This Thing Called Courage

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Big Night

IF YOU CHECK OUT MY ARCHIVES FROM A YEAR AGO, you'll see a fairly lengthy account of my first 'Big Night' experience-- Big Night is the term naturalists use to describe the night, the first semi-warm, rainyish (or after a rain) night, when the salamanders leave the woods where they've been hibernating under rocks and logs and leaves, and re-enter their vernal pools, where the males 'congress' (rub themselves together in a huge, writhing mass) ejecting spermataphores, which the females later absorb. But the Wood Frogs (picture at left) also come out at more or less the same time, and that is what I will be hunting for tomorrow night, along with Peepers, with Chris. Click here to hear the wood frogs funny rattle-call.

I'm not going to post a link to spring peeper calls, because everyone should get out anytime from late afternoon to dawn and try to hear them for themselves! They're just starting now-- look for vernal pools (shallow spring pools that dry up by mid-summer (usually) that are free of fish) in the woods or along edges of woods (there is actually a ton of peepers living in a small wet area three feet off North Border Road down the street, where several thousand cars must go by every day (it's a feeder road to Route 93, which is only a hundred yards or so away, so you don't necessarily have to go into the middle of the forest to hear them.) It's amazing to think this sacred chorus of spring has been going on for millions of years, and continues today, despite how carelessly we have exploited the Natural World. It's never really spring until I hear the first peepers, and with any luck I will hear my first ones of 2007 tomorrow night-- and hopefully hear some wood frogs too. I will give a full report tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

American Woodcock

ONE OF THE KEENEST PLEASURES FOR THE AVID BIRDER, or amateur lover of nature (I wish I was the former but will settle for the latter) is the spring courtship flight display of the American Woodcock. These elusive and rare birds of our NorthEastern Forests have been coming back over the last week or two from their winter homes along the Gulf; now it is time to mate. The male marks his territory and courts a female by performing a dizzying courtship flight: sitting in his territory (his "singing ground") the male sings a nasal "peent" every five seconds. After about 20 "peents," he bursts into crazy, erratic flight, spiraling high into the sky-- as much as 200 or 300 feet. He sings to waiting females while his wings whistle as the wind passes through his feathers. He dive-bombs back down to the same spot after each flight and repeats this several times. He is prone to do this early in the morning for about 50 minutes, and early in the evening for 30 minutes.

The Atlantic population of Woodcock has declined steadily over the past two decades. Loss of habitat through conversion of brush-covered land into house-lots, tree plantations, and mature forests is mostly responsible for their downfall. Moosehorn U.S. National Wildlife Refuge, in Baring, Maine (wherever that might be) specializes in intensely studying these birds in an attempt to stave off their decline. (Yes, the US Wildlife Refuges are the same things that Bush has slashed again and again, including this year as well, as I wrote several blogs back. I was thinking along our glorious walk today along the north shore of Spot Pond (where there was trash by the side of the road-- the MDC used to pick it up but their budget has been cut too) how much better the world would have been, and how many hundreds of thousands of people would be alive today, if Bush, instead of being president, had been given an idiot's stick (as we used to call them in Southie-- those trash-picker-upper poles with the sharp spike at the end) and told to go clean up roads. All better off indeed. But I digress.) Now that their budget has been cut again, I suppose this work will come to an end. At any rate, Clay called the other day and he and bunch of birders are meeting Saturday night at a place known for its Woodcock sightings, and asked me to join them, so I probably will. And Dave of Benson Place wrote today (or yesterday) that he witnessed a spring concert early last evening of woodcock and bluebird. I'm jealous as all hell!

Here's the woodcock's call--

Monday, March 26, 2007

Anti-War Rally on Saturday

UNDER BRIGHT EARLY SPRING skies, several thousand people gathered at the Boston Common Saturday to rally against the war, and hear impassioned, powerful speakers, including Howard Zinn (local professor and author of A People's History of the United States) and Cindy Sheehan, mother of Casey Sheehan, who, like hundreds of thousands of others, died in this perverse, unnecessary war. It was wonderful to see so many young people there, of all races and ethnicities. The media love stereotypes, and love to portray anti-war activists as aging hippie-types with straggly goatees and headbands-- just as they like to portray many gay people as witty, fashion-fixated clones who are more than happy to 're-create' clueless straight men, as if we were born for no other purpose. As usual, the reality of the situation is quite different.

We bumped into several wonderful people, including Jesse and Edwin, a young, sweet interracial couple from Brighton (my original home town until I was 2.5 years old) who brought their dog along so he could express his Free Speech rights (photo above). And also two women from Northhampton People for Peace-- who would have come to my reading two weeks ago in NoHo, they said, were not their group showing an anti-war movie that night. (Chris also bumped into Mark, the owner of Northhampton's wonderful GLBT bookstore, Pride and Joy, Saturday night). Cindy was wonderful to hear-- her passion, courage, and determination are inspiring. She, like many people in the movement, is very upset that Speaker of the House Pelosi and the other Democrats have handed Bush 90 Billion more to continue to wage this insane war, and also removed language from the Appropriations Bill that would have required Bush to get their approval before attacking Iran. (!!! Not exactly following the mandate of the people that was expressed this past November.) As a result, Cindy is withholding her tax money, and urging other people to do the same.

I'll be back at my regular anti-war post this evening in Arlington Center. The beat goes on.

I also had the pleasure this weekend of seeing the Boston Gay Men's Chorus perform their spring concert, which featured the music of Bette Midler and Barry Manilow. It was a wonderful show and such a pleasure to watch this inspring, talented group do their thing. After that, I visited a local gay men's book group at their invitation, who had read A Map of the Harbor Islands as their selection for this month. They were, as usual, gracious and welcoming hosts, and a wonderful discussion was had. Such events keep me inspired. My next gig is coming up Monday, April 9, at the Cambridge Center for Adult Ed, where I will be giving a talk on Irish Culture and the role Story plays in same, from 12 noon to 1:00 pm; and then at the Barnes and Noble on Route One in Saugus, on Thursday evening April 26, at 7:00 pm.

Finally, speaking of dogs, Congress is expected this week to vote on the anti-animal fighting bill, which would (finally) outlaw on a national level the horribly cruel and barbarous 'pasttime' of animal fighting, specifically cock fighting, dog fighting, and dog-pig fighting. Here are the details below, courtesy of the American Humane Society. It seems some poeple are not content to live in a world where man kills man-- we must also enlarge that horror to include the animal world. Here are the details below-- please take action if you feel so inclined.

Trouble with links or images? View this message online:

March 26, 2007

Time to Give Animal Fighting the Knock-Out Punch

Dear Joe,
This week, the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate are expected to vote on the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act to crack down on illegal dogfighting, cockfighting, and hog-dog fighting. The House vote may come as soon as today. We need your Representative and Senators to hear from you now!

TAKE ACTIONPlease take a moment to call your three federal legislators right away. Let them know it's high time for Congress to pass this anti-crime law and establish felony penalties for cruel animal fighting.

