Monthly Archives: January, 2010

Sons of Terror

For a while, it looked like assassin Scott Roeder might get away with murder. His defense lawyer Mark Rudy tried to get the charge reduced to manslaughter. Roeder’s victim, Dr. George Tiller, had been threatened and slandered for decades for providing late-term abortions to women at his clinic. Rudy continued along the same lines.

Rudy tried to convince the jury that Roeder was a martyr for a righteous cause. It took them less than an hour to find him guilty.

One of the most outrageous aspects of the defense argument was a comparison of Scott Roeder to the late Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

During closing arguments earlier Friday, Rudy urged the jury to reject the murder charge, saying, “no one should be convicted based on his convictions.”
Rudy mentioned leaders who stood up for their beliefs, including civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. They were “celebrated individuals (who) stood up and made the world a better place.”
“They leave their marks based on their words and deeds,” Rudy said.

Is our collective memory so short that we could forget that King, like Tiller, was murdered by an assassin’s bullet? Have we forgotten that King was a leader of nonviolence, in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi and America’s own Henry David Thoreau? Was the jury supposed to overlook that fact that Roeder had broadcast his convictions all his life protected by the first amendment– that he was on trial because he sneaked up on an unarmed man and shot him in church? That the deed for which he will be remembered is the cowardly murder of a doctor, father and grandfather in front of his family and friends?

But following the logic of the anti-abortion movement, Roeder’s action makes sense. Real life is full of trouble and difficult moral choices. If you believe that the woman concerned is best able to make that choice you will not be trying to make abortion illegal. You might organize support services for women with a crisis pregnancy, you might use persuasion, you might counsel young men on responsibility and respect for women. You might support education and availability of contraception.

The anti-abortion movement, as opposed to individuals who have moral objections to abortion, has taken an extreme stance, declaring that women who have abortions and doctors who perform abortions are committing murder. By this logic, Roeder was acting consistently.

“I don’t condone what Scott Roeder did, but I cannot condemn the consistency of his logic,” said Randall Terry, a founder of antiabortion group Operation Rescue. “George Tiller killed 60,000 innocent human beings in barbaric ways, and Scott felt the way to protect more babies from a grisly death was to kill Tiller.”

The anti-abortion movement is not the first extremist group to claim a moral stance to justify violence and terrorism. All of them do. Roeder’s spiritual home is not the Civil Rights movement, but the Ku Klux Klan.

At times the women’s Klan sought to portray itself as an organization of social work and social welfare. One national WKKK speaker announced that she left social work for the “broader field of Klankraft” because of the Klan’s effectiveness in promoting morality and public welfare. Many chapters claimed to collect food and money for the needy, although these donations typically went to Klan families, often to families of Klan members arrested for rioting and vigilante activities. A powerful Florida WKKK chapter operated a free day nursery, charging that Catholic teachers had ruined the local public schools.
Some WKKK chapters ran homes for wayward girls. These homes served two purposes: to protect the virtue of Protestant women who were tempted by a life of vice and to underscore the danger faced by delinquent girls placed in Catholic-controlled reform schools.
‘Women of the Klan’, by Kathleen M. Blee

Most members of the Klan did not directly commit acts of violence. The Klan was not seen as a terrorist group. They infiltrated government, church and law enforcement. They claimed to answer to a high moral standard and to protect the innocent. Their violent rhetoric allowed the assassins among them to hide in plain site, uttering threats and spreading terror in the name of free speech.

When speech did not suffice, there was the gun. That is the truth behind the rhetoric of the anti-abortion extremists today…

The Rev. Donald Spitz, of Chesapeake, Va., who runs the Army of God Web site supporting violence against abortion providers, said the rejection of that argument has upset those who view Roeder as a hero.
”I know there is not a lot of good feeling out there — everybody is pretty angry,” he said.
Spitz was the spiritual adviser to Paul Hill and was with him at his 2003 execution for the killing of a Florida abortion provider and a clinic escort in 1994, an event that led to a lull in violence at abortion clinics. While saying he knows nothing of impending plans by others against abortion doctors, Spitz scoffed at suggestions that Roeder’s conviction will have a similar effect.
”Times change,” Spitz said. ”People are not as passive as they have been. They are more assertive.”

When argument fails, there is the gun. Terrorism is most effective when it disrupts the most with the least violence. When armed militias claiming to be the only true patriots march in plain sight, not even bothering with hoods, it’s sure that individuals will decide to embrace martyrdom.

Martin Luther King loved his life and his family. He led Americans who had been deeply wronged in a movement of nonviolent resistance.

