This Thing Called Courage

Thursday, July 31, 2008

From Sojourners Magazine

By Philip Rizk

On March 19, Israeli forces rounded up Assad Salach and his sons, Fahmi and Salach, and Assad's brother Sa'id and his son Ghassan -- along with more than 300 men age 16 and above -- along its northern border with the Gaza Strip. It is not the first time Israel has arrested the male members of the Salach family.These days when militants launch homemade Qassam rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip, they are usually launched from within the cities, not these border areas. Thus, it makes little sense for these men to be arrested solely for security purposes. Rather, it seems to be a method of pushing the families inhabiting the border areas into the cities and deserting their only source of income, their land. Israel is successfully destroying the potential of the fruit basket of the densely populated Strip. The once-luscious green land is now reduced to an arid no-man's-land, easily overseeable by Israel's security towers and drones overlooking it all. The economic crisis caused by this ongoing, intentional de-development of Gaza's economy is destroying the society's makeup.The Salach's main family home was destroyed in 2001. Eight Israeli bulldozers crossed the nearby border and flattened the fields. Shortly thereafter, they came back and flattened the home with some family members still inside. That day Abu Assad, the Salach family grandfather, had a stroke, and he and his wife, Om Assad, were taken to the hospital. By the end of the day, Om Assad had lost her husband, her home, and the trees that had adorned the family's fields. She moved half a kilometer down the road to her other son's home. Today, Israel has taken him as well.
Despite a cease-fire, five of the Salach family members remain imprisoned without even a court case. Their fields still lie in ruin as the Israeli army fires at them when they try and approach it. Their old home remains demolished while the memories of the past continue to haunt them daily.
Assad and Sa'id used to collect the tank shells, things of ugliness, which Israel fired on them as they tended to their goats and fields. They would paint them, fill them with flowers, and turn them into vases -- things of beauty. "The day they started doing that the Israelis almost completely stopped firing at us," Assad's wife told me. As soon as the media spread pictures of their act -- turning death into life, ugliness into beauty -- the shells stopped falling. When the men were detained, so were the vases.

Philip Rizk is an Egyptian-German Christian who lived and worked in Gaza from 2005-2007. He is currently working on a documentary film, which is described at thispalestinianlife.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Golden Retriever Adopts Tiger Cubs at Kansas Zoo


We love stories like this. From the wire services:


July 30, 2008
CANEY, Kan. --A dog at a southeast Kansas zoo has adopted three tiger cubs abandoned by their mother. Safari Zoological Park owner Tom Harvey said the tiger cubs were born Sunday, but the mother had problems with them.
A day later, the mother stopped caring for them. Harvey said the cubs were wandering around, trying to find their birth mother, who wouldn't pay attention to them. That's when the cubs were put in the care of a golden retriever, Harvey said.
Harvey said it's unusual for dogs to care for tiger cubs, but it does happen. He said he has seen reports of pigs nursing cubs in China, and he actually got the golden retriever after his wife saw television accounts of dogs caring for tiger cubs.
Puppies take about the same amount of time as tiger cubs to develop, and Harvey said the adoptive mother just recently weaned her own puppies.
"The timing couldn't have been any better," he said.
The mother doesn't know the difference, Harvey said. He said the adopted mother licks, cleans and feeds the cubs.
The Safari Zoological Park is a licensed facility open since 1989 and specializes in endangered species.
It has leopards, lions, cougars, baboons, ring-tailed lemurs, bears and other animals. It currently has seven white tigers and two orange tigers.
Because whit tigers are inbred from the first specimen found more than a half-century ago, they are not as genetically stable as orange tigers.
The zoo's previous litter of white tiger cubs was born April 23, although one of the three has since gone to a private zoo near Oklahoma City.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bobcat in the Hood!


Bobcat Spotted at Edge of Middlesex Fells (aka Happy Land)


By James O'Brien, Globe Correspondent July 13, 2008


State wildlife officials are heralding a bobcat in Medford, as naturalists at the Massachusetts Audubon Society and the state's Division of Fisheries and Wildlife confirmed that a Medford nature photographer captured a juvenile of the species on camera in the woods surrounding Brooks Estate.
George R. McLean said he caught the cat by surprise from his car, which he uses as a blind to photograph deer, coyotes, and birds. He said he was at the edge of the Middlesex Fells Reservation and adjacent to Oak Grove Cemetery on the Winchester line on June 26, when he snapped more than he bargained for.
"To the left, I saw a pair of eyes," said McLean, a semiretired 73-year-old who has been photographing wildlife for some 50 years. "I swung around, and click-click-click. It was gone, and I looked down at what I got on the camera. I said, 'God, that's a bobcat.' "
The animal is extremely elusive, and rare to the area, according to Mass Audubon Wildlife Information Line coordinator Linda Cocca.
"They're not common east of Route 128," Cocca said. "They're very rarely sighted. Even rangers out in the Quabbin area and open places rarely get a glimpse of one. I would give anything to see a bobcat. I never have."
Laura Hajduk, a MassWildlife fur-bearer biologist, said the appearance of the bobcat in Medford marked a special moment for state conservationists and town residents, and could mean Middlesex Fells Reservation now harbors the animal.
"It's a completely adequate habitat," Hajduk said. "They could thrive there and not be seen all that often. It's one of those things that is a treat, and they should feel lucky they live near conservation land that could support such an animal."
However, a bobcat of the size and apparent age in McLean's photo, according to Cocca, is probably on the move.
"Bobcats stay with the female for about a year," she said. "This may be a bobcat that has just had to disperse . . . kicked out of its natal range and is wandering."
While rarely seen in Eastern Massachusetts, the animal finds the western and central parts of the state an ideal home, full of rocky ledges under which it makes its den, said Cocca.
Averaging 3 feet long from nose to the end of its characteristically short tail (which, combined with its loping gait, gives the bobcat its name), the animal typically weighs 20 to 30 pounds.
Hajduk said bobcats eat at dusk and dawn, preying on small mammals such as chipmunks and rabbits. Fully grown, it has no natural predators other than, perhaps, man.
The bobcat was once hunted without restriction, viewed as a nuisance, Hajduk said, until the 1970s. Massachusetts was the first state in the Northeast to reclassify the bobcat as game. Now, only 50 may be taken per season in the Commonwealth.
Cocca cautioned Medford residents against knee-jerk reactions to the bobcat's appearance in town. She said surprised neighbors tend to overreact to uncommon animals in the suburbs around Boston.
"They call Mass Audubon and want to move them to a different location, get rid of them," she said.
Hajduk said Medford and Winchester residents need not worry that the bobcat will threaten pets, or even pose a surprise at the garbage can.
"They generally shy away from human habitation," Hajduk said. "They won't be attracted to garbage. Definitely not. There's nothing [residents] should change."
Thomas W. Lincoln, president of the Medford-Brooks Estate Land Trust, which works to restore the town-owned 19th-century Shepherd Brooks Manor and Carriage House in the Brooks Estate woods, welcomed the rare bobcat sighting.
"The Brooks Estate is important conservation land for both people and wildlife," Lincoln said. "We wish this beautiful and elusive creature well."
McLean said his encounter with the animal was a highlight in his career.
"I got a beautiful shot," he said. "And then he was gone, without even a rustle."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Facing Foreclosure, Local Woman Commits Suicide

This is from Boston.com and is just horrifically sad.