Representative Ed Markey: (202) 225-2836
Senator Edward Kennedy: (202) 224-4543
Senator John Kerry: (202) 224-2742

Calling your federal legislators is easy. A staff person will take your message and pass it along to your legislator. All you have to say is:
"Hello, my name is [your name] and I am a constituent from [your town]. I strongly support the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act (H.R. 137/S. 261). I respectfully urge [legislator's name] to support this critical piece of legislation and finally get it enacted to fight back against the underground animal fighting industry. Thank you."
After you make your calls, click here to send a follow up email to your legislators. We need everyone who cares about ending animal fighting to take action, so please tell your friends and family how they can help, too.
The House bill has 304 cosponsors and the Senate bill has 36 cosponsors. Committees in both chambers have approved this legislation, and versions of it have already passed over the years. But it's not yet gotten over the finish line -- let's get the job done now!
Thank you for your time and continued commitment to ending animal fighting.

Wayne Pacelle

President & CEOThe Humane Society of the United States

Britain's Only Gay Bookstore Struggling to Survive

Britain's only gay bookshop faces threat of closure

By Louise Jury, Arts Correspondent
Published: 24 March 2007

Its fans claim it is far more than just a bookshop. Since Gay's the Word - the UK's only dedicated lesbian and gay bookshop - opened in 1979, it has acted as a social centre, information service and advice shop.
But the store on Marchmont Street, central London, is having to rally supporters, led by the literary heavyweights Sarah Waters, Edmund White and Ali Smith, after fewer visitors and falling revenue put its future at risk. Jim MacSweeney, the manager who has worked there since 1989, said: "We're an institution so people assume we're there forever. But if people don't use us, we won't be."
With reserves depleted, a board meeting heard last month that, if the shop carried on making losses at the current level, it would have to close within two months. A decision had to be taken on whether to shut down or go public and hope that saviours would ride to the rescue. They chose the latter route.
The valiant determination to press on is already seeing results - though with a long way to go to secure the £20,000 needed to stay open. "We've only just started writing to big names but already we have raised £3,500 by people sponsoring shelves. And people who haven't been here in ages have been coming in and buying books," said Mr MacSweeney. "Sales have doubled - and yesterday they were three times what they had been."
Turnover was running at around £160,000 a year until the bombings of 7 July 2005 when the shop's proximity to Tavistock Square, where a bus was blown up, hit takings by 14 per cent. "We only just cover our costs and make a small profit, so this had a huge effect on the business," said Mr MacSweeney. "Never mind that independent bookshops are struggling generally."
Its stock normally covers books that the mainstream stores do not cover, including imports from America. But when income fell, it became harder to maintain the kind of new and interesting stock which encouraged people to come back.
Yet the social function always remained. A lesbian discussion group meets every Wednesday evening and Mr MacSweeney spent part of yesterday talking to the mother of a 14-year-old boy who wanted advice.
Jake Arnott, 45, the author of The Long Firm and Johnny Come Home, said it was the advisory function as much as the literary one that would be missed if the shop were to close. "It would be terrible if Gay's the Word goes," he said. "It's a fantastic bookshop and it belongs there. Marchmont Street would lose something without it. Given the current circumstances for independent bookshops, it might be gone forever and there aren't any other solely lesbian and gay bookshops in the country.
"But it's so much more important than just a retail outlet in terms of people having somewhere they can go to find out [about lesbian and gay matters]. Sometimes going into a bar isn't a very warm and friendly experience. The social act of going into a bookshop and finding a book about oneself can be important."
For Mr Arnott's generation, Gay's the Word acted as an important political focus given that they grew up in a time when gay rights were under attack from measures such as the Section 28 legislation.
"If you see London now, people forget there was ever any kind of trouble. They forget that, if it hadn't been for Gay's the Word, they wouldn't be going to clubs and having such a good time," he said. "I think it should be subsidised by the Government."

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Tree That Owns Itself

MY DEAR FRIEND CLINT from San Antonio sent me this this morning-- very appropriate, as the novel I am working on now has a 200 year old Silver Maple as one of its main characters. It's from Wikipedia:

Tree That Owns Itself
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Son of The Tree That Owns Itself in 2005. (go to Wikipedia for a picture of it-- for some reason it won't upload here on my blog)
The Tree That Owns Itself is a white oak tree, widely assumed to have legal ownership of itself and of all land within eight feet of its base. The tree is located at the corner of Finley and Dearing Streets in Athens, Georgia, USA. The original tree fell in 1942; a new tree was grown from one of its acorns and planted in the same location. The current tree is sometimes referred to as the Son of The Tree That Owns Itself. Both trees have appeared in numerous national publications, and the site is a local landmark.
1 The Legend of the Tree
2 The History of the Tree
3 Son of The Tree That Owns Itself
4 Tablets
5 Miscellanea
6 References
7 External links

[edit] The Legend of the Tree
The earliest known telling of the tree’s story comes from a front page article titled "Deeded to Itself" in the Athens Weekly Banner of August 12, 1890. The article explains that the tree had been located on the property of Colonel (or Dr.) William Henry Jackson. William Jackson was the son of one James Jackson, (a soldier in the American Revolution as well as a Congressman, U.S. Senator, and governor of Georgia), and the father of another James Jackson (a Congressman and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia); he was the brother of Jabez Young Jackson, also a Congressman.[1][2] William Jackson was reportedly a professor at the University of Georgia; the nature of his military service and the source of the title colonel is unknown.[3] Jackson cherished childhood memories of the tree and, desiring to protect it, he deeded to the tree ownership of itself and the surrounding land. By various accounts this transaction took place between 1820 and 1832.[4][5] According to the newspaper article, the deed read:.

I, W. H. Jackson, of the county of Clarke, of the one part, and the oak tree… of the county of Clarke, of the other part: Witnesseth, That the said W. H. Jackson for and in consideration of the great affection which he bears said tree, and his great desire to see it protected has conveyed, and by these presents do convey unto the said oak tree entire possession of itself and of all land within eight feet of it on all sides.

