Swine Flu another indictment against factory farming?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have yet another indictment to make against factory farming;  Swine Flu or H1N1 virus.

PETA will be posting a billboard: Meat Kills: Go Vegetarianin San Antonio, TX and then listing the number of diseases related to eating the American Diet, which is high in meat. In their billboard they will be including the Swine Flu which is being investigated as possibly linked to a Smithfield Factory Hog Farm in La Gloria, Mexico where the now pandemic Swine Flu originated.  

Swine Flu is not spread through eating pork but is spread like other flus; through sneezing, coughing, and handshaking with contaminated hands.  Covering one’s mouth with a tissue or handkerchief when sneezing and coughing and frequent soap hand washing is recommended.  

Mexican Health Authorities are investigating the possibility that the factory farm in La Gloria could be the source of the outbreak.  Residents have been complaining of a high incidence of respiratory illnesses since February from inhaling the fecal dust from the factory farm.  

This would not be the first time that Factory Hog Farm has been found to be the source of a Swine Flu outbreak and even an outbreak with the triple virus hybrid of swine, avian, and human virus.   In 1998, a North Carolina Factory Farm was the epicenter for an outbreak of Swine Flu.  That year, the hog population hit ten million and there were fewer hog farms in the state than there were six years before.  The overcrowding conditions made flu ripe for epidemic. 

It is interesting that Obama stopped using the word Swine Flu and began using the technical term, H1Ni virus.  It seems that the Pork lobbyists felt that using the word swine would reduce the consumption of their product.   Several countries have banned the import of Pork from the US for allegedly this fear.    Regardless if we call it Swine Flu or H1N1, we need to begin looking at the larger ramifications of factory farming not only for the ethical treatment of the animals that we confine there, but also for the ramifications on the environment and as possible vectors for disease.   There are better options out there that have worked well not only for the animals but for the global environment as well.  It’s time we begin to investigate how to honor the bounty of our earth in healthful ways. Blessings,

Published in: on April 30, 2009 at 11:11 am  Comments (1)  
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Discrimination in any form is wrong

USA Today announced that a Transsexual was awarded $500,000 in back pay and damages for having job offer rescinded after announcing her transition from a man to a woman.   Diane Schroer applied for and offered a position as a terrorism analyst at the Library of Congress while she was still David Schroer.  When she announced to a Library official that she was undergoing gender reassignment surgery the offer of the position was pulled.

The Library of Congress and the Justice Department attempted to argue that discrimination of transsexuality was not illegal sex discrimination under the civil rights act.  They lost their argument.

Discrimination in any form is wrong.  One’s ability to perform a job does not change because one’s sex is re-assigned or one comes out of the closet as gay or lesbian or intersexed.  

My grandmother taught me about diversity when I was a child.  She was a botanist by training and would take me out on walks into the woods on  her land.  SHe would name for me all the different ferns and flowers that grew on the property.  I remember her saying to me that even though I knew what a New York Fern looked like it didn’t mean I knew all there was to know about New York Ferns.  There are natural variations that occur in the ferns fronds and to look and admire these differences.  She would point out the frond that ended in two or three points instead of just one.  Or she would point out how some of the fronds leaves going up to the point would also have two or more points on them.  Each fern had this diversity in them and diversity was part of the natural order of things. 

We see it in the human species as well… this child born with undistinguished genitalia, this other child born with webbed feet.  This child born gay, this one bi-sexual, and this other child a chimera; born with two different DNA patterns in her body.  Transgender is just another aspect of the diversity in the human species.  All of it is to be celebrated.  All of it shows something of the magnificance of creation. 

Discrimination against our diversity as a human species is at some level giving god the proverbial finger; by creating diversity god  messed up big time.  Who are we to question creation?  Each creation is a gift to all of us, no matter how long that creation is here among us.  Let’s celebrate the differences and honor each other’s worth and dignity.  Blessings,

Published in: on April 29, 2009 at 1:08 pm  Comments (4)  
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“Oh My God! It’s full of Stars”

This quote is from Arthur C. Clark’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Last night as I walked back to my room, I looked up at the night sky and the stars I saw were amazing.   I am at the Mountain Retreat andLearning Center in Highlands, NC for a SouthEast Unitarian Universalist Minister’s Association meeting. 

Where I live in Alabama, the light pollution is so great that I do not have the vista of the heavens that I remember as a child in rural New York State.  

As a child, I could see very distinctively the milky way wave across the night sky but even from The Mountain where light pollution is less, the milky way was not as bright as I remember.   There is a sense of wonder at all of the universe that has always captured the human spirit since the dawn of human history.  That sense of wonder is being diminished by the light pollution and the dullness of our senses to the natural world around us.  