When asked recently if he was going to do anything about $4 a gallon gas, Bush, answering in the typically smarmy yet ignorant manner that is all his own-- a combination of Marie Antoinette's Let Them Eat Cake, and his own stupidity and indifference-- expressed surprise that gas was that high: "No one told me," he chuckled. Harry Truman, of the Buck Stops Here fame, must be spinning in his grave. All I could think of was someone asking FDR what he was going to do about tens of millions of Americans out of work during the Great Depression, and him answering, "Oh? I didn't know..." Fortunately for Americans, such was not the case, and the New Deal followed.

Fast-forward to today: the treasury continues to be looted to make the rich richer, while more and more hard-working Americans run out of options-- like this poor soul:


By Michael Levenson, Globe Staff
TAUNTON -- The housing crunch has caused anguish and anxiety for millions of Americans. For Carlene Balderrama, a 53-year-old wife and mother, the pressure was apparently too much to bear.
Police say that Balderrama shot herself Tuesday afternoon 90 minutes before her foreclosed home on Duffy Drive was scheduled to be sold at auction. Chief Raymond O'Berg said that Balderrama faxed a letter to her mortgage company at 2:30 p.m., telling them that "by the time they foreclosed on the house today she'd be dead."
The mortgage company notified police, who found her body at 3:30 p.m. The auction had been scheduled to start at 5 p.m. Balderrama used her husband's high-powered rifle, O'Berg said.
She left a note for her family saying they should "take the [life] insurance money and pay for the house," O'Berg said.
Neighbors on this forested side street said Balderrama had lived in the two-story, brown-shingled, raised ranch for about four years with her husband, John, who is a plumber, and their 24-year-old son.
Joe Whitney, who works with her husband, said that Balderrama handled the bills in the household and that the husband was unaware of the foreclosure.
"John didn't even know about it, that's the surprise," Whitney said outside the home, where he had come to comfort the family. "It's just one of those awful, awful tragic events."
Noreen Mendes said she often spoke to Balderrama on her morning walks on Duffy Drive and described her as "quiet and sweet."
"I never would have guessed that she had any problems whatsoever," Mendes said. "All I can do this morning is pray and pray and pray."

Big Brother is Really Watching

My First-Hand Experience With Government Spies
By Dave Zirin, Huffington PostPosted on July 21, 2008

Finally, at long last, I have something in common with Muhammad Ali.
No, I'm not the heavyweight champion of the world, and haven't been named spokesperson for Raid bug spray. Like "the Greatest" - not to mention far too many others -- I have been a target of state police surveillance for activities -- in my case against the death penalty -- that were legal, non-violent, and, so we assumed, constitutionally protected. In classified reports compiled by the Maryland State Police and the Department of Homeland Security, I am "Dave Z." This nickname was given by an undercover agent known to us as "Lucy." She sat in our meetings of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, smiling and engaged, taking copious notes about actions deemed threatening by the Governor of Maryland, Robert Ehrlich. Our seditious crimes, as Lucy reported, involved such acts as planning to set up a table at the local farmer's market and writing up a petition. Adding a dash of farce to this outrage, she was monitoring us in the liberal enclave of Takoma Park, Maryland, a place known more for vegans than violence, more for tie-dying than terrorism.
Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act and the ACLU, we now know that "Lucy" was only one part of a vast, insidious project. The Maryland State Police's Department of Homeland Security devoted near 300 hours and thousands of taxpayer dollars from 2005 and 2006 to harassing people whose only crime was dissenting on the question of the war in Iraq and Maryland's use of death row.
My dear friend Mike Stark, a board member of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty is at times referred to in "Lucy's" report as a "socialist" and an "anarchist." One can only assume this is the pathetic time honored tradition of reducing people to simple caricatures, all the better to garner Homeland Security grant money.
Veteran peace activist in Baltimore, Max Obuszewski, who initiated the suit, was as well consistently shadowed as he walked down the streets. His "primary crime" (their lingo) was entered into the homeland security database as "terrorism - anti govern(ment)." His "secondary crime" was listed as "terrorism -- anti-war protesters." The database is known as the Washington-Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, or
HIDTA. Yes, a respected peace organizer of many decades standing is checked as a terrorist, his actions listed as criminal, for doing nothing more than exercising his rights. It boggles the mind.
Former police superintendent Tim Hutchins defended these totalitarian practices by saying, "You do what you think is best to protect the general populace of the state." (The article mentioned that Hutchins is now a federal defense contractor. I guess The Global War on Terror is just the gift that keeps on giving for the Hutchins family.)
But "protect the general populace" from what? The surveillance continued even after it was determined that we were planning nothing more dangerous that carrying clipboards in a public place. Hutchins and the Ehrlich administration have undertaken an ugly violation of our civil rights, manipulating fears of terrorism to stamp out dissent.
This is COINTELPRO pure and simple. Like the infamous counter-intelligence program whose heyday many assume was a relic the 1950s and 1960s, it's an effort to harass the innocent and breed paranoia, all for daring to question power.
Governor Ehrlich and Tim Hutchins stand in the legacy of those who hounded Martin Luther King, and facilitated the death of Malcolm X. They stand in the tradition of those who drove the great actor, college football superstar, and activist Paul Robeson toward The mental breakdown that claimed his life. When Robeson's files were opened under the Freedom of Information Act, the results were terrifying.
As his son, Paul Robeson Jr. has written, "From the files I received, it was obvious that there were agents who did nothing but follow every public event of my father, or even of me.... It took on a life of its own.... Over time, even for someone as powerful and with as many resources as my dad had...the attrition got to him."
Now Robeson is on a postage stamp. The moral midgets who destroyed him went unpunished. That's what has to change. The ACLU, to their credit, is going on the offensive.
As ACLU lawyer David Rocah said at a news conference in Baltimore on Thursday, "To invest this many hours investigating the most all-American of activities without any scintilla of evidence there is anything criminal going on is shocking. It's Kafkaesque."
Unfortunately for people like Gov. Ehrlich, it is also "the most All
American of activities" to take the constitution and use it as their personal hand wipe.
As the great political philosopher Ice T wrote, "Freedom of Speech.... just watch what you say." Well, now is exactly the time not to watch what we say. I'm angry. I'm angry for my friends, who trusted "Lucy" and others. I'm angry that my tax dollars went to paying the salaries of people who spy and intimidate those exercising their rights. I'm angry that Barack Obama just voted to increase the power of the Federal government to disrupt people's lives. And I'm angry enough that I'm joining a lawsuit initiated by the ACLU. "Homeland Security" picked on the wrong sports writer. They also picked on the wrong group of activists. We will not be silenced.
[People who want to express their outrage can contact the office of the current Governor Martin O'Malley. We should demand a full investigation of the MSP, public release of all documents obtained through this illegal activity, and a specific commitment that the anti-death penalty and anti-war movement will not be targeted. Call the office of the governor at 1-800-811-8336, or submit a comment online at http://www.governor.maryland.gov/mail/]

Ready to End Don't Ask/Don't Tell?