It is unclear whether the story of the Tree That Owns Itself began with the Weekly Banner article or if it had been an element of local folklore prior to that time. The author of "Deeded to Itself" writes that, in 1890, there were few people still living who knew the story.[6]
The story of the Tree That Owns Itself is very widely known and is almost always presented as fact. However, only one person—the anonymous author of "Deeded to Itself"—has ever claimed to have seen Jackson’s deed to the tree. Most writers acknowledge that the deed is lost or no longer exists, if in fact it ever did. Such a deed, even if it did exist, would have no legal standing. Under common law, the person receiving the property in question must have the legal capacity to receive it, and the property must be delivered to—and accepted by—the recipient.[7]
William H. Jackson did, in fact, own the property on the opposite side of Dearing Street from the tree. That plot included the present day 226 Dearing Street but in the early 19th century it was simply designated Lot #14. The tree, however, is located on a portion of what had been Lot #15. Jackson, his wife Mildred, and J.A. Cobb sold their property to a Dr. Matthus Ward in 1832, the same year cited on a plaque as being the date of the tree's deed. The Clarke County real estate indices contain no indication of when or from whom Jackson originally purchased the property, although much of the land in that area is reported to have belonged to a Major James Meriwether.[8][9][10] While Jackson may have lived near the tree as an adult, his childhood was actually spent in Jefferson County, not in Athens.[3]
Recent deeds suggest that the tree's square footage remains part of the property at 125 Dearing Street. These documents describe a parcel bounded on the east by Finley Street and on the north by Dearing Street, an area that would seem to encompass the tree.[11] However, the actual plat map for that property clearly does not include the tree’s oddly shaped corner; its eastern line lies roughly ten feet to the west of the tree’s location—as far as the tax assessor is concerned, the tree’s acreage is not a part of that property.[12]
This certainly does not confirm that the tree owns itself but, rather, suggests that it is considered to be within the right-of-way along Finley Street. Athens-Clarke County confirms that the tree is in the right-of-way and is thus “accepted for care” by municipal authorities; according to city-county officials, local government and the owners of the adjacent property jointly serve as “stewards” for the care of the tree, while Athens' Junior Ladies' Garden Club serves as its “primary advocate.” Regarding Jackson’s deed, one writer noted at the turn of the last century, “However defective this title may be in law, the public recognized it.”[13] In that spirit, it is the stated position of the Athens-Clarke County unified government that the tree does indeed own itself.[14]

Older plaque at the site, weathered by exposure. The stone faintly details a passage from William H. Jackson's deed to the tree.

[edit] The History of the Tree
The original Tree That Owns Itself is estimated to have started life at some time between the mid 16th and late 18th Centuries.[15][16] The tree was considered by some to be both the biggest tree in Athens and the most famous tree in the United States.[17][18] The tree predated the transformation of the area into a residential neighborhood beginning in the mid 19th Century. The residence adjacent to the tree, known as Dominie House, was built at the corner of Milledge Avenue and Waddell Street in 1883, and was moved five blocks to its present location about twenty years later.[18]
By 1906, erosion had become apparent at the base of the tree. George Foster Peabody paid to have new soil, a commemorative tablet and a chain barricade supported by eight granite posts installed around the tree. Despite these efforts, the tree reportedly suffered heavy damage during an ice storm in 1907. Although attempts were made at preservation, rot had already set in and the tree was permanently weakened.
The original oak fell on the evening of October 9, 1942, following a long period of decline. The tree's poor condition had been known for years, and within days of its collapse a move was under way to replace the fallen tree with a "son" grown from one of its acorns.[19] One account suggests that the tree actually died several years before it collapsed, the victim of root rot.[17] The tree was over 100 feet tall and was estimated to be between 150 and 400 years old when it fell.[15][16]
(It has been reported elsewhere that the tree fell on December 1, 1942, succumbing not to old age and disease but rather to a violent windstorm that ravaged much of north Georgia that evening, causing widespread damage and killing several people.[20] While it is possible that some remaining portion of the tree had remained standing for several weeks, only to meet a dramatic end at the hands of a killer storm, it must be noted that only the earlier date is supported by verifiable resources.)

[edit] Son of The Tree That Owns Itself
After the original tree’s demise its small plot sat vacant for four years. Dan Magill, the young son of Athens’ Junior Ladies Garden Club member Elizabeth Magill, suggested that his mother’s club find a replacement for the tree. Several Athenians had cultivated seedlings from acorns of the original tree. That growing in the yard of Capt. Jack Watson, at five feet in height, was deemed the best candidate for transplant. The operation was directed by Roy Bowden of the College of Agriculture at the University of Georgia, assisted by students in the Department of Horticulture.[17]
The new tree was officially dedicated in a formal ceremony on December 4, 1946. Athens mayor Robert L. McWhorter presided and Dr. E.L. Hill, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, offered a short prayer. Also in attendance were Capt. and Mrs. Watson and representatives of the Garden Club. Club president, Patsy Dudley, announced that her group would henceforth take responsibility for maintenance of the tree’s plot, which had fallen into disrepair during the vacancy.[17] The new tree, trimmed back to a mere three feet for transplantation, thrived in its new location. This tree is considered, popularly if not legally, to be the full heir of the original tree. As such it is sometimes referred to as the Son of The Tree That Owns Itself, although it is generally known by the same title as its progenitor. The tree is currently over 50 feet tall.
On December 4, 1996 the Garden Club staged a celebration to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the planting of the new tree. Dan Magill, who as a boy had inspired the replanting effort, served as master of ceremonies.[15]
The tree sits near the crest of a hill, at the southwest corner of the intersection of Dearing and Finley Streets, in a quiet residential neighborhood near downtown Athens and UGA’s North Campus. The portion of Finley Street leading up the hill to the tree is Athens’ only remaining cobblestone street. The tree’s lot is separated from the larger portion of the adjacent property by a private driveway; its enclosure also juts several feet into Finley Street. Thus the tree may in fact appear to occupy a small but separate tract of land. The appearance of separation is accentuated by the retaining wall and ornamental chain barrier that surround the tree. Although located alongside private homes in a residential neighborhood, the Tree That Owns Itself is "open" to the public and regularly attracts visitors.
Although the story of the Tree That Owns Itself is more legend than history the tree has become (with the University Arch and the Double-Barreled Cannon) one of the most recognized and well-loved symbols of Athens. It is routinely featured in travel guides and other visitor information, and has even garnered international recognition through such publications as Ripley's Believe It Or Not, where the tree has been featured on several occasions.[21]

[edit] Tablets

Newer plaque at the site clearly detailing a portion of William H. Jackson's deed.
The site of the tree contains two stone tablets. The first is heavily weathered while the second appears to be considerably newer. Both tablets paraphrase the same portion of William H. Jackson's supposed deed to the tree, with slight alterations made to transform the legalistic language into a first-person declaration of affection:
In addition to the stone tablets a brass plaque is affixed to the concrete retaining wall that surrounds the tree. The plaque reads:
Quercus alba
Deeded to itself by Col. William H. Jackson
circa 1832
This scion of the original tree was planted by
the Junior Ladies Garden Club in 1946
National Register of Historic Places 1975
Athens Historical Landmark 1988
It must be noted that it was not the tree, but rather the entire Dearing Street Historic District (of which the tree is a "resident"), that was added to the National Register in 1975. The District incorporates an area very roughly bounded by Broad, Finley, Waddell, and Church Streets, and was recognized for its architectural significance. The tree was locally designated a historic landmark on February 2, 1988.[3]

[edit] Miscellanea
The tree is located at the top of a hill, in the middle of the oldest originally paved - and only surviving cobblestone street - in the city of Athens.
A second-generation descendent of The Tree That Owns Itself is part of the Historic Tree Grove at the Fort Decker Compound in Port Jervis, New York. Grown from an acorn of the 1946 tree it is known as the Jackson White Oak.[4]
Elsewhere on the Internet, the date of the new tree's planting is given as December 6, 1946, although it was reported on December 5 as having taken place the previous day.

