Wednesday 26 August 2009

Illustration of my next major goal in life...

Yep. There's nothing like doing "head over wheels"
spins on the unicycle WHILE JUMPING ON A TRAMPOLINE!

Actually, these guys have taken their skills to the level of another PLANET!
(To prove my point, don't miss the part from about 2 min 30 sec on forward...)

Saturday 22 August 2009

Response to the latest denial of Leonard Peltier's parole

In spite of strong expressions of support and concern from over 500 prominent leaders and hundreds of thousands of others around the world during a 30+ year campaign, and major evidence that it is a serious injustice to keep him incarcerated (see below) it boggles mind that how this particular parole board can simply continue to thrust its "hand" in Leonard Peltier's face.

As I read his attorney's response Friday to the latest denial of Leonard's parole, the questions in Psalm 13 rang out once again, connecting me to his spirit and what many across the world must be feeling right about now:

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Psalm 13:1-2 (NIV)

Subject: Attorney Seitz responds to denial of parole
Date: Friday, August 21, 2009, 7:13 PM

The Bush Administration holdovers on the U.S. Parole Commission today adopted the position of the FBI that anyone who may be implicated in the killings of its agents should never be paroled and should be left to die in prison. Despite judicial determinations that the unrepentant FBI fabricated evidence and presented perjured testimony in Leonard Peltier's prosecution; despite a jury's acquittal on grounds of self-defense of two co-defendants who were found to have engaged in the same conduct of which Mr. Peltier was convicted; despite Mr. Peltier's exemplary record during his incarceration for more than 33 years and his clearly demonstrated eligibility for parole; despite letters and petitions calling for his release submitted by millions of people in this country and around the world including one of the judges who ruled on his earlier appeals; and despite his advanced age and deteriorating health, the Parole Commission today informed Mr. Peltier that his "release on parole would depreciate the seriousness of your offenses and would promote disrespect for the law," and set a reconsideration hearing in July 2024.

This is the extreme action of the same law enforcement community that brought us the indefinite imprisonment of suspected teenage terrorists, tortures, and killings in CIA prisons around the world and promoted widespread disrespect for the democratic concepts of justice upon which this country supposedly was founded. These are the same institutions that have never treated indigenous peoples with dignity or respect or accepted any responsibility for centuries of intolerance and abuse.

At his parole hearing on July 28th Leonard Peltier expressed regret and accepted responsibility for his role in the incident in which the two FBI agents and one Native American activist died as the result of a shootout on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Mr. Peltier emphasized that the shootout occurred in circumstances where there literally was a war going on between corrupt tribal leaders, supported by the government, on the one hand, and Native American traditionalists and young activists on the other.

He again denied -- as he as always denied -- that he intended the deaths of anyone or that he fired the fatal shots that killed the two agents, and he reminded the hearing officer that one of his former co-defendants recently admitted to having fired the fatal shots, himself.

Accordingly, it is not true that Leonard Peltier participated in "the execution style murders of two FBI agents," as the Parole Commission asserts, and there never has been credible evidence of Mr. Peltier's responsibility for the fatal shots as the FBI continues to allege.

Moreover, given the corrupt practices of the FBI, itself, it is entirely untrue that Leonard Peltier's parole at this juncture will in any way "depreciate the seriousness" of his conduct and/or "promote disrespect for the law."

We will continue to seek parole and clemency for Mr. Peltier and to eventually bring this prolonged injustice to a prompt and fair resolution.

Eric Seitz - Leonard Peltier Attorney
Time to set him free... Because it is the RIGHT thing to do.
Friends of Peltier

Here is what people of conscience and seekers of justice can do in the meantime.



I asked some professional chaplain friends in an e-list we have (most are Americans) what the heck was happening to my country after quoting a retired chaplain friend who had sent this response on a different forum where were were discussing all the screeching opposition to health care reform: "Clair, your country has let the inmates out -- they are showing up with their guns, their warped ideas, their hatred and racism, and their ignorance. You can watch all this from afar and gain more perspective than we can who are in the midst of it all. These folks are the dupes of big money from the pharmaceuticals, but also from political bodies out to destroy the Obama administration by any means available. Democracy is at the mercy of the fanatics today."

Well, that got the dander up! One of them replied and a couple others chimed in, as well:

"Just a word from a ‘token’ conservative on the list. I am a bit appalled by the venom of the retired chaplain’s reply. Ovid, the Latin Poet/philosopher, wrote in about 18 bc; Because I am not understood, am I a barbarian here? (That’s my translation from of Latin of “Tristia”). As you might suppose, I am not for more government intrusion into our daily lives. I still believe that advances in every facet of life and commerce are greatly aided by competition. I am convinced that the present push for a universal health care has not as its foundational power the pure betterment of the people, but instead, the primary motive of gaining votes and remaining in power. You know the Question, “What at politicians best at? Answer: Getting reelected.” I suppose that we all in some degree attempt to make ourselves indispensable to our employers and constituencies. But, I see this as an attempt to sell the future of our families and country in order to make a name, secure a place in History, and an incremental attack on fundamental doctrines of freedom espoused by our forefathers.

