Thursday, June 30, 2011

Farm Journal: Two More Water Buffalo Calves Born at Windshadow Dairy

After a nice bath, the mother spots her baby.

Two new bundles of joy dropped in a 12-hour period.  A heifer calf was born to #7082 between 9-10 p.m. last Friday and weighed 90 pounds.  A bull calf was born to one of the Bingo girls, B-4, in the back pasture.  He weighed about 70 pounds.  Fortunately, these animals are able to take care of the birthing process themselves without much help from Ron or Soo--and without any complications.

Here is a sequence of photos documenting one of the early encounters between #7082 (first freshener) and her heifer calf, yet to be named.


The girl-baby waits to be fed.  She curled up in the corner of her stall after being in a nice warm water buffalo for 10 months. Mother and calf stayed together overnight and into the morning. 

The mother had been out to pasture in the morning because Ron needed to clean the barn.  Here she is entering the barn after a nice bath.  She had been wallowing in the "buffalo mud spa."  When she wasn't wallowing, she was near the gate pacing back and forth and calling for her baby.  At one point I heard the baby calling, too.  They probably heard each other because they have huge ears.  The distance from the barn to the pasture gate is about 400 yards.

The mother was in the barn for a couple minutes before the baby finally spotted her.  The calf waited patiently for her.  It all gets very beautiful and touching from here as the following photos show.

I also had my video camera available to document this event. 

Ron is working hard to finish the milk parlor on the buffs' side.  This water buffalo milk will be combined with the goat milk and make a new kind of specialty cheese.  Can't wait to try it!

Meanwhile, we're creating a new raised-bed kitchen garden right in front of the Kleins' house.  It takes a lot of work to dig through "cooked" compost but Donna, Anna and I did it--with Ron's help and direction, of course..

Next, we need to enclose the beds with wood frames and put a layer of topsoil over the compost.

The garden beckons us and we are anxious to plant it.  It seems to be a small  area compared to what we had at Dancing Turtle.  However, this garden promises to yield some plentiful and delicious crops. Next year we'll expand the garden to some bigger spaces.

This process is all part of starting a new farm.  There is so much work to do because everything needs to be built or set up.  Ron and Soo have put a lot of thought to put into it all and you can see the results of their expert planning!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Jean Gump: Standing for Peace Through Civil Disobedience

Joe and Jean Gump at their Bloomingdale home in August 2010.
Jean Gump, 84, of Bloomindale Michigan, is back home awaiting sentencing after serving time in the Tennessee prison system for trespassing at Y-12 National Security Complex last year.  The National Nuclear Security Administration weapons plant in Oak Ridge Tennessee, home of the atom bomb. 

Jean Gump in June 2011, photo by Mark Bugnaski

Click here for a video story on Jean produced and edited by Mark Bugnaski, Kalamazoo Gazette, on June 17, 2011

Below is an excerpt about the Gumps from my 2005 book, Heroes of a Different Stripe:  How One Town Responded to the War in Iraq (available on Amazon) 