[edit] References
^ Athens, Georgia 18011951. Athens, GA: published by the mayor and city council.
^ The New Georgia Encyclopedia
^ a b c Tree That Owns Itself,
^ a b River City Attractions
^ The date "1832" is given on a brass plaque affixed to the tree's retaining wall.
^ Deeded to Itself (August 12, 1890). Athens, GA: Athens Weekly Banner 58(176) p 1.
^ Reap, James K (2001). Athens, a pictorial history (3rd ed.). Virginia Beach: Donning.
^ Clarke County, Georgia, Deed Book P, page 9 (15 June 1832) and Deed Book S, page 301. (The latter simply identifies Mildred as William Jackson's wife.)
^ Dearing Street Historic District,
^ Cooper, Patricia Irvin, et al, eds (1979). Papers of the Athens Historical Society v. II. Athens, GA: Athens Historical Society.
^ Clarke County, Georgia, Deed Books 1558-166 (1996), 338-455 (1970), et al.
^ Clarke County, Georgia, Plat Book 32-364.
^ Hull, Augustus Longstreet (1906). Annals of Athens, Georgia 1801-1901. Athens, GA(?): Banner Job Office. Reprinted by Mary B Warrer (1978); Danielsville, GA: Heritage Papers.
^ Roger Cauthen, Athens-Clarke County Landscape Administrator (October 27, 2006).
^ a b c Dorsey, Derrick. Mighty oak enjoys golden years.
^ a b The Tree That Owns Itself
^ a b c d Stripling of an oak bravely sets out as heir to “tree than owns itself” (December 5, 1946). Athens, GA: Athens Banner-Herald 114(281), pp 1, 5.
^ a b Thomas, Frances Taliaferro (1999). Historic Dearing Street. Athens, GA: Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation.
^ Scobel, Harvey (October 11, 1942). Famed old tree that owned itself, bowing to ravages of age, crashes here Friday. Athens, GA: Athens Banner-Herald, pp 1, 4.
^ Windstorm hits Athens and area; several casualties reported (December 2, 1942). Athens, GA: Athens Banner-Herald 110(279), pp 1, 8.
^ Edward Meyer, Vice President for Exhibits and Archives, Ripley Entertainment Inc (October 26, 2006). Ripley's has featured the tree on at least three occasions: November 10, 1983 August 28, 1994, and April 27, 1996.

[edit] External links
Aerial view from Wikimapia (As of October 26, 2006, this map needs to be corrected. The actual tree is slightly southeast of the space indicated.)
Street map from MapQuest
Driving directions from MapQuest
Topo maps from Terraserver
Aerial photos from Terraserver
Athens Clarke County Virtual Tour Page for the Tree That Owns Itself.
Roadside America's entry for the Tree That Owns Itself.
"A Tree In Athens That Owns Itself" by Richard E. Irby, Jr.
Athens Historical Society
The National Arbor Day Foundation
The Tree City USA Program, of which Athens is a member city.
"I Am So Great" by Cecily Iddings, a poem referencing the Tree That Owns Itself
Retrieved from ""
Categories: Individual oak trees Athens, Georgia Clarke County, Georgia Trees of Georgia (U.S. state)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Interesting and Frightening Article by Chris Hedges