Asking And Telling

This is from Progressive Democrats of America. Personally, while I do think it's high time our military stop discriminating against GLBT people, I think we need to start allowing another group to serve in our armed forces, a group even more absent from our Fighting Forces than gays and lesbians: the rich that start these wars, and benefit from them-- including, naturally, members of the three branches of our government, corporate heads (especially those from the military-industrial complex), lobbyists, and their friends and family members.


Fifteen years ago yesterday, President Clinton announced the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy, which was meant to relax the long-standing ban on gay men and women serving in the military. The government would no longer ask recruits whether they were gay, and in turn, servicemembers would be able to remain in the military as long as they didn't reveal their sexual orientations. This policy is outdated, discriminatory, and impeding the military's progress. Since 1993, the military has booted 12,300 servicemembers under DADT, including at least 58 valuable Arabic language specialists. Today, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel will be holding the first congressional hearings on DADT in 15 years. They come at a time that support for repealing the ban is increasing. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 75 percent of Americans believe "gay people who are open about their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military" -- a dramatic rise from the 61 percent who supported the notion in 2001. Human Rights Campaign has organized a campaign telling Congress to repeal DADT here.PENTAGON NO-SHOW: No Pentagon officials will be testifying at today's hearings. Subcommittee chairwoman Susan Davis (D-CA) said that she put in a request to the Defense Department, "but at this particular time...they're really not quite willing to come forward." Gay rights activists are disappointed at this no-show. "At a time when the military is relaxing every possible standard to attract new recruits...one would hope and expect that Defense Department leaders would be first in line to call on Congress to repeal the law," said Steve Ralls of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. One of the people testifying today is Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, who is gay and was the first U.S. soldier wounded in Operation Iraqi Freedom. "We're allowing our prejudice to be put into action by allowing this discriminatory policy of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' to still exist, even in this day and age," he told the Washington Blade. In 2006, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) introduced the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would overturn DADT. The legislation now has 133 co-sponsors, including five Republicans, although President Bush is expected to veto it if it ever passes. OUTDATED AND IMPRACTICAL: DADT makes no sense, especially at at time when the military is struggling to recruit and retain soldiers. A 2005 study by the Williams Project at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, found that as many as 41,000 new recruits could be found if the ban were repealed, "enough people to entirely staff half a dozen aircraft carriers." Additionally, gay servicemembers pose no risk to the unity or effectiveness of the armed forces; there is increasing evidence that many soldiers are already aware of their colleagues' sexual orientation. CBS's "60 Minutes" recently did a segment on whether commanders were becoming less strict in enforcing the ban on openly gay servicemembers. During the segment, correspondent Lesley Stahl spoke with Army Sgt. Darren Manzella, who said he was very open about his homosexuality and even introduced his fellow soldiers to his boyfriend. The Army was forced to open an investigation, but Manzella was eventually cleared to go back to work. He said he was basically told by his commanders, "I don't care if you're gay or not." Only after the CBS story was Manzella discharged. "My sexual orientation certainly didn't make a difference when I treated injuries and saved lives in the streets of Baghdad," said Manzella. "It shouldn't be a factor in allowing me to continue to serve." Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is aware of more than 500 U.S. soldiers who are "out" to their colleagues and continue to serve.TIME FOR A CHANGE: Calls to repeal DADT continue to grow, even coming from the law's original architects and supporters. As chairman of the powerful Armed Forces Committee in the 1990s, then-senator Sam Nunn led a series of hearings that helped undermine Clinton's attempt to lift the ban on gays in the military. But last month, Nunn said it is time to re-examine DADT. "I think [when] 15 years go by on any personnel policy, it's appropriate to take another look at it," he said. Last month, Joint Chiefs Chairman Michael Mullen also said that the military was ready to accept gay servicemembers if Congress repeals DADT. A December 2006 survey of servicemembers who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan found 73 percent of those polled were "comfortable with lesbians and gays." A new report by four retired senior military officers and sponsored by the Palm Center in California also calls for a repeal of DADT, marking "the first time a Marine Corps general has ever called publicly for an end to the gay ban." The officers concluded that allowing gays to serve openly "is unlikely to pose any significant risk to morale, good order, discipline, or cohesion." In a significant shift, last year, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John M. Shalikashvili said that he no longer supported DADT and said that "if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Another funeral Bush won't attend

Soldier in famous photo never defeated 'demons'
By ALLEN G. BREED and KEVIN MAURER, Associated Press Writers