Joe and Jean Gump: 
Standing for Peace Through Civil Disobedience
After the Sunday vigils I have often seen an elderly man pull up to the curb in front of the Federal Building in a gray, bumper-sticker-laden Honda sedan.  He and his wife then load the trunk of their car with protest signs.  They move slowly as their age forces them to sway back and forth when they walk, but that doesn’t interfere one whit with their passion for peace.  They are Jean and Joe Gump and they make it to the vigils every Tuesday and Sunday in Kalamazoo and every Saturday in Paw Paw, a town 30 minutes west of the city.  They attend most KNOW events and gatherings held throughout the month.  Jean participates in Wednesday noon Women in Black vigils near the shopping malls and Joe, treasurer of KNOW, attends the bi-monthly planning meetings.
            A petite, woman with big, penetrating eyes, a round face, and a salt-and-pepper page-boy haircut, Jean has been on the picket line for some social justice cause ever since 1965 when she went to Alabama to walk with Martin Luther King, Jr., in the fight for African Americans’ voting rights.  Joe, bearded and slim, wears a baseball cap with the bill turned upward.  It makes him look a little gawky, but he’s nothing of the sort.  He’s a Korean War veteran and a retired chemical engineer.  He’s also a savvy social justice organizer, and like his wife, Joe has a sense of humor that complements his well-grounded but idealistic outlook on life and the world today.
            Joe and Jean Gump are pacifists and local folk heroes for peace.  They have long associated with the Quakers such that I thought they were Quakers, but they’re Catholics who have lived their faith with such a devotion to peace and justice that they have willingly paid the price for it—which includes time in federal prison. 
The consistent theme of the Gumps’ life together these 45 years can be summed up as passion and conviction.  They grew up in Chicago and were high school sweethearts.  Avid jitterbug dancers, they became known as “jazz freak radicals.” 
            As members of “the greatest generation” their lives were typical.  Joe was drafted into the Army in 1946 where he spent 15 months training in the states and six months in Korea.  The Army exposed him to a world totally different from his more parochial upbringing in Chicago.  It was the first time he had close contact with African Americans, another culture, and Europeans (World War II veterans who emigrated to America and re-enlisted).  After discharge Joe took advantage of the G.I. Bill and went to the University of Illinois to study chemical engineering.  He saw college as a “good experience,” especially since he “didn’t have to kill anyone.”
            In 1958 the Gumps married and had 12 children over the next 14 years.  Back then, says Jean, they led rather traditional Catholic lives of daily Mass, night-time fasting, meatless Fridays and confession on Saturdays.  In the 60s they joined the Catholic Family Movement (CFM), a new apostolic group that engaged lay people in social action.  Among their first projects was a ministry for civil rights program sponsored by the Archdiocese of Chicago, which tried to attract the black population to the Church.  They and their brood also participated in the city’s interracial program that provided weekend youth exchanges between black and white families and sponsored a Dutch family of 12 that left Indonesia after independence was declared in 1960.  Many white, European families left that former colony and resettled in the Netherlands and other parts of the world.  Jean and Joe are still in contact with the family they helped find a house, furnishings and jobs. 
The Gumps also met people from other religious backgrounds, formerly a practice frowned on by the Catholic Church until the Vatican II (1962—65) reforms encouraged ecumenism.  Through the Inter-Faith Human Relations Council and CFM they got to know many Jewish couples and worked with them on various projects like promoting fair housing.  “We exchanged views about religion and broadened our religious tolerance,” says Joe.  “We also made lifelong friends with the Jews who were there to support Jean when she went to prison, something many people in our own parish refused to do.”
            As a result of their work with the CFM, they eventually became involved in local politics and sponsored a coffee for a young congressional candidate named Donald Rumsfeld who successfully unseated the incumbent in the 13th district of Illinois (Evanston and other northern suburbs of Chicago).  “We were Republicans at that time,” says Joe.  “So much so that even though we were Catholics, we didn’t vote for John F. Kennedy for president.”  Joe had good reason not to like Democrats; the Chicago Democrats were the most corrupt people around.  Led by Mayor Richard Daley’s political machine, “dead people” voted while some of the living cast their ballots more than once. 
“Mom and Dad were immigrants from Germany,” says Joe.  “Dad was a Democrat.  He voted for FDR.”  FDR’s push to enter World War II convinced his father to switch his party loyalties, so he voted for Wendell Wilkie in 1940 and Thomas Dewey in 1944.  “As a boy, I remember holding a campaign placard for Mayor Edward Kelly, the ward healer.”  Joe was very sick with scarlet fever and Kelly saw to it that constituents were well-taken care of when they were hospitalized.  “It was a kind of grassroots organizing by Republicans in the face of a Democratic machine that was so strong.”  Such activities are akin to today’s constituent service offices of state and national legislators.  “These events shaped me as a Republican,” says Joe.
            Things began to change for the Gumps in the 1960s in the face of social unrest, the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam.  They became Democrats and Jean became a political activist. 
“I always told my children that they should defend anyone on the playground who was being bullied,” says Jean.  One day the kids were watching TV and they saw news stories about Blacks’ poor treatment in the South.      
“I was cooking dinner and my son, John, came up to me and asked what I was going to do about it.  I was puzzled at first.  Then he reminded me of my own advice about helping those hurt by bullies.  I took the next available plane to Alabama and marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. from Selma to Montgomery.”
            During these early years of her activism, Jean also participated in her community serving as president of the high school PTA, a member of the League of Women Voters and executive secretary of the township’s Human Relations Council.  In 1972 she was a delegate to the Democratic Convention.  When Ronald Reagan stepped up the arms race in the 1980s, Jean joined the Silo Plowshares, a social justice group that works to rid the United States of its nuclear weapons through acts of civil disobedience.  One Plowshares tactic is to break into a missile silo’s chain-link fence with wire cutters and beat the top of it with a hammer.  The act alludes to Isaiah 2:1-6, “They will beat their swords into plowshares.  Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”
            On Good Friday, 1986, Jean and four young Catholic men went to a Minuteman II missile silo near Holden, Missouri, and carried out their mission.  The Minuteman II is a first-strike weapon with a single 1.2 megaton warhead (or 2.4 billion pounds of TNT) that can decimate an area of 72 miles—and all living things in it.
            “These are my children and I love them,” she says about the motivation behind her actions that day in an interview with Studs Terkel for his 1988 book, The Great Divide (1988): 
“But if they’re going to have a world, we have to stop this madness….We have got to have a future for our children and we’ve got to make some sacrifices for it, okay?  Call it a legacy, if you want to.  What else is there?  My grandchild, I want to offer him a life, that’s all.  We all had a crack at it, so I think it’s fair that this generation should.”