For the Christian Right, Gay-Hating Is Just the Start

By Chris Hedges, TruthdigPosted on March 19, 2007, Printed on March 21, 2007

On the morning of March 8 in Sioux Center, Iowa, a bus parked outside a hotel was found covered with anti-gay slurs, along with a hate-filled message on a piece of cardboard reading: "God does not love feary fags."
The bus was one of two that were transporting some 50 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, along with supporters, on the start of a two-month trip to 32 Christian colleges with policies that discriminate against those who are not heterosexuals. The Equality Ride, as it is known, organized by Soulforce, had first traveled to Sioux Center to visit Dordt College, a school that counts "sexual activity with someone of the same gender" as possible grounds for "an employee's discharge or a student's dismissal."
The harassment is not new. During a similar series of protests last year, someone in Cleveland, Tenn., scrawled "fags-mobile" on the side of the bus. Members of the Equality Ride have been arrested for trespassing, at the West Point military academy and elsewhere, and greeted at many of their stops with active hostility. The night before the buses were spray-painted with hateful slogans, three vehicles circled the hotel where the activists were staying to harass those inside.
The website has more on the ride, including pictures of the bus graffiti. But what is important is not this specific incident, or any other recent examples of public intolerance, but the seismic shift in public mood in much of the United States, a shift largely engineered by the radical Christian right. The Christian right has begun to strip gays and lesbians of their constitutional rights and render them second-class citizens. The gay rights movement, which made many gains over the past couple of decades, is reeling backward. And the mounting persecution of gays and lesbians is ominous not only for them but for the rest of society.
I spent two years reporting and writing "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America." At the numerous gatherings I attended around the country, one of the driving forces and most effective mobilizing agents was the issue of sexuality. This mass movement, led by figures such as James Dobson, claims that tolerance of "alternative lifestyles" is eroding the American family. They describe "same-sex attraction" as a disease that can be cured. And they condemn all sexual love that is not heterosexual as an abomination in the eyes of God.
Gays and lesbians still within the church, seeking desperately to deny their sexuality and remain in the Christian collective, often suffer severe depression and blows to their self-esteem. The U.S. surgeon general's office has published data indicating that those who are young and gay are two to three times more likely to commit suicide. Those who conform, no matter what the personal cost, will find acceptance. Those who remain militant, who stand up for another way of being, must be silenced. The methods that will finally sever them and their supporters from a Christian America are often left unmentioned, but the rhetoric makes clear that there will not be a place for them. Gays and lesbians, like other enemies of Christ, are not fully human. They are "unnatural." And preachers in the movement argue that if America does not act soon to eradicate homosexual behavior, God will punish the nation.
These attacks mask a sinister agenda that has nothing to do with sexuality. It has to do with power. The radical Christian right -- the most dangerous mass movement in American history -- has built a binary worldview of command and submission wherein male leaders, who cannot be questioned and claim to speak for God, are in control and all others must follow. Any lifestyle outside the traditional model of male and female is a threat to this hierarchical male power structure. Women who do not depend on men for their identity and their sexuality, who live outside a male power relationship, challenge this pervasive cult of masculinity, as do men who find tenderness and love with other men as equals. The lifestyle of gays and lesbians is intolerable to the Christian right because its existence is a threat to the movement's chain of command, one they insist was ordained by God.
This hypermasculinity, which crushes the independence and self-expression of women, is a way for men in the movement to compensate for the curtailing of their own independence, their blind obedience to church authorities and the calls for sexual restraint. The images of Jesus often show him with thick muscles, clutching a sword. Christian men are portrayed as powerful warriors. Jesus' stoic endurance of the brutal whippings in Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ" presages the brutal, masculine world of this ideology, a world that knows little of tenderness, personal freedom, nurturing and even pleasure. Jerry Falwell, in a New Yorker interview, said Christ was not a gentle-looking, willowy man: "Christ was a man with muscles," he insisted. Falwell and Gibson see real men, godly men, as powerful, able to endure physical pain and suffering without complaint. Jesus, like God, has to be a real man, a man who dominates through force. The language of the movement is filled with metaphors about the use of excessive force and violence against God's enemies.
The unspoken truth is that Christian men are required to have a personal, loving relationship with a male deity and surrender their will to a male-dominated authoritarian church. The submission to church authority is a potent form of emasculation. It entails a surrendering of conscience and personal control and deadens emotions and feelings. Glorified acts of force and violence against outsiders, against nonbelievers, compensate for this unquestioning submission. The domination that men are encouraged to practice in the home over women and children becomes a reflection of the domination they are taught to endure outside the home.
This cult of masculinity keeps all ambiguity, especially sexual ambiguity, in check. It fosters this world of binary opposites: God and man, the saved and the unsaved, the church and the world, Christianity and secular humanism, and male and female. There runs through this radical belief system a dread of disorder and chaos. The belief in a binary universe helps believers avoid confronting the confusion of human existence. Reality, when it is defined in these absolutes, is made predictable and understandable. All configurations of human life that do not conform to the rigid Christian model, such as homosexuality, are forms of disorder and tools of Satan and must be abolished. A world that can be predicted and understood, a world that has clear markers, can be managed and controlled. This petrified world of fixed, immutable and established roles is a world where people, many of them damaged by bouts with failure and despair, can bury their chaotic and fragmented personalities. They can live with the illusion that they are strong, whole and protected. Those who do not fit into these rigid categories, who are not subservient to dominant Christian males, must be proselytized, converted and "cured" through quack therapy.
The Christian right believes the decline of male prowess has caused the decline of America, which has led to weakness and moral decay. This decline has resulted in a bewildering human and social complexity that, often seen as feminine, is the work of Satan. By submitting to the Christian leader, and to a powerful male God who will destroy those who misbehave, followers avoid dealing with life. The movement seeks, above all, to banish mystery, the very essence of faith. Not only is the binary world knowable and predictable, but finally God is knowable and predictable. This parallel reality creates a world where unconscious motives, lusts, passions, sexual yearnings, deep longings and fears are buried and denied. The capacity we all have for evil is no longer something that torments the human soul, something that must be confronted and acknowledged, but instead evil is transformed into a purely external force that can be eradicated. The cut-and-dry absolute truth, the division of the world into us and them, allows followers to surrender their consciences and moral responsibility to male demagogues. It also makes them very dangerous.
The Rev. Mel White, who founded Soulforce and is one of our country's most important if unacknowledged civil rights leaders, has spent most of his life, since coming out as a gay man, mounting nonviolent protests against these "Christian" bigots. But he and most gays and lesbians who resist usually resist alone.
"They [the Christian right] want to end homosexuality in America," White told me, "and by doing that one step at a time, first the federal marriage amendment and then comes no adoption, no service in the military, the restatement of the sodomy laws and driving us back into our closets, or worse. They do not want to compromise, but they begin with compromise, after compromise, after compromise."
The advance, White says, is demoralizing the gay community, which he warns "is losing the will to fight."
"It's safer back in the closet anyway, and since we can pass, or the gay leaders can pass, the ones who wear suits and have good jobs and have plenty of money, they will go underground," he said. "It is the gay people out there in the hinterlands who have no options. They are being rejected by their families, discarded by their parents, kicked out of their jobs, harassed, 'outed' and killed. The gay leaders don't have a clue about this suffering."
"There are no fountains or cafeterias or bus stations we can integrate," White continued. "There are no symbols that we can attack. Marriage, the one great act of defiance, in San Francisco and Massachusetts showed to the country gay couples lined up to get married. This is something they [right-wing Christians] didn't like. The faces looked normal. They had children. These pictures were killing the caricatures. That for me is one of the great things we've done, just go to get married no matter what."
"What frightens me most are gay people who don't understand what's happening and who are unwilling to take a stand," he said. "Once they take away our rights they're going to start wanting to register us because we're the ones who have the most sexually transmitted diseases. They're going to say 'we want to register you so we can give you special medical attention.' Quarantine comes next, along with taking away our children, the children we've adopted. They will take away the partnership rights the corporations put in place, because they can put pressure on the corporations. My bleakest description is that we'll not only be driven back into our closets, but we'll have to leave the country. Right now, we have to leave the state of Virginia, because of the law that says we can't have any agreements, or any contracts, or any powers of attorney that represent marriage. So every gay person who has a business here lives in fear."
My ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School, Dr. James Luther Adams, told us to watch closely what the Christian right did to homosexuals. He had seen the same tactic in Nazi Germany, where he spent 1935 and 1936 working with the underground anti-Nazi church known as the Confessing Church. The Nazis also used "values" to launch state repression of opponents. Hitler, days after he took power in 1933, imposed a ban on all homosexual organizations. He ordered raids on places where homosexuals gathered, culminating in the ransacking of the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin and the permanent exile of its director, Magnus Hirschfeld. Thousands of volumes from the institute's library were tossed into a bonfire. The stripping of these Germans' civil rights was largely cheered by the public and the German churches. But it legitimated tactics, outside the law, that would soon be employed against others. Adams said homosexuals would also be the first "social deviants" singled out and disempowered by the Christian right, but not the last.
Should another catastrophic attack such as 9/11 occur, should we enter into a period of prolonged instability and fear, what will prevent these preachers from calling for the punishment, detention and quarantining of gays and lesbians, as well as abortionists and Muslims and other nonbelievers to safeguard the nation? What will staunch hate crimes and physical attacks against those deemed immoral by fearful and angry Christians, against those whom these preachers have condemned as responsible for the nation's abandonment by God? How will the nation function rationally if homeland security depends on an elusive piety as it is interpreted by the Christian right? And most ominously, the fringe groups of the Christian right believe "Bible-believing Christians" have been mandated by God to carry out Christian terrorism, to murder doctors who perform abortions and godless Muslims. In a time of anxiety and chaos, of overwhelming fear and uncertainty, how many more will be prodded by this talk of terror and divine vengeance to join the ranks of these Christian extremists?
Chris Hedges is the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times and the author of "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America" and "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning."
© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.


These are good updates on what's happening in Congress vs a vis the war and the firing of the US Attorneys. It's like a horrible nightmare one can't wake from!!!! (See below).

In happier news, on our walk today at noon time we heard a beautiful bird, singing its spring mating call-- I don't know what it was, but I called my birding friend Clay and, as he didn't answer, hummed it to his answering machine (I can't whistle.) The sounds fell upon my winter-weary ears like a merry poultice.