Officers had been to the white ranch house at 560 W. Longleaf many times before over the past year to respond to a "barricade situation." Each had ended uneventfully, with Joseph Dwyer coming out or telling police in a calm voice through the window that he was OK.
But this time was different.
The Iraq War veteran had called a taxi service to take him to the emergency room. But when the driver arrived, Dwyer shouted that he was too weak to get up and open the door.
The officers asked Dwyer for permission to kick it in.
"Go ahead!" he yelled.
They found Dwyer lying on his back, his clothes soiled with urine and feces. Scattered on the floor around him were dozens of spent cans of Dust-Off, a refrigerant-based aerosol normally used to clean electrical equipment.
Dwyer told police Lt. Mike Wilson he'd been "huffing" the aerosol.
"Help me, please!" the former Army medic begged Wilson. "I'm dying. Help me. I can't breathe."
Unable to stand or even sit up, Dwyer was hoisted onto a stretcher. As paramedics prepared to load him into an ambulance, an officer noticed Dwyer's eyes had glassed over and were fixed.
A half hour later, he was dead.
When Dionne Knapp learned of her friend's June 28 death, her first reaction was to be angry at Dwyer. How could he leave his wife and daughter like this? Didn't he know he had friends who cared about him, who wanted to help?
But as time passed, Knapp's anger turned toward the Army.
A photograph taken in the first days of the war had made the medic from New York's Long Island a symbol of the United States' good intentions in the Middle East. When he returned home, he was hailed as a hero.
But for most of the past five years, the 31-year-old soldier had writhed in a private hell, shooting at imaginary enemies and dodging nonexistent roadside bombs, sleeping in a closet bunker and trying desperately to huff away the "demons" in his head. When his personal problems became public, efforts were made to help him, but nothing seemed to work.
This broken, frightened man had once been the embodiment of American might and compassion. If the military couldn't save him, Knapp thought, what hope was there for the thousands suffering in anonymity?
___
Like many, Dwyer joined the military in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
His father and three brothers are all cops. One brother, who worked in Lower Manhattan, happened to miss his train that morning and so hadn't been there when the World Trade Center towers collapsed.
Joseph, the second-youngest of six, decided that he wanted to get the people who'd "knocked my towers down."
And he wanted to be a medic. (Dwyer's first real job was as a transporter for a hospital in the golf resort town of Pinehurst, where his parents had moved after retirement.)
In 2002, Dwyer was sent to Fort Bliss, Texas. The jokester immediately fell in with three colleagues — Angela Minor, Sgt. Jose Salazar, and Knapp. They spent so much time together after work that comrades referred to them as "The Four Musketeers."
Knapp had two young children and was going through a messy divorce. Dwyer stepped in as a surrogate dad, showing up in uniform at her son Justin's kindergarten and coming by the house to assemble toys that Knapp couldn't figure out.
When it became clear that the U.S. would invade Iraq, Knapp became distraught, confiding to Dwyer that she would rather disobey her deployment orders than leave her kids.
Dwyer asked to go in her place. When she protested, he insisted: "Trust me, this is what I want to do. I want to go." After a week of nagging, his superiors relented.
Dwyer assured his parents, Maureen and Patrick — and his new wife, Matina, whom he'd married in August 2002 — that he was being sent to Kuwait and would likely stay in the rear, far from the action.
But it wasn't true. Unbeknownst to his family, Dwyer had been attached to the 3rd Infantry's 7th Cavalry Regiment. He was at "the tip of the tip of the spear," in one officer's phrase.
During the push into Baghdad, Dwyer's unit came under heavy fire. An airstrike called in to suppress ambush fire rocked the convoy.
As the sun rose along the Euphrates River on March 25, 2003, Army Times photographer Warren Zinn watched as a man ran toward the soldiers carrying a white flag and his injured 4-year-old son. Zinn clicked away as Dwyer darted out to meet the man, then returned, cradling the boy in his arms.
The photo — of a half-naked boy, a kaffiyeh scarf tied around his shrapnel-injured leg and his mouth set in a grimace of pain, and of a bespectacled Dwyer dressed in full battle gear, his M-16 rifle dangling by his side — appeared on front pages and magazine covers around the world.
Suddenly, everyone wanted to interview the soldier in "the photo." Dwyer was given a "Hometown Hero" award by child-safety advocate John Walsh; the Army awarded him the Combat Medical Badge for service under enemy fire.
The attention embarrassed him.
"Really, I was just one of a group of guys," he told a military publication. "I wasn't standing out more than anyone else."
___
Returning to the U.S. in June 2003, after 91 days in Iraq, Dwyer seemed a shell to friends.
When he deployed, he was pudgy at 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds. Now he weighed around 165, and the other Musketeers immediately thought of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Dwyer attributed his skeletal appearance to long days and a diet of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). He showed signs of his jolly old self, so his friends accepted his explanation.
But they soon noticed changes that were more than cosmetic.
At restaurants, Dwyer insisted on sitting with his back to the wall so no one could sneak up on him. He turned down invitations to the movies, saying the theaters were too crowded. He said the desert landscape around El Paso, and the dark-skinned Hispanic population, reminded him of Iraq.
Dwyer, raised Roman Catholic but never particularly religious before, now would spend lunchtime by himself, poring over his Bible.
When people would teasingly call him "war hero" and ask him to tell about his experiences, or about the famous photo, he would steer the conversation toward the others he'd served with. But Dwyer once confided that another image, also involving a child, disturbed him.
He was standing next to a soldier during a firefight when a boy rode up on a bicycle and stopped beside a weapon lying in the dirt. Under his breath, the soldier beside Dwyer whispered, "Don't pick it up, kid. Don't pick it up."
The boy reached for the weapon and was blasted off his bike.
In late 2004, Dwyer sent e-mails to Zinn, wondering if the photographer had "heard anything else about the kid" from the photo, and claiming he was "doing fine out here in Fort Bliss, Texas."
But Dwyer wasn't doing fine. Earlier that year, he'd been prescribed antidepressants and referred for counseling by a doctor. Still, his behavior went from merely odd to dangerous.
One day, he swerved to avoid what he thought was a roadside bomb and crashed into a convenience store sign. He began answering his apartment door with a pistol in his hand and would call friends from his car in the middle of the night, babbling and disoriented from sniffing inhalants.
Matina told friends that he was seeing imaginary Iraqis all around him. Despite all this, the Army had not taken his weapons.
In the summer of 2005, he was removed to the barracks for 72 hours after trashing the apartment looking for an enemy infiltrator. He was admitted to Bliss' William Beaumont Army Medical Center for treatment of his inhalant addiction.
But things continued to worsen. That October, the Musketeers decided it was time for an "intervention."
Minor, who had moved to New York, overdrew her bank account and flew down. She, Knapp and Salazar went to the apartment and pleaded with Dwyer to give up his guns, or at least his ammunition.
"I'm sorry, guys," he told them. "But there's no way I'm giving up my weapons."
After talking for about an hour and a half, Dwyer agreed to let Matina lock the weapons up. The group went for a walk in a nearby park, and Dwyer seemed happier than he'd been in months.
But Dwyer's paranoia soon returned — and worsened.
On Oct. 6, 2005, when superiors went to the couple's off-base apartment to persuade Dwyer to return to the hospital, Dwyer barricaded himself in. Imagining Iraqis swarming up the sides and across the roof, he fired his pistol through the door, windows and ceiling.
After a three-hour standoff, Dwyer's eldest brother, Brian, also a police officer, managed to talk him down over the phone. Dwyer was admitted for psychiatric treatment.
In a telephone interview later that month from what he called the "nut hut" at Beaumont, Dwyer told Newsday that he'd lied on a post-deployment questionnaire that asked whether he'd been disturbed by what he'd seen and done in Iraq. The reason: A PTSD diagnosis could interfere with his plans to seek a police job. Besides, he'd been conditioned to see it as a sign of weakness.
"I'm a soldier," he said. "I suck it up. That's our job."
Dwyer told the newspaper that he'd blown off counseling before but was committed to embracing his treatment this time. He said he hoped to become an envoy to others who avoided treatment for fear of damaging their careers.
"There's a lot of soldiers suffering in silence," he said.
In January 2006, Joseph and Matina Dwyer moved back to North Carolina, away from the place that reminded him so much of the battlefield. But his shadow enemy followed him here.
___
Dwyer was discharged from the Army in March 2006 and living off disability. That May, Matina Dwyer gave birth to a daughter, Meagan Kaleigh.
He seemed to be getting by, but setbacks would occur without warning.
On the Fourth of July, he and family were fishing off the back deck when the fireworks display began. Dwyer bolted inside and hid under a bed.
In June 2007, police responded to a call that Dwyer was "having some mental problems related to PTSD." A captain talked him into going to the emergency room.
Later that month, Matina Dwyer moved in with her parents and obtained a protective order. In the complaint, she said Dwyer had purchased an AR-15 assault rifle and become angry when she refused to return it.
"He said that he was coming to my residence to get his gun back," she wrote in the June 25, 2007, complaint. "He was coming packed with guns and someone was going to die tonight." She declined to be interviewed for this story.
In July 2007, Dwyer checked into an inpatient program at New York's Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He stayed for six months.
He came home in March with more than a dozen prescriptions. He was so medicated that his feet flopped when he walked, as if he were wearing oversized clown shoes.
The VA's solution was a "pharmaceutical lobotomy," his father thought.
But within five days of his discharge, Dwyer's symptoms had returned with such ferocity that the family decided it was time to get Matina and 2-year-old Meagan out. While Dwyer was off buying inhalants, his parents helped spirit them away.
On April 10, weary and fearful, Matina Dwyer filed for custody and division of property.
Without his wife and daughter to anchor him, Dwyer's grip on reality loosened further. He reverted to Iraq time, sleeping during the day and "patrolling" all night. Unable to possess a handgun, he placed knives around the house for protection.
In those last months, Dwyer opened up a little to his parents.
What bothered him most, he said, was the sheer volume of the gunfire. He talked about the grisly wounds he'd treated and dwelled on the people he was unable to save. His nasal membranes seemed indelibly stained with the scents of the battlefield — the sickeningly sweet odor of rotting flesh and the metallic smell of blood.
Yet despite all that, Dwyer continued to talk about going back to Iraq. He told his parents that if he could just get back with his comrades and do his job, things would right themselves.
When Maureen Dwyer first saw Zinn's famous photo, she'd had a premonition that it might be the last picture she'd ever see of Joseph.
"I just didn't think he was going to come home," she said. "And he never did."
___
An autopsy is pending, but police are treating Dwyer's death as an accidental overdose.
His friends and family see it differently.
The day of the 2005 standoff, Knapp spent hours on the telephone trying to get help for Dwyer. She was frustrated by a military bureaucracy that would not act unless his petrified wife complained, and with a civilian system that insisted Dwyer was the military's problem.
In a letter to post commander Maj. Gen. Robert Lennox, Knapp expressed anger that Army officials who were "proud to display him as a hero ... now had turned their back on him..."
"Joseph Dwyer who had left to Iraq one of the nicest, kindest, caring, self-sacrificing and patriotic people I have ever known," she wrote, "was forced to witness and commit acts completely contrary to his nature and returned a tormented, confused disillusioned shadow of his former self that was not being given the help he needed."
While Dwyer was in the service, Minor said, the Army controlled every aspect of his life.
"So someone should have taken him by the hand and said, `We're putting you in the hospital, and you're staying there until you get fixed — until you're back to normal."
But Dr. Antonette Zeiss, deputy chief of the VA's Office of Mental Health, said it's not that simple.
"Veterans are civilians, and VA is guided by state law about involuntary commitment," she told the AP. "There are civil liberties, and VA respects that those civil liberties are important."
The family would not authorize the VA to release Dwyer's medical records. But it appears that Dwyer was sometimes unwilling — or unable — to make the best use of the programs available. In an e-mail to The Associated Press, Lennox, the former Bliss post commander, wrote that Dwyer "had a great (in my opinion) care giver."
Zeiss said the best treatment for PTSD is exposure-based psychotherapy, in which the patient is made "to engage in thoughts, feelings and conversations about the trauma." While caregivers must be 100 percent committed to creating an environment in which the veteran feels comfortable confronting those demons, she said the patient must be equally committed to following through.
"And so it's a dance between the clinicians and the patient."
Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, feels the VA is a lousy dance partner.
Rieckhoff said the VA's is a "passive system" whose arcane rules and regulations make it hard for veterans to find help. And when they do get help, he said, it is often inadequate.
"I consider (Dwyer) a battlefield casualty," he said, "because he was still fighting the war in his head."
___
The Sunday after the Fourth of July, Knapp attended services at Scotsdale Baptist, the El Paso church where she and Dwyer had been baptized together in 2004.
On the way out of the sanctuary, Knapp checked her phone and noticed an e-mail.
"I didn't know if you had heard or not," a friend wrote, "but I got an email from Matina this morning saying that Joseph had died on Saturday and that the funeral was today."
Knapp maintained her composure long enough to get herself and the children to the car. Then she lost it.
The children asked what was wrong.
"Joseph is dead," she told them.
"You said he wasn't sick any more," Justin said.
"I know, Justin," his mother replied. "But I guess maybe the help wasn't working like we thought it was."
The kids were too young to understand acronyms like PTSD or to hear a lecture about how Knapp thought the system had failed Dwyer. So she told them that, just as they sometimes have nightmares, "sometimes people get those nightmares in their head and they just can't get them out, no matter what."
Despite the efforts she made to get help for Dwyer, Knapp is trying to cope with a deep-seated guilt. She knows that Dwyer shielded her from the images that had haunted him.
"I think about all the torture that he went through when he came back, and I think that all of that stuff could have happened to me," she said, stifling a sob. "I just owe him so much for that."
Since Dwyer's death, Justin, now 9, has taken to carrying a newspaper clipping of the Zinn photo around with him. Occasionally, Knapp will catch him huddled with a playmate, showing the photo and telling him about the soldier who used to come to his school and assemble his toys.
Justin wants them to know all about Spc. Joseph Dwyer. His hero.
___