Authorities arrested and charged Jean and the others with conspiracy and destruction of government property for her act with the Minuteman II.  She was sentenced to eight years at the Correctional Institution for Women in Alderson, West Virginia, and fined $248.49, her portion of the $745 worth of damage done to the chain-link fence surrounding the silo.  However, Jean refused to pay.  The judge said she could be released in six years if she promised to be good.  Jean couldn’t make that promise either, but he reduced her sentence to four years.  During that time she spent 63 days in solitary confinement for refusing to give a urine sample, a punishment comparable to shooting the warden.
            “I was three years in the system and they suddenly wanted a sample,” says Jean.  “I was not there on a drug charge and could see no reason for it except that they were trying to punish me.  So I refused.  I didn’t know the repercussions of my refusal, however.”  As she left for “the hole” one of her friends, a bank robber, gathered Jean’s books, knitting and Bible to take with her.
            Jean has no regrets for what she did with Plowshares but she doesn’t advise activists to set themselves up for prison.  It’s not so much the punishment and confinement as it is the disruption it causes on the homefront.  “Prison is a process that takes at least a year to prepare for,” she says.  “It’s costly, it upsets the family, and you have to find someone to take care of your household.”  But Jean is philosophical about her reasons for accepting her punishment, again as recorded by Terkel:
Oh, it’s a hard spot to be in, but it’s not an impossible one.  It is saying to the people of the world that we have to give up a little of our comfort now, in a critical time, to point up the horrendous errors of a government.  I always thought Joe and I had a lovely love affair when we were young.  It’s only gotten better.  We’re not going to see each other for a while—that’s hard.”

            Joe was supportive of Jean’s efforts even though, ironically, he was a chemical engineer who worked in the nuclear power plants that produced the materials for nuclear weapons.  Despite the fact that he was familiar with the weapons’ enormous power, he didn’t make the connection that they might be used for war.  This was the Cold War era when the United States feared a communist takeover by the Soviet Union and America protected itself by stockpiling nuclear-tipped missiles.  As Jean became more involved in the anti-nuclear weapons movement, Joe began to take an interest in it, too, especially when Jean’s trial finally “converted” him.
            “I listened to the expert witnesses who testified on behalf of Jean and the other members of her Plowshares group,” says Joe.  American historian Howard Zinn spoke, even though the judge tried to muzzle him.  Dr. Helen Caldicott spoke on the medical consequences of nuclear weapons (genetic mutation passed on to future generations and an atomic cloud drifting across the world affecting the world’s populations).  Dr. Paul Walker, a defense analyst, described the power of these weapons in their use and their after-effects.  Then Joe acted.
On August 5, 1987, at 5 p.m., Joe and Jerry Ebner, a priest from the Milwaukee Catholic Worker, went to the K-9 missile silo in Butler, Missouri (near Kansas City), and performed the Plowshares ritual.  Their act was timed to the 42nd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima:  August 6 at 8 a.m. (Japan time).  Joe ended up in the Oxford Prison Camp in Wisconsin for two years.  During that time he refused to work on a beautification project for the staff quarters and was punished with 30 days of solitary confinement.  He was then moved to the Sandstone Security Prison in Minnesota. 
Joe says that prison isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be, especially federal prison.  There is not much discretionary time and you have no responsibilities to attend to and no decisions to make.  So he read books by Zinn and anti-nuclear weapons activist Dr. Helen Caldicott, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dostoevsky and “Civil Disobedience” by nineteenth century author, Henry David Thoreau. 