When, as it is appearing in this debate, there is a paradigm shift in basic support, it is common for the weakening factor to resort to name calling, ie. "Clair, your country has let the inmates out -- they are showing up with their guns, their warped ideas, their hatred and racism, and their ignorance."

Clair, you don’t know me except for an occasional e-mail (to which you has always responded with grace) but, I feel that name calling and stereotyping are surely beneath the social decorum, professionalism, training and character of those who have chosen or been chosen to be in ministry. (In using ‘ministry’ I’m taking into account the push for secular chaplaincy but, we all still have to be ordained and endorsed by a religious body). If a civil exchange and challenge of positions is impossible among those who are trained to be accepting of other’s ideas/ ideals, there is not much hope for a peaceful conclusion of any great, widespread or national problems we face today or in the future."


Well, a few of us made some more attempts at "grace-full" exchange, but now I think I need to do a bit of healthy venting. And, after all, it is my blog!

Frank Kromkowski, a peace activist friend from Montana, forwarded this provocative piece to me a couple of days ago. I think it brings my other retired chaplain friend's point home, but in a slightly different slant -- and I'll admit I cleaned the original wording up a bit near the very end:


You didn't get mad when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.
You didn't get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate energy policy.
You didn't get mad when a covert CIA operative got outed.
You didn't get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.
You didn't get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.
You didn't get mad when we spent over 600 billion(and counting) on said illegal war.
You didn't get mad when over 10 billion dollars just disappeared in Iraq.
You didn't get mad when you saw the Abu Grahib photos.
You didn't get mad when you found out we were torturing people.
You didn't get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.
You didn't get mad when we didn't catch Bin Laden.
You didn't get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.
You didn't get mad when we let a major US city drown.
You didn't get mad when the deficit hit the trillion dollar mark.

You finally got mad when.. when... wait for it... when the government decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick.

Yes, the illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, and stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer - are all ok with you. But, helping other Americans... well @!$%# that!

Is that about right? You know it is.


Yep, I'd say that's some pretty serious stuff -- and some serious "attitude!" Definitely needs to be balanced by a bit of humor to lighten the load. So, dear reader, allow me to further lapse in maintaining my "civil discourse" for a moment, because...

I want to share some blatantly sarcastic "reflections" from still yet another friend responding to this very same piece. It's tone is actually reminiscent of some of the conversations I've been having these days among my Aussie friends and acquaintences.

My Aussie friends are, for the most part, either intrigued or somewhat worried by the sight of blue (and white) collar conservatives - many of which are the very people who have the most to gain by these reforms, if passed - allowing themselves to get all whipped up by powerful vested interests within "the opposition" to rabble-rouse on their behalf during those town meetings in August all across America.

Most of my friends and colleagues living on this side of the Big Pond are not reticent to share their own candid reflections and perceptions about social and political realities in America. (And you should also know that Aussies love to utilize "colorful" language - even many of the "religious" folk!)

So here goes...

"Like good sheep, the Silent Majority only speaks up when they're scared. And told to. As long as it doesn' t involve taxes, blacks taking their money, or aliens coming to take their daughters or grandmas for rape, death and icky sex, these people don't care about war (the enemy deserves to die), the deficit (what exactly it that anyway?), New Orleans because it's filled with lazy blacks who were too dumb to take a bus, wiretapping (its always someone else that's bad and deserves it.) Anyone that got tortured probably was guilty or they wouldn't be getting tortured (who's Abu Graib?) "W" wasn't a Yankee and talked good so it's OK if he's President, twicest. Energy Officials are rich and wear ties to work so how could they do anything wrong? Someday I'm gonna be an Energy Official! The Patriot Act is good, it's for Patriots like me and I know how to act right. No war can be illegal, or it wouldn't be a war, what does this 'outing' mean?, who's Walter Reed? Trillion billion schmillion, whatever. Whatever it takes to get rid of the Evildoers. "I'm not giving my money to lazy n**** ers and hippies that won't work and make bad life choices. I like my insurance and my medicare just right, don't let the damn government take it over. This where I draw the line. You think the damn government could run a Death Panel right? I'm real happy with my own private United Health Care Death Panel. It's good for business and freedom and the market and it aint no socialism. I WANT MY COUNTRY BACK! I WANT MY COUNTRY BACK! I WANT MY COUNTRY BACK!"

Hmmmmmm... if the shoe fits...