Thursday, July 17, 2008

No One Wins in a War

This is from today's Boston Globe:

Memo to Obama, McCain: No one wins in a war

Howard Zinn
July 17, 2008

BARACK OBAMA and John McCain continue to argue about war. McCain says to keep the troops in Iraq until we "win" and supports sending more troops to Afghanistan. Obama says to withdraw some (not all) troops from Iraq and send them to fight and "win" in Afghanistan.
For someone like myself, who fought in World War II, and since then has protested against war, I must ask: Have our political leaders gone mad? Have they learned nothing from recent history? Have they not learned that no one "wins" in a war, but that hundreds of thousands of humans die, most of them civilians, many of them children?
Did we "win" by going to war in Korea? The result was a stalemate, leaving things as they were before with a dictatorship in South Korea and a dictatorship in North Korea. Still, more than 2 million people - mostly civilians - died, the United States dropped napalm on children, and 50,000 American soldiers lost their lives.
Did we "win" in Vietnam? We were forced to withdraw, but only after 2 million Vietnamese died, again mostly civilians, again leaving children burned or armless or legless, and 58,000 American soldiers dead.
Did we win in the first Gulf War? Not really. Yes, we pushed Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, with only a few hundred US casualties, but perhaps 100,000 Iraqis died. And the consequences were deadly for the United States: Saddam was still in power, which led the United States to enforce economic sanctions. That move led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, according to UN officials, and set the stage for another war.
In Afghanistan, the United States declared "victory" over the Taliban. Now the Taliban is back, and attacks are increasing. The recent US military death count in Afghanistan exceeds that in Iraq. What makes Obama think that sending more troops to Afghanistan will produce "victory"? And if it did, in an immediate military sense, how long would that last, and at what cost to human life on both sides?
The resurgence of fighting in Afghanistan is a good moment to reflect on the beginning of US involvement there. There should be sobering thoughts to those who say that attacking Iraq was wrong, but attacking Afghanistan was right.
Go back to Sept. 11, 2001. Hijackers direct jets into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing close to 3,000 A terrorist act, inexcusable by any moral code. The nation is aroused. President Bush orders the invasion and bombing of Afghanistan, and the American public is swept into approval by a wave of fear and anger. Bush announces a "war on terror."
Except for terrorists, we are all against terror. So a war on terror sounded right. But there was a problem, which most Americans did not consider in the heat of the moment: President Bush, despite his confident bravado, had no idea how to make war against terror.
Yes, Al Qaeda - a relatively small but ruthless group of fanatics - was apparently responsible for the attacks. And, yes, there was evidence that Osama bin Laden and others were based in Afghanistan. But the United States did not know exactly where they were, so it invaded and bombed the whole country. That made many people feel righteous. "We had to do something," you heard people say.
Yes, we had to do something. But not thoughtlessly, not recklessly. Would we approve of a police chief, knowing there was a vicious criminal somewhere in a neighborhood, ordering that the entire neighborhood be bombed? There was soon a civilian death toll in Afghanistan of more than 3,000 - exceeding the number of deaths in the Sept. 11 attacks. Hundreds of Afghans were driven from their homes and turned into wandering refugees.
Two months after the invasion of Afghanistan, a Boston Globe story described a 10-year-old in a hospital bed: "He lost his eyes and hands to the bomb that hit his house after Sunday dinner." The doctor attending him said: "The United States must be thinking he is Osama. If he is not Osama, then why would they do this?"
We should be asking the presidential candidates: Is our war in Afghanistan ending terrorism, or provoking it? And is not war itself terrorism?
Howard Zinn is author of "A People's History of the United States."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Why I Don't Flush