Ironically, the missiles in Missouri were taken down as a result of the SALT II talks between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s.[1]  “I’m one of the few people who experienced taking them down,” jokes Joe.
Jean maintains that prison is not as bad as the probation period afterward.  For example, when one of her children was preparing to marry out of state, the law prevented Jean from going to the wedding.  “That was a bummer,” says Jean, “but my family understood.” 
Jean met many “outstanding people” in prison.  Some of the women helped make a peace quilt, which was unfurled at the CodePink demonstration at the White House on March 8, 2003.  She also got to know the women as individuals through card games.  An avid bridge player, she taught the women how to play.  At one point she organized three tables.  Among the players were convicted bank robbers.  “We had fun,” says Jean in her usual spirited chuckle.
            Early in their marriage, bridge had been a big part of the Gumps’ life.  They played tournament bridge with such passion that they discussed specific plays on specific hands during their ride home from these games.  Oftentimes a shouting match ensued between them over mistakes.  “It got so bad that we had to decide between bridge and our marriage,” laughs Joe.  These were the days before they became social activists when they led comfortable, professional lives with home, church, family and friends as their priorities.
            “I gave everything away,” says Jean about that life. “Because I knew I had to devote myself to working for justice and peace.”
            “Working for justice.  That’s what we do in our retirement,” says Joe.
            “Don’t you tire of standing on street corners?” I ask them.
            “You get used to it,” says Jean off-handedly.  “It’s easier when you do it with a group.”
            “Yeah, you get energy from doing it with other people,” says Joe.
The Gumps’ energy, however, also springs from their spiritual commitment to the Beatitudes, which they first learned through the CFM in Chicago.  That’s when they put Jesus’ teachings and political action together. 
Iraq has been an issue for the Gumps since 1996 after the United Nations imposed sanctions on that country’s oil exports for six years.  That action resulted in strangling Iraq’s economy, increasing the poverty of the people and causing death to thousands of Iraqis due to the lack of healthy living conditions and inadequate medical care.  Some people believe that over an estimated 500,000 Iraqi children under age five died as a result of sanctions—almost three times the number of Japanese killed during the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.[2]  In the mid-1990s, Americans were not paying much attention to Iraq.  It seemed that the 1991 Gulf War had passed and the issue with Saddam was settled.  Nevertheless, the Gumps, Quakers and a few other local peace advocates deemed the sanctions abominable so they formed a group called Voices in the Wilderness and stood in front of the Federal Building protesting the sanctions.  Between one and ten people came to these demonstrations on and off for about five years. 
When the second Bush administration threatened war with Iraq in summer 2002, Voices joined with numerous other local peace activists in Kalamazoo to form KNOW.  The difference in this movement, however, was that a mounting mistrust of the Bush presidency fueled people not only in Kalamazoo but throughout the country and the world, especially when the president began talking about a war against Saddam.  Still reeling from September 11, the Democrats, the media and the public at large remained largely mute and compliant to the president.  In October 2002, Congress authorized Bush with the powers to wage war on Iraq, if need be.  When Bush bandied about the idea of a unilateral, pre-emptive war against Iraq, millions of citizens in the United States and from countries all over the world began protesting in the streets.  Kalamazoo joined these protests in September 2002. 
            One interesting and unforeseen trend during this time when politics became more separated from populist concerns was the emergence of citizen activist groups at the local and national levels.  Many of the groups used the Internet to organize people to object to Bush’s threat to Iraq through peace rallies and marches.  KNOW met this need in Kalamazoo.
            “If ever there is a change, it’s through the grassroots,” says Jean.  That’s why she and Joe go to the KNOW peace vigils to express themselves and to inspire others to the cause of peace—even if it’s only one by one.  The Gumps also conduct a peace vigil every Saturday in Paw Paw, a largely Republican and pro-Bush town about 30 minutes west of Kalamazoo on I-94.  They stand near the U.S. Post Office, a high traffic area where people can stop and talk to them.  Most of the time people ignore them.  A few honk their car horns and a few sneer at them.  In the days preceding the war Jean says 30 people used to show up in Paw Paw.  However, by December 2003, only five or six people come regularly.  Sometimes, it’s only Joe and Jean. 
One day in Paw Paw, a woman stopped to talk with them saying that their presence was “hurting” her because she had a son in Iraq.  “We are every bit as interested in your son as we are about the Iraqis,” Jean told the woman.  The woman admitted that she never voted for Bush and that she tried to dissuade her son from signing up for the military.  Jean listened to her and the woman left saying that the conversation was pleasant and that she had gained some insights.  The woman’s dilemma, it turned out, was having to go home and face her son’s wife.  The woman didn’t favor the war, but she didn’t know how to handle it with her family and this impasse only increased her concerns about her son.
            Jean says that such conversations sustain her and help to divert her own worries of each day’s sordid news on Iraq—as well as the administration’s other domestic and foreign policies.  “I always have anxiety when I listen to the news,” says Jean.  “We might have to soup up our activities for peace.”