Bush to Congress: Drop Dead
After weeks of administration lies about the "Pearl Harbor Day Massacre" of eight U.S. Attorneys, the Senate and House Judiciary Committees are preparing to subpoena Alberto Gonzales, Harriet Miers, and Karl Rove.
But George Bush went on TV to declare he will "oppose any attempts to subpoena White House officials." Why? Obviously because Bush, Gonzales, Miers, and Rove conspired to fire U.S. attorneys who were prosecuting Republican corruption. That's obstruction of justice - grounds not only for impeachment but also prosecution.
Bush promised to fight any subpoenas in the courts if he has to. Of course we know the Republican-controlled Supreme Court will take Bush's side, just as it did in 2000 when it threw out 175,000 never-counted Florida votes to steal the Presidency for him.
Ultimately Congress has just one tool to force Bush and Cheney to respect the Constitution: Impeachment and Removal.
Over 74,000 of our supporters have urged their Representatives to Impeach Bush and Cheney. Help us reach 100,000:
Join Cindy Sheehan in Urging Dennis Kucinich to Introduce Articles of Impeachment
On Monday, Dennis Kucinich asked everyone if it's time for impeachment, and many of you visited his website to enthusiastically say Yes.
On Tuesday, Cindy Sheehan wrote a letter to Kucinich urging him to introduce Articles of Impeachment. Ask everyone you know to sign Cindy's letter:
Tell Congress to Vote NO on Supplemental Spending Bill for War
The House is scheduled to vote to give Bush another $93 billion for his disastrous Iraq War on Thursday.
Speaker Pelosi is desperate to pass the bill and is threatening political revenge against progressive Democrats who oppose it, led by Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters.
Pelosi is also trying to prevent Barbara Lee from offering her crucial amendment to restrict any new funds to a "fully-funded withdrawal." Tragically, she even persuaded Moveon to conduct a dishonest poll of its members that deliberately excluded Lee's amendment:
This is our last chance to ask our Representatives to support Barbara Lee's Amendment:
Here are some words of inspiration from Democrats who oppose the Supplemental:
Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.): "As a nation, can we hear the words of Gandhi, so simple, so true--that it's either non-violence or non-existence? Can we hear the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. that we must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish as fools? Tonight I must make it plain and clear, that as a human being, as a citizen of the world, as a citizen of America, as a member of Congress, and as an individual committed to a world at peace with itself, I will not and cannot vote for another dollar or another dime to support this war."
Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.): "The best way to keep [the troops] safe is to bring them home. It's difficult to oppose [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). She's a great leader and working wonders to get this passed, but some things I can't vote for. [If the resolution fails] It won't look good, like the Democrats can't get their act together, but that's OK. We can write a better bill."
If you have a few extra moments to end Bush's disastrous war, please call one or more undecided members of the Progressive Caucus and post the results in our comments:
Peace and Impeachment Photos Project
Some friends of ours took anti-war signs onto public trains last weekend and asked people if they would be photographed with them. On Sunday, March 18, four teams of photographers went through the New York City subway. On five subway lines, 333 people agreed to be photographed. Looking through the collection is an eye-opening experience.
Why not try this in your city or small town? And include Bush Is Over and Cheney Is Over signs!
PDA Grassroots Leadership Conference -- March 23-25, 2007
Join us in Washington, D.C., to work on these issues:-End the Occupation/ Redirect Funding (Oversight/Accountability/Impeachment)-Implement Universal HealthCare-Assure Economic Justice-Guarantee Clean, Fair Transparent Elections-Stop Global WarmingPanelists include: Medea Benjamin, PDA Board Member/Code Pink; Marilyn Clement, PDA Universal Health Care Issue Organizing Team/Health Care Now!; Lori Wallach, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch; Bill Fletcher, Center for Labor Renewal; Steve Cobble, PDA Board Member; David Swanson, PDA Board Member; Tim Carpenter, PDA Executive Director; Bill Goold, Congressional Progressive Caucus Executive Director; Terry Lierman, PDA Board Member and Maryland Democratic Party State Chair; Greg Moore, PDA Board Member; Jeff Cohen, PDA Communications Consultant.
Come to Crawford for Easter
The Spring holidays are a time of re-birth, and nothing could bring a re-birth of our democracy like impeachment. So, we'll be holding an impeachment hearing outside Bush's estate in Crawford, Texas. Please come join Cindy Sheehan, David Swanson, Ann Wright, Debra Sweet, and many others for an imPEACHment festival and impeachment hearings on the emperor's back porch. Willie and Annie Nelson, Jodie Evans, Ann Wright, the Crawford Peace House, and Ava Lowery will receive Camp Casey Peace Awards. Emma's Revolution and many others will perform. And the Make Hip Hop Not War Tour will roll through. Join us:
On April 28, Spell Out IMPEACHSince Congress doesn't seem to get it, on April 28th America will spell it out: IMPEACH! Spell it out in your own creative ways. You can use your bodies on the ground, or use chalk on the sidewalk, paint it on the side of a barn (provided it's your barn!), tattoo it on your arm, parade down the sidewalk carrying giant letters, hire a skywriter, plant flowerbeds in the shape of the letters, etc. A military mother in Brooklyn plans to spell it out with pizza pies on the Coney Island boardwalk. Let us hear your creative ideas!

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Only Ten Days to Stop the Seal Hunt

This is from Oceana, the wonderful organization that is dedicated to protecting the world's oceans, and the inhabitants thereof:

Many people believe that the clubbing of seals is a thing of the past, but the harsh reality is that the commercial seal hunt goes on. Last year alone, more than 350,000 pups were shot or clubbed to death on the ice. In 10 days, the Canadian government will allow hundreds of thousands more to die.

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-->Decades of public outcry led to the 1987 ban of hunting whitecoats, which are newborn harp seals. But it only takes about 12 days for the seals' fur to develop grey patches, at which point they become fair game to hunters. Ninety-five percent of the harp seals killed are less than three months old. The Canadian government claims that the seals are hunted because they are eating all the fish, when the truth is the seals are hunted for a frivolous demand of their pelts. Seal populations have dropped by almost half a million over the last several years and top scientists warn that if a commercial hunt of this scale continues the species could be in jeopardy in the very near future. Canada's annual commercial seal hunt is the largest slaughter of marine mammals on the planet. If these seals only lived a short distance to the south, they would be protected by U.S. law. Our Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits the killing of all marine mammals - including seals. It's time Canada recognized the spirit of this act and adopted its own similar policy. Don't let these seal cubs be killed in the name of fashion, please contact Canadian Prime Minister Harper and demand an end to this cruel hunt.