Why I Don't Flush
By Graham Hill, Huffington


When it comes down to it, it's no big whoop to let it mellow. There are now great composting and low-flow toilets out there, but just by flushing a little less often (number 1 only please!), the amount of water you can save is huge.
I'll admit that it takes a little getting used to (mostly getting used to being ok with what your visitors may be thinking). But heck, much of the world doesn't even use toilet paper so clearly this is about perspective.
The toilet is the biggest water culprit in the home -- gulping down nearly one third of your total water consumption, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That means if you flush half as much -- say every other time -- you can trim your water bill by nearly 15 percent a month!
In the U.S., we use about 345 billion gallons of fresh water per day. How much is this? Well, enough to turn Rhode Island into a one-foot lake.
Unfortunately, our lakes and reservoirs are not bottomless. The frightening fact is the amount of usable freshwater is decreasing, according to the World Health Organization. We only have 2.5 percent fresh water on this earth, and every day, we are using more and polluting more.
This water usage calculator from the U.S. Geological Survey is a great way to figure out your household use.
© 2008 Huffington Post All rights reserved.

Friday, July 11, 2008

And Who Is My Brother?

This is tragic and sad. I think the money quote is at the end, beginning with "There was a time..." Alas, that time is not now. I was down in Harvard Square the other day, and a homeless man was lying on the sidewalk, face-down. A Harvard student chatting on the cell phone stepped over him and kept going, not even seeing him. It's like our homeless are pigeons-- an unpleasant and unsightly urban archetype. But there was a time when there were very few homeless in America. And then Governor Reagan of California thought it would be a great idea to empty that state's mental hospitals, and cast the residents out onto the street. That budget-cutting idea was brought to a national level once he became president.

Since then a myriad of factors have contributed to the growing number of homless, not the least of which has been twenty years of Republican administrations....

But this below is really too much. From today's Boston Globe:


Killing of homeless man leaves questions

By Milton J. Valencia, Globe Staff July 11, 2008

There are no roadside memorials for Timothy Finch, no flowers, cards or R.I.P. signs.
The homeless man, a 40-year-old US Army veteran, was killed in broad daylight on the Fourth of July, one of the city's busiest holidays, near Faneuil Hall Marketplace, one of its biggest tourist destinations.
Yet Finch's slaying was obscured by the same shadow of anonymity that shrouded his life. Police said that his gruesome beating was witnessed by tourists and other passersby who dismissed it as a run-of-the-mill scuffle between homeless men and that people walked by as he lay dying, thinking he was merely slumped on the sidewalk. One of the initial calls to police was for a drunk man lying on the ground, bleeding.
Soon after the killing, the scene was cleared, and Fourth of July festivities resumed. And in the days after, it was business as usual at Faneuil Hall, with little reminder that a man had recently been killed there.
"You have to think, 'How many people are walking by here,' " said Lee Diamond, a 20-year-old from Arlington who frequents the corner of Union and North streets, a hangout where the homeless, teenagers, and tourists mix each day. And still he knew nothing of the killing.
Diamond said he has seen homeless people in the area before, even fighting, but he doesn't pay attention. He doesn't believe anyone else does, either.
"There's a good amount of them, but it's like, 'Don't ask, don't tell,' " he said. "Most people walking by wouldn't stop and look. You'd just keep walking."
Advocates for the homeless said that passersby often filter out sights of the homeless and dismiss what would otherwise be alarming scenes, of people lying on the street or fighting.
"There are far too many homeless people who get stepped over," said Karen LaFrazia, executive director of St. Francis House, a local homeless shelter. "How many times has one of us seen somebody passed out on the street, or just up against a wall, and we just walked by."
Now police are searching for such people who may have clues about what happened to Finch. Investigators are reviewing footage from security cameras in the area. Some witnesses have spoken with detectives, but police hope to get more information from what could be hundreds of witnesses who were near the Holocaust Memorial just before noon.
"We believe there were some individuals in the area, tourists in the area, who may have seen the assault take place and not know what they were witnessing," said Elaine Driscoll, a spokeswoman for the Boston Police Department. "Every homicide is of great concern to us, but certainly when one occurs in broad daylight we find it troubling."
No arrests have been made, but police said after the killing that they were looking for an assailant described as a black male, 6 feet 2 inches tall, wearing a red shirt and carrying a white bag.
One witness said she saw four men beating Finch, one of them with a sack stuffed with some type of solid object. Driscoll said police are investigating whether Finch had a prior dispute with other homeless men that may have led to the attack.
"Certainly, the incident is concerning to us, and we hope to find the person responsible for it very soon," Driscoll said.
Several advocates who work with the homeless said they did not know Finch, a veteran with an honorable discharge. He had registered at homeless shelters years ago, and in 2001 he was enrolled in a program at the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans, according to the shelter. He returned there in 2005 for emergency overnight shelter.
But he had not returned since, nor had he stayed at other area shelters contacted by the Globe, leaving advocates to wonder if he led a life wandering on city streets.
Finch's death has alarmed some advocates for the homeless, including Joe Finn, executive director and president of the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance.
"We're just too used to people lying on the streets at this point," he said, adding that more needs to be done to stem the root cause of homelessness. "There was a day that if you had someone walking down a busy street, acting out and talking to themselves, people would find that not normal, and try to report that."
Milton J. Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@globe.com.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Outdoor Almanac

Outdoor Almanac Summer 2008

The Outdoor Almanac is excerpted from Mass Audubon's Sanctuary magazine, which is sent to members four times a year.

June

June 20 Summer solstice, longest day of the year. Celebratory bonfires were lit in many European countries on this night.

June 23 Gray treefrogs begin singing about this time. Listen for their birdlike trill on sultry days just before a rain.

June 25 Bullfrog chorus begins; listen for them at night by ponds in rural areas.

June 30 Check your garden for the fast-flying robber flies. They hover in midair and then zip off.

July

July 1 Daylilies are in bloom by this date; watch for them on roadsides along with other wildflowers. Most of the wildflowers you see by roadways (and many in fields as well) are nonnative species.