            The gradual support for peace, even a year after the war started, remind Jean of the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s.  Changing people’s minds about an issue is a slow but constant witness, she says.  It requires that people—usually one by one—be allowed to conclude a position on their own.  When enough people “pile on to it” or “buy into” an issue, it eventually becomes a force all of its own.[3]  Then change can occur.  Jean has stood for peace and justice in the world with this belief in mind.  That’s why she cannot stop her stand for peace.   
            However, the Gumps point out that forces countering the peace movement are also gathering.  Things that may not have looked like terrorism in the past are now, in the post 9/11 era, deemed to be so.  Joe points out that Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Murrah Building on April 19, 1995, is currently referred to as a “terrorist action.”  New definitions of terrorism are also emerging and being leveled against citizens through the USA PATIOT Act.  The Bush Doctrine calling for a “War on Terrorism”[4] and a state of “perpetual war,” justifies aggressive, pre-emptive action against nations it deems threatening to the United States.  Joe says this includes the greater expense and heightened activity of the Defense Department and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, which was recently elevated to a cabinet-level status.  “The war on terrorism can be continued forever,” says Joe, “and our rights are being abridged as part of the process.”
            The Gumps have had their own personal experience with “the war on terrorism.”  They believe someone is watching their computer.  A message recently popped up on their screen, “You’re computer is being observed.”   The message appeared and disappeared so quickly that Joe was unable to print it.  “The message came from our server company,” says Joe, which meant that the company was cooperating with government surveillance, probably under the USA PATRIOT Act.  Joe immediately called the company but it denied posting the message or cooperating with a federal agency. 
            “Are you concerned about this?” I ask.
            “No!” the Gumps answered simultaneously with a laugh.
            “If they are listening, they’ll get a lesson,” says Jean.  “I get wonderful letters [from members of the peace movement].”
            “Aren’t you afraid your computer might be bugged” I ask.
            “What is there to be afraid of?” says Joe.  “If they want to monitor me and try to imprison me, let them go ahead.  I’ve been to jail before.  It’s not so bad.”
            Even though the Gumps are not ostensibly fearful of such invasive tactics, they argue that snooping in their home is an invasion of privacy and “un-American.”  Jean compares such tactics to an interview she just heard on an NPR talk show (December 9, 2003) where a Russian-born woman told of her experience of government oppression and her flight from the country with her father and husband.  “The government came for people in the middle of the night,” says Jean, recounting the women’s story.  “And that’s what’s going on in the United States right now over individual citizens’ rights.  This should alarm people.” 
            “This administration is blatantly dishonest,” says Joe.  “We have never had such a bad group in office—unless I was too na├»ve to see it before.  We are the most powerful empire in the world and certainly the most violent.”  Joe cites a story he heard recently about a couple of young people who had left the United States in protest over its policies.  “I have felt that if I were their age I would leave, too.  It’s so hard to be optimistic about the direction our country is going.”
            Paralyzing fear and disbelief that these things are happening begin to grip me as I speak with the Gumps.  Just that morning I had a conversation with a woman who grew up in Nazi Germany and was now beside herself with anger and disgust.  “These shits are dangerous,” she said, referring to those the Bush administration who “hunt down” terrorists in our country through government surveillance. 
            “Are their tactics like Hitler and the Nazis?”  She nodded solemnly and added that such violations against citizens go by inches, unobtrusively.  Worse yet, they seem justified as authorities seek the perpetrators of “crimes against America.”  Then, when people speak against such practices, they are attacked.  Bush officials and supporters call objections to measures that aim to protect the population, such as the USA PATRIOT Act, hysterical and exaggerated.  Yet, they deny evidence that these tactics against Americans are taking place.  A country under terrorist attack must protect itself both inside and outside the country, they claim.  This is why the “war on terrorism” must be waged, especially since no one can know who the terrorists are or where they lurk.  The root of this belief comes from the fact that many of the 9/11 terrorists were integrated into American communities and no one suspected these men of plotting evil against the United States.
            The post-9/11 era has created an unreasonable ethos of fear in the American people such that they go along with government tactics that attempt to identify terrorists at the expense of their civil liberties.  These tactics appear to produce the same kinds of intimidation lodged against citizens during the McCarthy anti-communist era of the early 1950s and during the Cold War when Americans feared the Russian menace.  We were supposed to hate and fear the Russians, even though most of us had never met any.  Jean illustrates this in Studs Terkel’s book (1988) as “state engineered hatred” in its citizens: 
When I started dating my husband, right after World War Two, my aunt says, ‘Jean is going to marry a Hun.’  I thought, What the hell is a Hun?  My husband’s of German descent.  We had just gotten through a war and we had to hate Germans.  They were bad people.  We certainly had to hate the Japanese.  They were bad people.  Through these years, I found out there’s a lot of people that I have to hate. 

