James M. Branum

I also will add that I for one will be breaking this law if it passes.

2009
03.09

PeaceArena.org: Hark! Good news – religions less popular

Rena’s article quotes from Huffington Post, but also saw this article discussed on today’s front page of USA Today

My conclusions are a different than Rena’s, but I admit my own bias as progressive ecunemical Christian is to see religion as force of good, or at least potential good. So take my thoughts with that bias in mind.

First of all though, relating this story to more local trends, the survey reports that 34% of Vermonters identify as “nones” (no religion) while only 4% of Oklahomans identify as nones. This means that despite the national trends, religion is and will be for some time, the dominant cultural force in Oklahoma. While I am a-ok with expressions of all viewpoints and connections and partnerships with non-believers, I think it is critical that peace and justice movements in Oklahoma continue to find connecting points with religious communities. (I don’t see that as a real danger at this point of course. If anything, I think religious peacemakers are sometimes not respectful enough of diversity and non-belief. But still this is a good thing to remember, when trying to reach out to the religious 96% in Oklahoma.)

Second, I think many people within the category of “none” actually are very spiritual, even if not religious. During my time in the liberal mecca of Austin, I encountered many people who were critical of religion and didn’t consider themselves religious (it seemed to be the majority viewpoint of the UT campus population and the Austin activist community), yet were deeply spiritual. Some found beliefs in other religious traditions (picking and choosing what felt right to them — which by the way, I think is a-ok). Others took more free form paths, or even just had a deep and abiding faith in the power of collective humanity.

I think all of these things, while not “religous,” are spiritual in nature. A belief in a power higher than oneself, a belief in the connectedness of all existence, a belief that consciousness may continue in some way after a death, a belief that there is more to existence than that experienced through our senses . . . I think all of these things are a kind of spiritual belief.

I know that there are many who are truly atheists (which is also ok in my book… as a believer in God, I tend to think God loves everyone and believes in everyone. God doesn’t “need” our love to be able to love and care for us. And since I’m a heretic and don’t believe in hell, I don’t think atheists, infidels or anyone is going to be tormented in the afterlife), but I think most who describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, are still spiritual even though they reject religion.

So, I guess to me this survey leaves more questions than answers. And in the long-run, maybe the trends shown here will be good ones.

Or to tackle these questions from another point of view, many Americans (and especially young Americans) are increasingly finding religion to be irrelevant because it doesn’t offer an alternative vision of the world. Religion so often is a defender of the status quo and the gods of our religions are made into deities with all of the same prejudices that we have. So as we grow dissatisfied with the world as we see it (and believe me, more will feel this way as the economy continues to tank and the wars drag on), we will move away from traditional religions.

Yet, religions that are open to the prophetic voices, for the truly original spiritual connections with the divine, could take root and grow. Religion that criticizes that status quo and creates a new reality and a new vision, that could be a good thing. Instead of the institution of “The Church,” with its defense of the status quo, there could instead be alternative communities of faith.

So, time will tell what this all means, but as a person of faith, I’m not scared by these trends, Rather, I see that it could in the end be a really good thing. Jesus himself said there would come a time when hypocrisy and false faith would be thrown aside. Maybe that day is coming, and what will last and survive will be something worth believing in.

P.S. One last thing, this survey didn’t really discuss the fact that many people today practice more than one religion or who syncretize different faith traditions. I think this will be a growing trend in the future.