July 2 New moon.

July 5 Listen for indigo bunting songs.

July 7 Watch for adult toads in the garden. (Watch also for the tiny black baby toads on old dirt roads near water.)
July 8 Blueberries ripen.
July 11 Snowy tree crickets and katydids begin singing around this date.
July 14 Fireflies appear above meadows and overgrown lawns.
July 16 On warm summer nights, listen for the mournful wail of the screech-owl.
July 18 Full moon. The Buck Moon.
July 20 Cicadas, or seventeen-year locusts, may be whining in the trees on hot days by this time.
July 23 Meadowsweet and steeplebush bloom in old fields.
July 25 Shorebirds begin migrating. Watch for the flocks along the coast.
July 27 Look for the appearance of Indian pipes and beechdrops in forested areas.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Piping Plovers Return to Revere Beach

This is from today's Globe-- we love piping plovers.

By Beth Daley, Globe Staff


It used to be that piping plovers and people didn't mix.
After the tiny shorebird was listed as threatened in 1986 under the Federal Endangered Species Act, beaches along the East Coast were closed to vehicles and often, people, to protect the nests. Plover eggs can resemble sand and stones and beachgoers would sometimes inadvertently step on them - or scare adult plovers so much they abandon nests. .
A piping plover
Times have really changed. For the second year in a row, the wee birds returned to raise young at Revere Beach. That's right. Teeming Revere Beach.
"For two years in a row, one of America's most popular urban beaches has played host to a species ranked as threatened on both the Massachusetts and the federal Endangered Species Lists,'' said Ian Bowles, state Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs. "This is positive news for renewal of our historic coasts."
The return of the shorebirds is nothing but a success story.
In 1986 there were only 139 pairs on Massachusetts’ beaches and 790 breeding pairs along the entire East Coast, from Atlantic Canada to South Carolina. Now there are 557 breeding pairs in Massachusetts and 1,887 along the coast.
The birds also nested for the first time this year at the state's Winthrop Shore Reservation. Twine fencing was placed around two nests there and one at Revere Beach. Employees from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, Massachusetts Audubon and New England Aquarium also protected the nests from foot traffic. "We put up stakes, twine and a few signs. But the beach users have taken it upon themselves to give the birds the space they need and to self-police the few individuals that might have caused problems,'' said Susannah Corona, assistant curator in the fishes department of The New England Aquarium.
For more information go to http://www.massaudubon.org/cwp/index.php

Monday, July 07, 2008

Effort to Save Everglades Moves Forward


THIS IS FROM AN ARTICLE that run ten days ago in the UK Guardian. Funny that I read nothing about this in the American Press...maybe I wasn't looking hard enough.

The state of Florida today announced a landmark deal with the US sugar industry to buy 187,000 acres of farmland that would be used to restore the pristine wetlands of the Everglades national park.
The land sale, unveiled by Florida governor Charlie Crist, jump-starts one of the biggest environmental rebuilding projects in modern US history. Its $1.7bn opening price could swell in coming months as the once-powerful sugar kingpins negotiate their terms with the state.
Crist said the pact was "as monumental as our nation's first national park," adding that he hopes to sign a final pact by September, according to the Palm Beach Post newspaper.
The Everglades, a vast chain of marshes that is home to manatees, Florida panthers, Key deer and other threatened species, was declared a protected area in 1934.
But the health of the park dubbed the River of Grass has suffered greatly in recent years, hurt by polluted runoff generated by sugar farms that lie in the centre of the ecosystem.
The vital southward passage of water from Lake Okeechobee in central Florida to the Everglades also has become increasingly impeded by industry, posing another threat to the park.
The land sale, comprising about 300 square miles, would allow US Sugar to continue farming for six years before giving up its leases, effectively putting the country's cane sugar maker out of business.
Florida would then be free to accelerate its eight-year-old Everglades Restoration Plan. The rebuilding project was originally planned as a $7.8bn joint effort with the federal government, but funding to resuscitate the park has proven hard to come by.
Florida has dedicated about $2.4bn to the effort so far, with Congress allotting even less, according to the Associated Press.
In the wake of the deal, US Sugar is expected to cease operations in Florida, where cane harvesting brought the company an estimated $400m in annual profits. Sugar beet producers would in position to gain a foothold on the American natural sweetener market.
The sale also represents a stunning political victory for Crist, who is often talked about as a possible running mate for Republican presidential nominee John McCain. The governor is reported to have devised the land sale on his own to help US Sugar escape costly lawsuits and the state make good on its promise to rescue the Everglades.
·

Friday, July 04, 2008

Push for White House Veggie Garden

This is from today's Boston Globe. My own vegetable garden is coming along nicely. My garlic is just about ready to be harvested-- my three different varities of bush (pardon the name) beans are flowering and setting, as are my tomatoes, and my broccoli is doing fine.


What's growing at the White House?
By Ellen Goodman July 4, 2008
SCARBOROUGH, Maine
IT HAS BEEN decades since that famous forager Euell Gibbons reached through the White House fence and picked four edible weeds out of the president's garden. This is not something that the Secret Service would recommend you try today.
But Roger Doiron has a better plan for eating the view of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. He's started a campaign to get a kitchen garden growing on the White House lawn.
Doiron works out of his small Cape house in Maine, where I find him one summer day. A wasp-thin 41-year-old, he's part of the fastest-growing - I used the word literally - movement in the country. His organization, Kitchen Gardeners International, is one link in a loose chain of partisans who are neither conservatives nor liberals but locavores. They want to think global, eat local. Very local. As in their front and backyard.
He shows me the lawn sign that expresses his politics: "1,500 Miles, 400 Gallons, Say What?" It's a reference to the average miles food travels to your plate and the gallons of fuel used in its migration. It's not the sexiest slogan, but kitchen gardeners are probably as passionate about vegetables as Republicans are about tax cuts.
Doiron spent a decade with a grass-roots environmental group in Europe. After returning to his hometown in 2001, he became a lettuce-roots environmentalist. As head of Kitchen Gardeners International, he also walks the walk, showing me 50 varieties of vegetables he grows for his family of five on about a sixth of an acre. Memo to other amateurs: You will be pleased to know that Doiron's garden also has weeds.
The appeal of kitchen gardens - food you grow for the table - has been increasing pretty steadily. Taste bud by taste bud. But this year, a harmonic or maybe disharmonic convergence of factors led to a giant leap in the number of grow-it-yourselfers.
For one thing, there's the rising cost of food - 45 percent worldwide in two years. There's also the rising consciousness about the carbon footprint on your dinner plate. There is, as well, recognition of an international food shortage and moral queasiness about biofuels, growing corn to feed cars while people are going hungry. Meanwhile, we've had more uncertainty about food safety, whether it was spinach in 2006 or this year's tomatoes. And the floods that ruined millions of acres in the Midwest have undermined our easy sense of plenty.
"When people feel they are living in uncertain times, they turn to things that give them a sense of security," says Doiron. "There are not many sure things but if you put a few seeds in the ground and you don't muck it up too much you'll get a crop." As proof he stands beside a neat patch of potatoes.
He adds, "Don't do it because it's the cheap thing to do or because Al Gore said it's the right thing to do. Do it to make a small yet concrete step. You may not be able to single-handedly take on Exxon and Chevron but you can take on your backyard."
In that spirit, Doiron is pushing for edible landscapes everywhere from schoolyards to governor's mansions to empty urban plots. But Doiron set his eyes on everybody's house, the White House.
He wants the candidates to pledge they'll turn a piece of the 18-acre White House terrain into an edible garden. Or rather, return it into an edible garden.
After all, John Adams, the first president to ever live in the White House, had a garden to feed his family. Woodrow Wilson had a Liberty Garden and sheep grazing during the First World War. And, of course, the Roosevelts famously had their Victory Garden during World War II, a time when 40 percent of the nation's produce came from citizen gardeners.
It's too late for a Bush harvest, but the campaign to get the next president to model a bit of homeland food security has sprouted on Doiron's website called EatTheView.org.
Eat the View doesn't have the marching sound of John Philip Sousa. It doesn't have the patriotic salience of a flag. But in dicey times, the idea of growing just a bit of your own food carries the real flavor of July Fourth. It smacks a lot of independence.
Ellen Goodman's e-mail address is ellengoodman@globe.com.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Happy Third of July