For the oceans,
Elizabeth Griffin
Marine Wildlife Scientist

Stop the Seal Hunt
Don't let these seal cubs be killed in the name of fashion, please contact Canadian Prime Minister Harper and demand an end to this cruel hunt.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Will Malachy Hayes at Seventeen Months

IT SEEMS PROPITIOUS to post these pictures of my precious godson, Will Malachy Hayes, on St. Patricks Day, the 17th, when he turned 17 months, after being born 17 months ago-- and sicne my birthday is on the 17th of May, it's always been my lucky number. So how could I resist. It was interesting to note that Irish officials invited the only openly lesbian member of the New York City Council to be one of the marshalls of Dublin's St. Patrick's Day Parade, in answer to NYC's St. Patrick's Day Parade still banning GLBT people from a role in the parade. Dublin has become such a European city, and Ireland such a free-thinking, forward-looking country-- we could learn a lot from it. It used to be the USA led the way on such issues-- now we are slipping backwards, thanks to the conservative yank rightwards this country has endured by unenlightened creatures scurrying out from rocks and other slimy hovels. I think so much of it has to do with education and encounters with good books and travel-- all ways in which we encounter 'other' and learn to leave our puerile prejudices behind.
Back in the early 1990's, Mary Robinson was elected the first woman president of Ireland. A brilliant woman, she was teaching law at Trinity when she was 25 years old. On the evening of her inaugral ball, rather than the usual movers and shakers and politicos and celebrities that attend such gatherings, representatives of those groups thought to have been previously marginalized by Irish politics and society were invited-- gays and lesbians, Travelers, single mothers, and the like-- Ms. Robinson said that this to signify that the new Ireland would be open to all, and that all would benefit from what society had to offer.
In many other ways Ms. Robinson was a president to admire and learn from-- I sometimes dream how wonderful such a person would be in our country. Alas, it would be almost surreal at this point.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Four Years and Counting

IT'S HARD TO BELIEVE, and ghastly to recall, that the Iraq War has now been going on for four years, and about to begin its fifth, with no end in sight. The 'six month walk in the park,' the 'they'll greet us with flowers and chocolates,' hasn't turned out that way-- the dying goes on every, for a mixture of hubris, stupidity, greed, and indifference. Even as we speak, someone is dying there, someone is getting maimed, sometone is undergoing such psychological horror that they will be forever haunted, a shell of themselves. Over 3000 troops have died. Over 25,000 have been permanently mained. One in three is said to be suffering from PTSD. And God knows how many civilians have died-- men, women, and children-- some say as many as 600,000. The Pentagon is not keeping track of civilian deaths.

Here is a list of activities around this event that one can get involved with. For events outside Massachusetts, please visit and enter your zip code.

Beverly, MassachusettsRSVPProtest troop increase in IraqSunday, March 18th 2007 12:00Support congressional efforts to limit war funding for Iraq. Let congress know that we believe they are moving in the right direction and that we will support their efforts to bring combat troops home. Please bring signs and flags and songs and chants.

Boston, MassachusettsRSVPNew England Regional Protest Saturday, March 24th 2007 11:00Boston Common 11am to 5 pmAnti-war Rally, March, Concert and Peace & Justice Fair
brimfield, MassachusettsRSVP
brimfield peace vigil7pmMonthly Event 1st and 3rd thursday of each month1st and 3rd thursday of each monthvigil on the brimfield common

Brookline, MassachusettsRSVPIraq War anniversary vigilMonday, March 19th 2007 6pmWe'll gather at the CVS corner and expand to the other 3 if we have enough people (and perhaps to the center island as well). The site is accessible to people with disabilities. Please bring candles.

Cambridge, MassachusettsHarvard-Cambridge Walk for Peace 12:00 p.m.Weekly Event Every Wednesday.Every week, meeting at the John Harvard statue in Harvard Yard, members of the university community, along with residents of Cambridge, respond to the trauma that the American government is causing through acts of violence in Iraq carried out disingenously in the name of freedom and justice. We bear witness for peace, raising our collective hopes and inspiring us to actions that will lead us forward to a more humane U.S. foreign policy.We gather at noon on Wednesdays to speak to each other of the week's events or our own reflections, and then we slowly and in silence walk the perimeter of the Yard, each of us holding a sign with the name of someone who has died in the conflict.

Falmouth, MassachusettsRSVPTime of Remembrance Monday, March 19th 2007 5:00 pmA community vigil to remember all of the people who have suffered because the continuing conflict in Iraq. We will pause for a time of silence. All people will be welcomed and appreciated....

Fitchburg, MassachusettsRSVP4 YEARS TOO MANY!Saturday, March 17th 2007 12:30 PMDEMOCRACY IS NOT A SPECTATOR SPORT! Please join us to act in civil opposition to war and injustice. We will have a table available for public participation in the Friends for Peace Campaign.

Gloucester, MassachusettsRSVPGloucester Stand for Peace, Rotary at Exit 11 off Rt 128N12 noonWeekly Event Every Saturday at Grant Circle, Gloucester, MA (Rt. 128N to Exit 11) 12 noon to 1:00 P.M.Weekly vigil

Greenfield, MassachusettsRSVPA Hundred Ways to Stop War RallySaturday, March 17th 2007 11amOn Saturday, March 17, from 11 am to Noon, the Greenfield Weekly Peace Vigil will sponsor a "Hundred Ways to Stop War" rally on the Greenfield Town Common to mark the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq. The event is being held in solidarity with the March on Washington that day, and will call on Congress to cut funding for the war, immediately withdraw US troops from Iraq, and refuse to authorize a war with Iran. It will conclude with a speak-out for people to discuss actions they plan to take to help stop war; and to share information about peace and justice activities currently underway, and about the town permits needed for demonstrations in Greenfield.

Hyannis, MassachusettsRSVPBear Witness for Peace on the beginning of the 5th year of US occupation of IraqMonday, March 19th 2007 3:00 PMGather at the town green on Main Street in Hyannis at 3:00. Speak out and then march at 3:20 down Main Street to the sidewalk in front of Rep. Delahunt's office at 146 East Main Street. We gather here as our connection to Washington, D.C. (Rep. Delahunt has signed on to Rep. McGovern's bill and made a public statement to vote against the supplemental appropriations.) Reading of American and Iraqi names of those who have died. Bring signs/drums.

Marblehead, MassachusettsRSVPWeekly Peace Vigil6:30 pmWeekly Event Every Wednesday EveningJoin Friends and Neighbors that believe that peace is possible; that human beings are capable of living in peace with one another.

Nantucket, MassachusettsRSVPNantucket Peace MarchSaturday, March 17th 2007 11 amPeace march from the Civil War Memorial at the top of Main Street to the Post Office on Federal Street. Gather at 10:45; join us along the way; greet us at the Post Office. Bring signs.
Newton, MassachusettsRSVPIraq War 4th Anniversary VigilMonday, March 19th 2007 5pmWe'll remember the deaths of more than 3,000 US soldiers and many more Iraqis. We'll contemplate the path ahead. And we'll call on Congress to force a change in direction.

RSVPWeekly Peace Vigil - ANTS on The Hill12:00pmWeekly Event Every Wednesday on the Andover Newton Quagrangle from 12:00 noon to 12:50pmWeekly Peace Vigil on the QuadEvery Wednesday from noon to 12:50.This humble yet powerful act of witnessing in the ANTS community takes place every Wednesday throughout the year as we take an hour of our time tostand in unity against all forms of injustice and violence in our world today.