Thursday 20 August 2009

Leaders Among A Number of Faith Communities Hosted a National Call-in Re: Health Care Reform & Invited President Obama To Join In Today

Leaders among many diverse faith communities within the United States initiated and hosted a live webcast call-in on Wednesday, Aug. 19 from 5 to 5:40 pm EDT in the USA (7 am this morning - Thursday - in my region of Australia) which lifted up a variety of voices in the national debate about health care.

The motivation was that our health care system is broken and it’s clear we need a change in America, but special interests, some claiming to speak for people of faith, have been trying to block reform with distortions and distractions.President Barack Obama was invited to join the call, and accepted, making this the first time a President of the United States has spoken by phone to such a large number of people.

The "Call-in" sponsors are the leaders of:


"40 Minutes for Health Reform" was simultaneously webcast and kicks off "40 Days for Health Reform" encouraging people of faith to share their stories about health care in this country. Visit to listen to the online archive of that 40-minute call and to stay up to date with the action.


Wednesday 12 August 2009

Introducing "MennoNeighbors" - Join The Journey To Renew Mennonite Community


Introduction: A growing number of Mennonites are finding fellowship and mutual support through an informal network called MennoNeighbors. As others express interest in learning about this group, we have compiled the following statements to help to describe why we find this network helpful in our faith journeys. These are evolving articulations of who we want to be, not formal creedal statements.

Statement of purpose

We believe that the identity and mission of the Mennonite Church is to witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that the central tenet of that gospel calls us to God’s shalom. We are interested in joining hands with others who are committed to making this calling more of a priority for ourselves and our denomination.

As individuals and as congregations, we provide mutual support and counsel to other individuals, congregations, church employees, and others who are working to proactively foster truth, love, justice, and peace. We find encouragement through relationships with each other; we support ministries of peace, and work to expand the voices of inclusion and compassion within programs of the Mennonite Church USA, and in the wider community -- locally, nationally and globally.

Common interests and concerns among us have evolved around the centrality of justice (compassion for the marginalized) and peace (nonviolence, holistic shalom) in the Gospel and example of Christ, and therefore in the Anabaptist vision. Issues we see as important to justice and peace include urban ministry, church polity (congregational vs. central authority), biblical authority and interpretation, women in leadership, and the welcome of persons regardless of differences in gender, culture, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation or other characteristics. Beyond our local congregations and conferences, MennoNeighbors has become, for many of us, an important locus for conversation about and discernment on these issues.

Our vision is of a Church that exemplifies the following:


Founded upon unconditional love
Conflict resolution/mediation, nonviolence
Acknowledgment that we are all strangers searching
Mission understanding as neighbors sharing with one another
Ministry and solidarity with the poor and otherwise outcast
Community: welcoming, giving and receiving counsel
Instruments of God's blessing; blessed to bless
Liberty, peace, and justice for all

Living simply


MennoNeighbors is an informal network of individuals and congregations who correspond frequently and meet occasionally to provide mutual support and shared discernment related to issues pertaining to the Mennonite Church. Previously called "Urban Ministers", some of us have experienced fellowship and mutual support since 1989 as we have shared in the hosting of semi-annual meetings. The joy of our gatherings has been to gain strength from each other's presence.

MennoNeighbors is not an official body. We encourage congregations and individuals in our number to maintain relationships with and/or continue their membership in Mennonite Church USA insofar as that can be accomplished with integrity.

We come together around a common way of listening to each other and caring for each other whether or not we're in complete agreement with each other. We wish such “holy listening” would be practiced throughout the broader MC USA denomination.

We are connected in various ways to Anabaptist Mennonite churches and understandings; we listen to each other's cares, joys, questions, cutting edges -- offering support, challenge, fellowship, strength.

We are Mennonite Christians who support one another as we grapple with issues that shape our congregational lives in the context of our various settings and the body of Christ. We seek a safe space for conversations with and among congregations who:
1. are comfortable asking and struggling with questions in our faith journeys;
2. seek the fellowship and counsel of others in the wider church;
3. believe that personal faith formation and discernment takes place primarily on the congregational level;
4. value differences as opportunities to discover our oneness in Christ;
5. value the role of listening and conversation in building up the body of Christ.

The evolution of mutual interests and needs over these years led to the following covenant of understanding:

1. Our intention is to support each other through regular attendance at annual plenary meetings (usually in the fall).

2. As a body, we are committed to respond to an individual's or other congregation's request for counsel or discernment.

3. We commit ourselves to give financial assistance to MennoNeighbors for purposes of communication, facilitation of annual gatherings, and sharing in travel expenses.

For further information about MennoNeighbors, contact Lin Garber at

or go to:

Thursday 6 August 2009

Left Brain Husband (Hilarious!)