Good people can disagree. Dr. Tiller was murdered in church, where he served as an usher. Anti-abortion activists don’t represent all Christians. Abortion is not an easy moral issue. People of conscience who oppose abortion can aid women in need and children in poverty, they can use their freedom of speech to persuade, they can vote as they choose. They should reject the criminals who are using this issue to continue the tradition of domestic terror in the name of patriotism.

UPDATE: A convicted arsonist and shooter is promising more violence in emails from prison.

Who Knows Where It’s Been? Me Vida Local II

Alternet has an investigation and review of the food selections at the dollar stores. You know, the off brands.

Distributed foods and beverages hailing from unregulated countries abound in dollar stores. Royal Dansk Danish-style butter cookies for $1.29 are made in Indonesia and distributed by a company in Melville, New York. House Mill Honey Rings are produced in Argentina and distributed by outlets in Puerto Rico, Libya and Senegal. Pickles bottled in Turkey are marketed under the Italian name Forelli and distributed by Allied International Corporation, based in Virginia.

Not all of them are bad, a few of them are actually a good deal, but in most cases you get what you pay for.

Of course, the more expensive markets sell lots of foods that seem to be what they’re not. Everything is natural now, like nature intended. Chickens that gladly gave their lives. Potato chips the way they were meant to be. I don’t know if this is Deism, or Theism, or the cosmic recipe book of the Goddess. Maybe I think too much.

Continuing ‘Me Vida Local’, Mangiarelli’s Fruitlands in North Providence has good prices and seasonal produce. I make a kind of pie puttanesca, which is just that I cut up some marked-down fruit and bake it in a frozen pie crust.

We all actually could use a break though, and sometimes the last thing you want to do is cook. Realistically, we’re not going to go to ten markets either. Still, if I’m in the neighborhood I stop at Mangiarellis. You save time because there’s no fifteen minute checkout line.

Me Vida Local List–
Stamp Egg Farms
East Side Prescription Center
Yacht Club Soda
Mangiarelli’s Fruitlands

EXOTIC LANDS: If you ever travel to the farther reaches of the globe, like Connecticut, a commenter recommends Four Mile River Farm for local beef.

Wolf Moon

Full Moon, January 2010

Did you see the moon last night? The biggest and brightest of 2010. The Farmer’s Almanac has a list of Native American full moon names, that is, for the Northeast. The arctic chill is here for the next few days.

Some of our neighbors are struggling to keep warm and emergency shelters are open.

February 2nd is Candlemas, a Christian holiday and a Pagan cross-quarter day. I personally celebrate it as the day when we reach ten hours of daylight and we see the sun both before and after work. That’s got to cheer you up.

It’s also Groundhog Day a holiday I never quite grasped. In Rhode Island you can bet your life on six more weeks of winter, no matter who sees their shadow.

The moon rises tonight at 5:51pm, and it will still be big and round.

When Pawtucket Was Grand

Pawtucket Train Station

Cool stuff you see driving around Greater Providence. This train station behind a pharmacy parking lot has granite lions holding chains and shields with a heraldic ‘P’. Public architecture isn’t what it was before the two world wars, for a lot of reasons.

Will the old train station become another public space? I hope it will, because it’s beautiful and they don’t make them like that anymore.

A QUESTION: Donald Wolberg asks if the train station is on the National Register of Historic Places. I don’t know, but I’ve been looking at Greater City-Providence site, and those folks seem to know a lot about city planning and restoration, so they might know. They have an update on The Arcade that is reason for hope.

Just Wave From a Distance

Am I the only one who reads the tabloids in the supermarket line? I haven’t read the scholarly, in-depth analysis yet, but I seen the cover.

Octomom, wearing a bikini, posing with a come-hither look.

I would think any guy would want to go-thither, real fast. Some women are just scary.

Snow Squall

I went to the Post Office, and saw one flake drift slowly down. On my way back I thought the wind had kicked up a load of dust. It was instant, like driving through a curtain. One side clear, the other side was solid snow.

I’ve lived here all my life but never saw weather quite like that. The snow must have been wet, it fell like a penny from the Empire State Building. It formed a fog. Visibility was half a block or less. Everything turned white in a second. Luckily I was driving at low speed.

Outside of the car, it wasn’t that cold, but kind of like being sprinkled with sugar by a Mighty Baker.

The news said we were having snow squalls. Did you see it?

Benevolent Birthday Video

These are photos taken of David Jaffe’s 50th birthday celebration in which he gave away $50 to 50 people at a local food pantry in the Berkshires. Thank you, David! Your gesture was a wonderful way to express benevolence and give people hope for humanity.