Northampton, MassachusettsRSVP4 Years of Occupation - 16 Years of WarSaturday, March 17th 2007 7:00 p.m.March, rally and vigil against the ongoing brutality in Iraq and against America's dark policies of empire.RSVP

Weekly Vigil to Stop the War11:00 AMWeekly Event Every Saturday, 11:00 AM-12:00 noonWeekly vigil every Saturday 11-12 in front of the courthouse, Main St. (between King & Gothic, Northampton, MA

Pittsfield, MassachusettsPittsfield Vigil5:00 pmWeekly Event Every ThursdayVigil at Park Square, Pittsfield

Plymouth, MassachusettsRSVPMemorial Vigil to Honor the Fallen and Wounded of the Iraq WarSaturday, March 17th 2007 10am300 memorial markers will be erected. 60 will bear the name of Massachusetts soldiers. This is meant to be a gentle, solemn, dignified memorial event for all who have given so much. It is meant as a healing service for soldiers, their families, for the general public and for the Iraqi people.RSVP

Plymouth Peace VigilnoonWeekly Event Every Saturday at noonWeekly silent vigil meets Saturdays at Town Square in Plymouth Center at noon, proceeds to Shirley Square; stands vigil with peace signs and peaceful posters, and disbands at 1:00.RSVPPlymouth Peace Vigil UPDATE12:00Weekly Event Every Saturday noonWe have begun carrying VOTE PEACE signs, and will be out in force on Nov. 11, as we have been on every Saturday for more than a year, from Town Square to Shirley Square.Come join us. Bring your own VOTE PEACE sign, or use one of ours.

Springfield, MassachusettsRSVP"Rubicon" Pot-Luck Dinner & Discussion5:00pmMonthly Event First SaturdaysLocal activists and interested folks encouraged to bring a dish to share for ongoing first Saturday 5-9:00pm pot-luck and attendee directed discussion of current events. Pre-registration discouraged, just drop in if you can!

Walpole, MassachusettsRSVPVigil to Protest the Iraq War10:00 AMMonthly Event Every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the monthPlease jon us for a Peace Vigil as we stand in protest of the Iraq War. This war was started under false pretenses and has brought death and destruction to Iraq. It's time to bring our troops home. We have peace signs or bring your own.

Waltham, MassachusettsRSVPBrandeis Peace vigil12pmWeekly Event Every tuesday of the monthEvery tuesday at 12 pm, the chaplancy (religious leaders of jewish, christian and muslim faiths) lead a peace vigil in honor of our troops serving abroad, and devoted to the establishment of peace and justice. If you are in the area, please join us because we are looking to expand and draw a large crowd. We meet outside of usdan student center at the peace memorial.

Watertown, MassachusettsRSVPNot One More Death, Not One More Dollar11:00 AMMonthly Event The vigil is a monthly event takeing place between 11:00 AM and 12 noon in Watertown Square.This is an expansion of the monthly "End the Iraq War" vigil that Watertown Citizens for Environmental Safey and its Justice with Peace Task Force sponsor. The vigil will take place in Watertown Square. Please join us with your signs calling for and end to the war and for all troops to come home. For more information email or call 617-926-8560 mailbox 2

Wayland, MassachusettsRSVPPeople for Peace11:30 amWeekly Event every Saturday- mid dayWeekly vigil against the Iraq war

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

More on Burnt Hill

IN MY BLOG A FEW DAYS AGO (Western Swing Part II) I wrote about Benson Place, the home of Dave Gott atop Burnt Hill in Heath, Massachusetts. I mentioned briefly (I think) the megaliths atop the hill, and since then have wanted to post a few links to some more information on them. One of these days I'll sit down with Dave and pick his brain about what he knows about them, and share that here. In the meantime, here's a photo of the arrangement (above) as well as a few links. Apparently the artist Robert Strong Woodward (whose artwork adorns that particular blog entry) wasn't the only famous artist living here-- at one time the horror/science fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft summered here; in fact, according to one of the articles I read, the megaliths were the inspiration for the story, 'The Dunwich Horror,' if I remember the title correctly.

Here's some articles:

and another

and here, this one has great photos:

Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge

INVITATION TODAY from my dear friend Clay, an avid birder and Nature Boy DeLuxe, to knock off work early and meet him out at the Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge in Concord. "Lots of birds are coming back," he said. Well, that, and temperatures flirting with the 70 degree mark, were all the coaxing I needed-- it isn't spring until three things happen-- I hear the first peepers; hear or see the first Red Winged Blackbird (a much more accurate harbinger of spring than the robin) and I see the salamanders 'congress' in their vernal pools (see 'Big Night,' an entry from about a year ago, late March of 2006 I believe). It seemd odd to be thinking of spring when it was 3 degreees last Friday morning, and miserably cold all last week, and the week before, and the week before, etc. But out we went. We met in Concord Center and then drove up separately from there. Clay had his little three year old boy with him, Finn (not to be confused with Fionn the Dog, who was with me). Within seconds of parking the cars, we spotted the magnificent Great Blue Heron flying overhead (left photo). He passed directly over us, his magnificent wing span fully engaged, maybe twenty feet over our heads. And before we even took another step, we heard the well-known cry of the Red Winged Blackbird-- there must have been hundreds of them at the refuge, as well as another recent returnee from warmer climes, the Grackle. I suppose we walked three or four miles all told, and saw lots of muskrat dens, a few beaver, a killdeer, a male Downy Woodpecker, a male Hairy Woodpecker, a few marsh sparrows, lots of Canadian Geese and Mallards, a pair of our beautiful native Mute Swans, and an absoultely beautiful Marsh Hawk, previously known as the Northern Harrier (right picture.) We also heard (or Clay heard) a red bellied woodpecker, and an American woodcock. Not bad for a 90 minute walk! So the first triumphirate of spring has been recorded-- now I'm just waiting for my first peepers, and then Big Night for Salamanders. They call it that because all the male salamanders come out from the logs and rocks they've been hibernating under all winter, scurry down to the nearest vernal pool, then roll around in the water fiercely, rubbing their bodies against each other in a swirling mass until their sperm pellets eject from their bodies. Hue Holley, the salamander expert non pareil with the Friends of the Middlesex Fells, tells me that Big Night won't happen until the 22nd of the month at the earliest. He goes out and checks on it nightly, then emails everyone on his list to let them know that Big Night is almost upon us. It's nice to mark the changing of the seasons with these things, and it still amazes me that, with all we've done to Mother Earth, eggs still hatch, birds still migrate thousands of miles to sing the promise of spring, and salamanders still wiggle and swirl the way they have for millions of years. It's nice to have this to fall back on.

My sister called early this morning to express her outrage. Gonzales was on TV and was defending himself, repeating the mantra that he takes orders only from the Commander in Chief and will only resign if Chimpy tells him so-- and here I thought he worked for the American People. So here we are approaching the fourth anniversary of the Iraq War. We'll be out in the streets again-- probably a dozen of us-- wondering where the thousands are, and the millions.

Oh, I just want this nightmare of an administration to go away.