Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Mindfully Happy Thanksgiving

In the midst of a difficult "them vs. us" situation in my apartment building lately, I drew on mindfulness teachings and shared the prayer with several involved parties that I say every morning on behalf of myself, family, friends, neighbors, and our building management.

May we release all burdens of guilt, shame, fear, and loss from past trauma that no longer serve us and needless fear and anxiety about the future;
May we forgive those who have trespassed against us; and may we be forgiven by those whom we have trespassed against.
May we be filled with loving kindness;

May we be protected from all internal and external harm;

May we be as healthy and whole as possible;

May we enjoy both spiritual and material well-being;

May we be centered, peaceful, and at ease;

May we be happy.

 I included a favorite quote from Thich Nhat Hanh:

“Our capacity to make peace with another person and with the world depends very much on our capacity to make peace with ourselves…When we have peace within, real dialogue with others is possible.”
May all those who read this post today enjoy an especially happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Bring Military Rapists to Justice

This hit my inbox this morning, and I urge all Katalusis readers to support Sen. Gillibrand's bill to bring military rapists to justice. Please sign the petition.

The simple bill to bring military rapists to justice 
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Photo public domain.

1 message
Heidi Hess, CREDO Action Sat, Nov 16, 2013 at 8:09 AM
Reply-To: "Heidi Hess, CREDO Action"
To: Virginia Bergman
CREDO action
Tell Sens. Levin, McCaskill, Ayotte, Fischer, Graham and McCain: Stop trying to kill Sen. Gillibrand’s bill to bring military rapists to justice
To Sens. Levin, McCaskill, Ayotte, Fischer, McCain, and Graham:
"The Senate finally has a chance to vote on sensible reforms to fight the epidemic of sexual assault in the military. Stop blocking Sen. Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act."
Automatically add your name:
Sign the petition ►
Dear Virginia,
Protect victims of sexual assault in the military
There were 26,000 cases of sexual assault, rape, and unwanted sexual contact in the military in 2012. It’s an epidemic of sexual assault that is made even worse because the assaults are under-reported and under-prosecuted, with victims often facing devastating retaliation.
It’s clear that the military is failing to protect victims of sexual assault and punish perpetrators. Now the Senate finally has a chance step in.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act would remove sexual assault cases from the military chain of command.1 It’s a smart, sensible reform endorsed by 47 senators and three former generals,2 but vehemently opposed by the Pentagon.

Outrageously, six senators are willing to protect rapists in order to appease the Pentagon.
Tell Senators Levin, McCaskill, Ayotte, Fischer, McCain and Graham to stop trying to kill Senator Gillibrand’s bill. Click here to automatically sign.

Of the 26,000 instances of self-reported sexual assault in 2012, only 302 went to trial.3 This is partly due to a rule that gives commanding officers the final say over prosecution of service members under their command. The rule suppresses reporting of assault because victims fear retaliation and don’t trust that their cases will be handled fairly.

It also encourages ill-trained commanders to avoid prosecuting people under their command -- protecting careers instead of victims. In 2012, a commander in the Air Force used her power to overturn the conviction of an officer under her command who was found guilty of abusive sexual contact and aggravated sexual assault.4 And when military hearings do occur, victims are often subjected to a degrading and antagonistic process.5

The Military Justice Improvement Act will remove sexual assault cases from the military chain of command and put military prosecutors in charge of deciding which sexual assault crimes to try. It will be voted on as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. Democratic Senator Carl Levin, the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is organizing fellow pro-Pentagon Senators McCaskill, Ayotte, Fischer and McCain to kill the bill and pass a watered-down version instead. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has vowed to do “whatever it takes” to defeat it.6

Senator Gillibrand has worked tirelessly to advance this bill in the face of pressure from the Pentagon and high-ranking members of her own party. She has organized 47 senators, including eight Republicans, who are ready to vote to protect victims of sexual assault in the military. It’s outrageous that Senator Levin and his colleagues are trying to pander to the Pentagon at the expense of victims of sexual assault in the military.

Tell Sens. Levin, McCaskill, Ayotte, Fischer, McCain and Graham: Stand up for victims of sexual assault, and stop trying to kill Sen. Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act. Click the link below to sign automatically:
Thank you for standing up for victims of sexual assault in the military.
Heidi Hess, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets
Automatically add your name:
Sign the petition ►
  1. Text of the Military Justice Improvement Act
  2. Some brass back Kirsten Gillibrand's sexual-assault bill,” Darren Samuelsohn, Politico, September, 23, 2013.
  3. Gillibrand’s Drive Challenges Senate Power Brokers on Military Sexual Assault Remedy,” Adele M. Stan, RH Reality Check, September 19, 2013.
  4. "Senator continues to block promotion of Air Force general," Craig Whitlock, Washington Post, June 06, 2013.
  5. Rape in the Ranks,” Dorothy Samuels, The New York Times, November 7, 2013.
  6. Kirsten Gillibrand faces 60-vote bar on sex-assault reform”, Darren Samuelsohn and Anna Palmer, Politico, November 4, 2013.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Powerful typhooon strikes Philipines

Heavy snow piled up at the local shopping center. Photo by V. Bergman.
Up here in Minnesota, we have a blizzard now and then in the winter months and an occasional tornado in the spring, summer, or fall. Most of us have come to terms with our weather extremes; the rest have become what we fondly refer to as our "snowbirds" - they keep the Florida economy booming.