My President

I went to a friend’s mother’s wake last night, didn’t see the State of the Union.

A year ago I was joining up with people I found on the net, to watch President Obama’s speeches on TV, but my heart isn’t in it now.

He’s potentially one of the best presidents we’ll have, he inherited a range of crises all happening at once. Things are bad, but they could be worse. Still, I had hoped for so much.

If the people lead, leaders will eventually follow. I know this is not a time to give up, but rather to get more active. I’ll keep on with health care, I sent an email to Congressman Kennedy last night. His famous uncle, after all, didn’t aim to get ‘sorta near the moon’.

It’s exhausting to think of government as an endless campaign, but that’s what is necessary. I’m gonna get another cup of coffee and go to work now.

A Little Bit’a Sugar

Due to the fact that last time I checked you don’t need to update your credentials to be a Certified HIV Counselor, I think the test I passed in the early 90’s at the Rhode Island Department of Health still covers me.

I haven’t done HIV counseling in years, and I would absolutely get an update if I expected to counsel anyone now. A lot has changed.

In the 90’s, they were just finding the meds that are keeping a lot of people alive today. I did counseling with patients prior to the HIV test, and counseling when giving results. After all, this might be dire news, and you didn’t want your patient to lose all hope. You also wanted to educate them for prevention.

Today, we can light a candle, and the AIDS quilt with its acres of squares dedicated to all the people we lost has not come to Rhode Island for a long time. Sorrow fades, we survive.

When I was actively counseling, I had a guy come in for his results–negative. Good news, absolutely. However, I read his chart for primary medical care, and there was bad news of another health threat in it. He had uncontrolled diabetes.

So the conversation went something like this–

“Good news, your HIV test was negative.”
“Oh, thank God!”
“Yes, but I have to tell you that your chart shows that your blood sugar was 356 last time you came in to see the doctor. You really need to schedule an appointment to talk about your diabetes.”
“Yeah, I know I have a little bit’a sugar, but I don’t have AIDS.”
“As far as the test can tell, you are HIV negative [explanation of the limits of testing, plus safe sex advice], but I’m concerned about your blood sugar.”
“Whatever. I’m just relieved I don’t have AIDS.”
“But diabetes could kill you!”
“Yeah, but I don’t have AIDS.”

What counsel can we give the American public today? We are being destroyed from within by a commonplace malady– one that kills our relatives, neighbors, and nameless people who show up in the statistics. But we’re used to it. A terror like AIDS will mobilize us. A terrorist who killed tens of thousands of Americans yearly would generate outrage.

But death by incompetence, greed, blind stupidity and cowardice? We’re used to it.

I wish we were able to reach a consensus that every American should be able to get health care. Other countries have done it. It’s not easy, and it is expensive, but the alternative is paying more for less, as we are doing today.

In the older population, which is my patient base, diabetes affects over 10%. The consequences are horrific. I think that if we could step back, and see how the number of Americans suffering and dying from lack of health care outnumbers the Americans dying of HIV we would have more sense of crisis.

Part of the fear of HIV was the possibility that we might be next. But if you are average, you certainly know someone who is afraid of losing their health insurance. Who is on COBRA. Who is running up their credit card with medical expenses. Can you catch unemployment? It does seem to be spreading.

Universal Health Care, like peace, has to come eventually. Let’s skip the rest of the war and just do it now.

Just Wondering

I’m really slammed with work, sadly unable to write much.

Last night I was in the parking lot of East Side Market with NPR on the radio. They are all worked up over bioterrorism, and someone said that there’s an urgent priority to develop an anthrax vaccine.

I remember the still-unsolved anthrax attacks after 9/11. Several people got sick, a few died. We still don’t know who did it. I went to the post office, where the postal workers were wearing rubber gloves, and I thanked them for doing their jobs on the front lines. You’ll remember that US Mail was a target.

And this was very bad. Innocent people died, more got sick, and many were threatened in their workplace by tainted letters, real or fake. I’m not downplaying it.

However, we all know that thousands of Americans die each year from lack of health care because of a broken and unjust system. We know that denying care to our fellow-citizens has made some people very rich. And the best chance of reform in sixty years is falling apart.

How is it we can realistically expect the money to flow to an anthrax vaccine to fight bioterrorism, when we are making it explicit that we can’t afford basic health care for all Americans?

Whoever launched the anthrax attacks intended to do much more damage than they did. Any evildoer who could mess up our country and hurt Americans as much as our dysfunctional health care rationing profiteering wild west would put themselves in the criminal hall of fame.

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