We have to hate the Iranians, ‘cause we have to go over there and kill ‘em.  I had to hate the Vietnamese people.  I have to hate the commies.  Everybody has to hate the commies.  There is no end to my nation’s enemies.  But I don’t think they’re my enemies.  I think, God help me, these are people.”

The Gumps have found a comfortable place with KNOW and, although their conviction for peace comes from their Catholic faith, they realize that KNOW attracts many people who are of other faiths and some who do not practice a religion.  “We all have the same feeling for peace regardless of our motivation for standing for it,” says Jean. 
That’s why the president’s expressions of religious faith through war is an anomaly to the Gumps.  “I don’t know the same God the president has,” says Jean.  “Jesus was nonviolent.  Some people point to his throwing people out of the temple with a whip as justification for violence—and war.  But Jesus didn’t kill anybody.  He just shooed people out of his Father’s house.”  Jean says that people who use their faith to justify war tend to focus more on Old Testament morality rather than the Good News of the New Testament where Jesus demonstrates a new way of being. 
            “We don’t believe in the Just War Theory either,” says Joe, referring to St. Augustine’s 1600-year-old treatise that created a compromise between the peace-loving Church and militant Rome in the fourth century.  St. Augustine says:  “We do not seek peace in order to be at war, but we go to war that we may have peace. Be peaceful, therefore, in warring, so that you may vanquish those whom you war against, and bring them to the prosperity of peace.”  
            “We’re pacifists,” says Jean.  “We don’t believe in taking human life through war.  If people approve or disapprove of us, that doesn’t affect us.  We’re actors, not reactionaries.”
            “We do this work out of a conviction that this is what Jesus would want us to do,” says Joe.
            “Our judgment may not always be right,” says Jean, “but we leave it up to God to take care of the consequences.  We have to be sure about what we do and say.  This is our moral obligation.”
            Our conversation is just getting started, but sadly, we have to end it.  The Gumps are on their way to the Tuesday 4:30 vigil. 
“When Eisenhower was leaving office, he said, ‘Someday people are going to want peace so bad, the government had better step aside and let them have it.’  I think that’s coming to pass,” says Jean. [5]

[1] The last Minuteman II silo was imploded on December 15, 1997.  The implosion of the Minuteman II was in accordance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty signed by former U.S. President George H.W. Bush and former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev on July 31, 1991. The treaty took effect Dec. 5, 1994.
Source:  Federation of American Scientists,

According to the Center for Defense Information (, the United States currently has a total of 10,455 nuclear weapons with 7,000 strategic weapons and 800 non-strategic tactical weapons activated.  These missiles sit in underground silos 60 feet deep in the following states:  Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, and Nebraska.  Other land-based strategic weapons in the U.S. arsenal include the Minuteman III, a 350 kiloton weapon with three independently targetable warheads and the MX missile, a 300-400 kiloton weapon with 10 independently targetable warheads.  The MX runs on railroad tracks to keep moving and avoid being targeted by enemy firepower.  Richard Perle, one of the neoconservatives of the Project for the New American Century and currently on the Defense Policy Board for the Bush administration, helped to coordinate this missile system in 1986. 