If you are having a tough day, this oughta do it to cheer you up!

And if you are organising food to take to the sick or grieving, you'll want to listen & learn from this woman's experience!

For those of you who are not from NC, Jeanne Robertson, the story teller here, was Miss North Carolina many years ago and then won Miss Congeniality in the Miss America pageant. When you listen to this you will know why! Jeanne is from Burlington, NC.

This will be audio only - no picture - but if you're a woman who does the primary cooking/shoping and EVER sent a man to the grocery store for ANYTHING, you'll definitely want to listen to this piece all the way through, to the very last "punch line"!!

(And if you're a man, particularly a Left-Brain Man, I imagine you will relate to this story, as well!)

Simply click on the speaker icon at:

Reform? Why do we need health-care reform? Everything is just fine the way it is!

What’s Not to Like?

By Jonathan Alter - in Newsweek (online version)

Jul 31, 2009

Go ahead, shoot me. I like the status quo on health care in the United States. I've got health insurance and I don't give a damn about the 47 million suckers who don't. Obama and Congress must be stopped. No bill! I'm better off the way things are.

I'm with that woman who wrote the president complaining about "socialized medicine" and added: "Now keep your hands off my Medicare." That's the spirit!

Why should I be entitled to the same insurance that members of Congress get? Blue Dogs need a lot of medical attention to treat their blueness. I'm just a regular guy and definitely deserve less.

I had cancer a few years ago. I like the fact that if I lose my job, I won't be able to get any insurance because of my illness. It reminds me of my homeowners' insurance, which gets canceled after a break-in. I like the choice I'd face if, God forbid, the cancer recurs—sell my house to pay for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in treatment, or die. That's what you call a "post-existing condition."

I like the absence of catastrophic insurance today. It meant that my health-insurance plan (one of the better ones, by the way) only covered about 75 percent of the cost of my cutting-edge treatment. That's as it should be—face cancer and shell out huge amounts of money at the same time. Nice.

I like the "lifetime limits" that many policies have today. Missed the fine print on that one, did you? It means that after you exceed a certain amount of reimbursement, you don't get anything more from the insurance company. That's fair.

Speaking of fair, it seems fair to me that cost-cutting bureaucrats at the insurance companies—not doctors—decide what's reimbursable. After all, the insurance companies know best.

Yes, the insurance company status quo rocks. I learned recently about something called the "loading fees" of insurance companies. That's how much of every health-care dollar gets spent by insurance companies on things other than the medical care—paperwork, marketing, profits, etc. According to a University of Minnesota study, up to 47 percent of all the money going into the health-insurance system is consumed in "loading fees." Even good insurance companies spend close to 30 percent on nonmedical stuff. Sweet.

The good news is that the $8,000 a year per family that Americans pay for their employer-based health insurance is heading up! According to the Council of Economic Advisers, it will hit $25,000 per family by 2025. The sourpusses who want health-care reform say that's "unsustainable." Au contraire.

And how could the supporters of these reform bills believe in anything as stupid as a "public option"? Do they really believe that the health-insurance cartel deserves a little competition to keep them honest? Back in the day, they had a word for competition. A bad word. They called it capitalism. FedEx versus the U.S. Postal Service, CNN versus PBS—just because it's government-backed doesn't mean you can't compete against it. If they believed in capitalism, the insurance companies would join the fray and compete.

I'm glad they don't. I prefer the status quo, where the for-profit insurance companies suck at the teat of the federal government. Corporate welfare's what we've got, and it's a damn good system. Through a wonderful program called Medicare Advantage, the insurance companies receive hundreds of billions of dollars in fees to administer a program that the government is already running. Don't touch that baby. You'd be messing with the handiwork of some fine lobbyists.

You know what part of the status quo I like best? It's a longstanding system for paying doctors called "fee for service." That's where doctors get paid for each procedure they perform, as if my auto dealer got paid separately for the steering wheel, brakes, and horn instead of for the car.
Fee-for-service is why the medical care at that doc-in-a-box at my mall is so superior to the Mayo Clinic or Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where the doctors are on salary. Who would want to mess with that?

OK, if you really press me, I'm for one change. It's the one that Republicans trot out to prove they're "reformers," too. We could save our whole system if we just capped malpractice awards. Two of our biggest states—California and Texas—did it a few years ago and nothing has changed there, but who cares? It sounds good.

So tell your congressmen and senators when they're home for the summer recess that it's too soon to address this issue. We've only been debating it for 97 years, since Theodore Roosevelt put national health insurance in the Bull Moose Party platform of 1912. We've only had 745 congressional hearings on the subject (I made that number up, but it's got to be close). That's not enough! Let's study this problem more before we do anything about it.

Did I say "problem"? Who said there was a problem? Not me. I like the status quo.