It's when we read about storms like the typhoon that struck the Philippines on Friday that we realize our Minnesota weather is moderate in comparison and even when it's severe, we are usually well prepared with fleets of snowplows at the ready, etc. In the modern era, we seldom receive news of wide-spread deaths of our citizens due to bad weather.

It's jarring to read this report from the Philippines:

MANILA, Philippines -- MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Rescuers in the central Philippines counted at least 100 people dead and many more injured Saturday, a day after one of the most powerful typhoons on record ripped through the region, wiping away buildings and leveling seaside homes with massive storm surges.

With communications and roads still cut off, Capt. John Andrews, deputy director general of the Civil Aviation Authority, said he had received "reliable information" by radio from his staff that more than 100 bodies were lying in the streets of the city of Tacloban on hardest-hit Leyte Island. It was one of six islands that Typhoon Haiyan slammed into Friday.

Regional military commander Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda said that the casualty figure "probably will increase," after viewing aerial photographs of the widespread devastation caused by the typhoon, which was heading toward Vietnam after moving away from the Philippines.

Read more:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Election day 2013, St. Paul and elsewhere

Chue Vue, courtesy photo.
Here in St. Paul, we re-elected Mayor Chris Coleman for a third term, and we elected incumbents Jean O'Connell and John Brodrick along with newcomer Chue Vue to the school board. The Christian Science Monitor provides a comprehensive roundup of election news around the nation:

His pitch bipartisan and inclusive, Republican Gov. Chris Christie cruised to re-election Tuesday in Democratic-leaning New Jersey amid talk of a possible 2016 presidential run. Democrat Terry McAuliffe narrowly won the Virginia governor's race, leading what Democrats hoped would be their first sweep of statewide offices in decades.
New Yorkers chose Bill de Blasio as mayor, electing the first Democrat since 1989.

In other, widely scattered off-year balloting, Houston rejected a plan to turn Astrodome into a convention hall, likely dooming it to demolition, while Colorado agreed to tax marijuana at 25 percent. Alabama Republicans chose the establishment-backed Bradley Byrne over a tea party-supported rival in a special congressional runoff election in the conservative state.

Taken together, the results in individual states and cities yielded no broad judgments on how the American public feels about today's two biggest national political debates — government spending and health care — which are more likely to shape next fall's midterm elections.
Even so, Tuesday's voting had local impact, and it mattered in ways big and small.

The outcomes of both governors' races and the special Alabama GOP congressional primary signaled that, in the midst of a deep division within the Republican Party, pragmatism won out over ideology.
In Virginia, McAuliffe turned back a late-game push by state Attorney General Ken Cuccinnelli, a Republican. Both Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton made appearances for McAuliffe in the final weeks, and so did President Barack Obama over the weekend. The Democrat also dramatically outspent his GOP rival in TV ads in the final weeks.

Read more:

Friday, November 1, 2013

It's not the big bad wolf; it's the big bad hunter and trapper

Just got this from Jamie Rappaport Clark, and the "big bad wolf" is not the villain in this story; it's the big bad hunters and trappers over in Minnesota's sister state of Wisconsin:

(See more photos of wolves here. )

Take Action
 CRISIS: Wisconsin Wolves Killed in Record Numbers
Wolf in snow Robert Weiman
 In Wisconsin, more wolves have been killed in 16 days than during the entire 2012 hunting and trapping season.
Demand Protection for Wolves Button
Dear Virginia,
In Wisconsin, more wolves have been killed in 16 days than during the entire 2012 hunting and trapping season.
Yes, you read that correctly.
In just over two weeks, hunters and trappers in Wisconsin have killed off more than 181 wolves. This represents a horrible and disturbing trend of accelerated anti-wolf attitudes and killing. 
How did this happen?
Reports suggest that the state Wolf Advisory Committee is now overrun by livestock and hunting and trapping interests – and the deck is now completely stacked against wolves.
This committee makes recommendations on quotas, policies and even population goals. But several scientific experts have been removed from the committee, and livestock and hunting and trapping interests have been added on in their place!
No outside scientists are on the committee, and only one pro-wolf group is represented. There are, however, seven livestock, hunting and trapping groups represented!
We’ve come so far in our efforts to restore wolves to their historic range in the Great Lakes region. But with anti-wolf forces more aggressive than ever, we’re at a crossroads.
Thanks for all you do.
For the wolves,
Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders of Wildlife
Jamie Rappaport Clark
Defenders of Wildlife