We are made up of the dust of stars.  Every part of our being has its origins in the stars above us.  It is a testament to the evolving wonder of life.  The expanse of it does not diminish the significance of life on this planet… on the contrary it calls forth the awe and majesty of life and creation expressing itself.  It is wonderous!

Amazon Glitch, Twitter, Hacker and Truth

We are in a new age.   Yesterday, I received reports that Amazon the online bookseller mogul had deranked thousands of books across a variety of categories that had one common theme; positive gay images.  Amazon stated it was a glitch in their software programming.  People across the nation begin to use Twitter to decry this event. Gay authors brought forward official communiques from Amazon stating their works were deranked because of an alleged “new” Amazon policy to derank adult books.  This did not make sense when many of these books were written for children, were health related or simply had nothing to do with adult content.  Something was a foot.  After my checking with Amazon’s releases on the subject, checking various claims that gay authors were making on various blogs, finding some of the titles re-ranked again, I called it a hate crime. 

Amazon still claims it to be a computer program glitch.  Yesterday afternoon, a well known Hacker by the pseudonym of Weev, is claiming credit for the debacle.   He claims to have done it as revenge against the  gay community in San Francisco for allegedly targeting his Craigs List ads looking for women who want to shoot up with him.  One of his tactics he claims was to target Amazon’s feedback program of stating a particular book as inappropriate–meaning adult content.   Amazon is still claiming that the de-ranking of 50K+ titles of gay related themes was a glitch, yet this feedback program that customers could target items as inappropriate is no longer available.  

Yesterday, I received cautionary advice from a colleague, Christine Robinson about jumping quickly on the news that sails on the tsunamis known as Twitter.  It is good advice.  I did what I thought was due diligence in checking the claims before I wrote my post.   My sensitivity to homophobia as a gay male is acutely heightened and so it is a button if pushed, I respond.  

I still find it hard to believe this was a programming glitch.  Unless that is what hacker’s do; find programming glitches to exploit with their computer terrorism.  In which case, Amazon can deny the hacker’s success, save themselves from the apparent embarrassment of being hacked, and place into the software the safeguards needed to avoid the glitch from being exploited again.

These are the new days in which we live.  Computers are now the threads that bind our lives together.  Hackers are the new proponents of hate crimes.   Twitter is both the new rumor mill and a power to contend with for corporations–for good or ill.  And the Truth, well, it is still out there waiting for the light of day. Blessings,

Published in: on April 14, 2009 at 9:40 am  Comments (2)  
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Amazon Ranked: GLBT themes, authors

Amazon.com apparently has made a policy decision that will determine what the primary point of view will be of books you will find when you search on certain subjects.  They have chosen to de-rank what they are calling “adult” books, regardless of the sales figures for these books.  They responded to one author’s complaint with this response: “In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude “adult” material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.”   I just checked on the ranking of this author’s book, The Filly and it has returned to the list of rankings.  However, This book does not belong in the category of  Literary Criticism.  This is another complaint by author’s regarding their works, that they are being placed in irrelevant categories to make them harder to find. 

However, obvious adult content with titles like Girls Gone Wild: Girls on Girls have not been deranked.  Now Amazon.com claims this is a ‘glitch’ that just happened to target GLBT  books and authors.  There seems to be a double standard at what is adult content and what is not.

Authors most hit are those that are pro-gay, pro-feminist, pro-disability.   Do a search on the subject of Homosexuality and six out of the top ten books are aimed at the prevention of homosexuality. When I did this search the number one book that comes up is A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.   It appears the policy is not whether it has adult content but whether it matches their point of view.

Author Heather Corinna, writes in her blog [which happens to be on Amazon.com about this deranking and policy]: ” My book is intended for young adults, and is GLBT-inclusive, and penned by me, a queer author.  It is not salacious, it is not pornography: it is a sexuality, sexual health and relationships reference book. Heather Has Two Mommies is a supportive and classic children’s book about gay families.  Hello, Cruel World is a suicide prevention book (which just happens to be written by a transgender author).  That’s a short list, but the point is, many of the books that have been deranked are not adult books at all, nor adult or salacious material, but what nearly all of them, so far, do seem to be are tagged or labeled in some way as GLBT, or as books addressing sexuality in a non-heteronormative or gendernormative way.”

Here in the south where bookstores try to cater to the customers in the region, online buying becomes a godsend to sexual minority folks looking for information on a topic that is closeted in the community.  Having these topics amazon ranked (see definition here) amounts to being a hate crime.

Good Friday 2009

Theology grows out of the practice of the people and not the other way around.  People began honoring the date of Jesus’ crucifixion and then developed the theology of why they do this. Remembering the anniversary of a loved ones’ death was not an unheard of practice but it was generally reserved for those who knew the deceased.  