Here is my contribution as Americans gather to celebrate our independence:

http://www.theonion.com/content/video/bush_tours_america_to_survey

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Moose in Maine Stay Mainly on the Plain


THIS IS FROM THIS MORNING'S BOSTON GLOBE. When my sister Peg owned a general store in the wilds of Maine, outside Bangor, we used to visit her every summer, and see quite a few moose. They're big!

Bullets vs. binoculars

Maine strives for balance on moose's role in North Woods


By Beth Daley, Globe Staff July 2, 2008


NEAR BAXTER STATE PARK, Maine -The hunters discovered the first prey of the evening in a wide pond lined with spruce trees. After creeping down a rocky path, members of the group stood motionless. Then, they took aim.
Click. Click. Click. Startled, the gangly moose reared its head to take in five women pointing cameras and binoculars. Then it continued munching on the pond's vegetation. The delighted group, part of a $50-a-head moose safari, climbed back into the air-conditioned Maine-ly Photos moose tour van and began searching for more of the creatures.
Maine, the sprawling wilderness that has long lured hunters to shoot animals, is being inundated with people who want only to watch them.
Now, the two worlds are colliding as hunters lobby the state for more moose hunting permits, to the chagrin of safari operators and some wildlife lovers. The debate, state officials say, highlights the growing difficulty of managing the vast Maine landscape for all the new people who want to use it.
"It's a challenge," said Phil Savignano, senior tourism official for the Maine Office of Tourism. "Maine is changing . . . There is clearly a decline in hunting and a growth in wildlife viewing. But we want both to exist."
A half-century ago, sportsmen eager to hunt, fish, trap, and canoe flocked to northern Maine's vast privately-owned forest, which the public is allowed to treat like a playground.
Today, they are joined by snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, dog sledders, all-terrain-vehicle drivers, and wildlife watchers - all competing for equal access. At the same time, longtime residents say, some newer inhabitants of the communities bordering the North Woods view the forest as a national park, where virtually nothing should be disturbed.
Conflicts have arisen: "no hunting" signs on previously accessible property, arguments between cross-country skiers and snowmobilers, and complaints about ATVs tearing up wooded trails.
The moose, far easier to hunt than bear and deer - and tastier, too - has always been a treasured icon of Maine. Today, about 65,000 people from around the country enter an annual lottery to receive one of the coveted 3,000 moose hunting permits.
Thousands also come to Maine to watch the moose. The Millinocket and Greenville region has seen moose-tour operators multiply in the last 15 years, with around 10 now in business, operators and tourism officials say.
Safari operators, usually charging between $35 and $300, take visitors out in canoes, boats, jeeps, or float planes for a few hours or overnight to view moose around dawn and dusk as the swamp donkeys, as they are sometimes called, lick salt from roadways or eat freshwater vegetation.
"Every third person who walks in here wants to see a moose these days," said Moosehead Lake Region Chamber of Commerce executive director Bob Hamer. Others want to see all types of wildlife. "There are more people who want an experience with nature," he said.
About 800,000 residents and visitors viewed wildlife in Maine in 2006, according to the most recent survey data from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. In 1996, about 764,000 people did. During that same decade, hunting and fishing declined slightly, following a national trend.
Wildlife tourists tend to spend more time and money in Maine than hunters and fishermen, according to the survey. Some sportsmen worry that spending power could translate into political clout that could cut off their traditional access.
Many Mainers say moose hunting and moose tours should coexist, but exactly how is now being debated as hunters say there are more moose in the woods than state officials previously believed. For years, biologists using aerial surveys and other counting methods estimated there were 25,000 to 30,000 moose in Maine. But state officials recently tried a new method of counting based on how many moose hunters see. Those results suggested there could be as many as 60,000 moose.
Hunters say the state should issue more hunting permits - not only to bring in more tourism dollars, but to keep the moose population healthy. Too many animals could lead to starvation and disease when the woods cannot support them all.
"When you have too many moose, it's a travesty not to be able to hunt," said Vaughn Anthony, a retired fish biologist who works with the Sportsmen's Alliance of Maine, an advocacy group. He believes the state could release three times the number of moose permits it now does without harming the herd.
But state officials say the wide disparity in their two counts highlights the difficulty of counting moose in the vast understory of the North Woods, and they are taking a cautious attitude. The issue has become so heated that the state convened a working group this year to figure out how many moose the state ideally should have.
"Our job is to balance the interests of all people - the hunters, wildlife enthusiasts, people concerned about road collisions, and people who don't care," said Lee Kantar, a wildlife biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Population numbers, he added, "can be the stuff of battles."
Hamer, of the chamber of commerce, says the state needs to ensure that there are moose in the narrow bands across the state where commercial watching takes place. Others, like moose safari guide Ed Mathieu of Sangerville, want hunters to stop killing large bulls, the type of moose that tourists yearn for most of all.
Dale Stevens, the owner and safari guide for Maine-ly Photos, is worried that too many moose are already being killed. As he drove down a bumpy logging road near the West Branch of the Penobscot River with four tourists and a reporter recently, he kept a sharp eye out for the lumbering animals.
"We felt if moose hunting stayed around 2,000 permits it was a good number, but it's inched up," said Stevens, shortly after a passenger spotted a mother bear and two cubs scrambling up a hill.
Stevens, who began moose safaris about 10 years ago, takes several hundred people out a year. He provides a crash course on moose biology and a wide array of information on local wildlife.
The group saw 19 moose, a far cry from the tour's all-time record of 39, but still, a decent trip.
"I think I got a good shot," said a clearly thrilled Theresa King, visiting with her mother from Michigan.
As the van kicked up dust meandering back toward Millinocket, Stevens kept searching out the window for the species he still finds engaging.
"They have the face of a camel, the ears of a donkey," Stevens said. "They look like they are made of spare parts. . . . People love them."
Beth Daley can be reached at bdaley@globe.com.