There was a need in the early church to explain this commemoration long after anyone alive remembered Jesus personally.  There was a need in the early church to explain how a loving God could allow the death of Jesus by crucifixion.  The early Christians scoured the scriptures [these would be the Hebrew writings, both canon and apochrophal]  to find anything that might be a prophetic fulfillment of Jesus’ life.  As they did they found references of the sacrificial lamb and the scape goat that would atone for sins.  They applied these references to explain the events of the crucifixion and made remembrance of his death a holy day.  However, it is a disservice to make the focus of an entire life on the last fleeting hours.  [Mel Gibson are you listening?] It is also a bit of a paradox to call the day commemorating a crucifixion as good. 

People often quote John 3:16, “For God so loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten son so that whosever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”   Many read this verse then go directly (in their minds at least) to the crucifixion of Jesus as what it means to give up an only son.

However, this does not logically work for me.  If Jesus is indeed the only son of God, then it was not at the crucifixion that God gave Jesus to save the world but rather at his birth.   Jesus lived a life that was a profound example of how all people could live their lives.   His death did not seal the deal, it was just a result of the many things that happen to all prophets who are not welcomed in their land.   Socrates, Servetus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Norbet Capek are just a few of the prophets that have graced our land who were not welcomed and like Jesus were killed.  There are also those who lived out their natural days; Buddha, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, and Thomas Merton.  Jesus could have easily ended his life on earth with an ascension like Enoch in the Hebrew Scriptures. [Luke’s gospel thought this reference was important and added it to the Christian texts to take place 40 days after his death and resurrection.]  His life did not need to end in crucifixion in order to make his message more profound. 

It does not make sense that God as a parent would ask his stronger well behaved and obedient son to accept the punishment for the wrong doing that a weaker perhaps infirmed son had committed. Wouldn’t it show more of God’s love and grace to offer forgiveness to the weaker perhaps infirmed child?  And be an example to the stronger son of what comprises true compassion? (I believe I am paraphrasing Rev. William Channing in his “Unitarian Christianity” sermon of 1819)

The gift that God bestowed to the earth then was not the death and resurrection of Jesus but rather the life of one who so embodies the principles which we hold dear.  The inherent worth and dignity of every person.  Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.  Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth.  These first three principles of our Unitarian Universalist faith are based, not solely, but certainly primarily on the life of Jesus.   It is the life of Jesus that is the extraordinary gift and the focus of those who wish to follow in his footsteps and be called Christians.  The impact on the world would be great indeed if more people heeded the call of Jesus’ life and spent less time on the ramifications of believing or not the doctrine of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Blessings,

Published in: on April 10, 2009 at 1:35 pm  Comments Off on Good Friday 2009  
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Rumi: Two Poems

Be Your Note

Remember the lips where wind-breath
originated, and let your note be clear.

Don’t try to end it.
Be your note.

I’ll show you how it’s enough.
Go up on the roof at night
in this city of the soul.

Let everyone climb on their roofs
and sing their notes.

Sing Loud!


The Nightingale’s Way

A bird delegation comes to Solomon
complaining. Why is it
you never criticise the nightingale?

Because my way, the nightingale explains
for Solomon, is different.
Mid-march to mid-June I sing.

The other nine months,
while you continue chirping,
I am silent.


I found these two poems by Rumi, The Sufi  mystic from the 13th century to be an interesting contrast to each other. Yet, each complimenting each other as well.  The first poem is a call to be authentically oneself from the core of one’s being.   A remembrance of “where wind-breath originated” is a remembering of the first breath of Ruah, the breath of God that indwells life.   This is a declarative statement of I am.  

The second poem contrasts this by realizing that if we are shouting who we are constantly like all of the birds do then it is a cacophony of noise. No more than a noisy din with no pleasure to the beholder.  There is a time to shout ‘I am’ to the universe and a time to be still and listen.  The nightingale seems to realize this and therefore receives no complaint from Solomon. 

There is a time to honor the uniqueness of each personality.  A time to relish in the joy of all that makes us individuals and shout that to the world.   There is also a time to remain silent in order to hear the wonderous response to our declarations.  A time to honor the community symphony in which we live and breathe and have our being.  When we do so, we begin to find our place in that symphony.  We begin to differentiate between our unique note and the notes of all else.  We learn where our note can add to the music and harmony of the world.  Or even learn when our note is the right discordant voice needed to be heard to introduce a change the direction of the mood  and tempo towards justice and equality. 

But we cannot do this, if we are onlyshouting our notes and not listening in return.  There is a time to be silent, perhaps with a pregnant pause, waiting for the right moment when our note can be heard by one as wise as Solomon.  Blessings

Published in: on April 4, 2009 at 9:18 pm  Comments (3)  
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