[2] “Since the U.N. adopted economic sanctions in 1945, in its charter, as a means of maintaining global order, it has used them fourteen times (twelve times since 1990),” according to Joy Gordon in the November 2002 Harper's Magazine. “But only those sanctions imposed on Iraq have been comprehensive, meaning that virtually every aspect of the country's imports and exports is controlled, which is particularly damaging to a country recovering from war….
“News of such Iraqi fatalities has been well documented (by the United Nations, among others), though underreported by the media. What has remained invisible, however, is any documentation of how and by whom such a death toll has been justified for so long. How was the danger of goods entering Iraq assessed, and how was it weighed, if at all, against the mounting collateral damage? As an academic who studies the ethics of international relations, I was curious. It was easy to discover that for the last ten years a vast number of lengthy holds had been placed on billions of dollars' worth of what seemed unobjectionable—and very much needed—imports to Iraq. But I soon learned that all U.N. records that could answer my questions were kept from public scrutiny. This is not to say that the U.N. is lacking in public documents related to the Iraq program. What is unavailable are the documents that show how the U.S. policy agenda has determined the outcome of humanitarian and security judgments.”
[3] Many activists refer to this dynamic as the Hundredth Monkey Syndrome, a classic story. Monkeys inhabited a group of islands in the South Pacific, “which experienced a severe drought. The monkeys were beginning to starve due to lack of food so a team of anthropologists visited one of the islands to try to help. They discovered that there were sweet potatoes on the island, so they showed one of the monkeys how to dig up the root and eat it. By the next day, all the monkeys had learned how to dig up roots and were eating. The anthropologists went to the next island and to their amazement, they found the monkeys were already digging up the sweet potatoes and were eating them. In fact, as they visited each island, the monkeys were eating sweet potatoes. Somehow, the education they provided to the original monkeys transferred by some illogical means to all the monkeys on all the islands. Another example of a similar kind of phenomena is when the first track runner achieved the four-minute mile. Prior to this accomplishment, it was thought that it was an impossible feat. But after it happened the first time, suddenly many people were running four-minute miles” (source:  Wynn Free,

[4] The New Yorker reported in its August 8 & 15, 2005, issue that the War on Terror has been re-named to “a global struggle against violent extremism.” Author George Packer contends “the focus has shifted from a tactic to an ideology.”  White House officials wrote a July 23, 2005 Op-Ed in the New York Times indicating that the word change “is an ideological contest, a war of ideas that engages all of us, public servant and private citizen, regardless of nationality.”  Packer points to something more telling:  “The Administration is admitting that its strategy since September 11th has failed, without really admitting it.  The single-minded emphasis on hunting down terrorists has failed.  The use of military force as the country’s primary and, at times, only response has failed, and has stretched the Army and the Marines to the breaking point.  Unilateralism has failed….Loading the entire burden of the war onto the backs of American soldiers, while telling the rest of the citizenry to go about its business, has failed….  In a recent Gallup poll, only 34 percent of Americans said that we are winning the war on terrorism.  The phrase has outlived its enormous political usefulness” (p. 33). 
[5] Studs Terkel, The Great Divide, New York : Pantheon Books, p. 439.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Guest Essay: What We Need to Know and What We Don't

Harry T. Cook
Harry T. Cook

By Harry T. Cook 
My brother, Ron, keeps sending me electronic versions of long and substantive articles whose subjects are as urgent as anything you would see promoted by your local television station as sizzling "news at eleven."  I promise you none of the articles is about Congressman Tweet, D-N.Y., or Sarah Palin's latest inanity.
The latest piece that came to me was from The Economist and has to do with the human footprint being left on the planet by Homo sapiens -- though if you read the piece you wonder if "sapiens," i.e. "wise" is the right word. The well-researched article says that the human race is overbreeding in the very parts of the world that cannot sustain more mouths to feed.
Just a day or two before The Economist article appeared in my e-mail, I had read about the coming world food shortage caused in great part by persistent drought where there should be rain, and too much rain where there should be far less -- all due to climate change brought on by global warming. It seemed to me that the effect of the article was like a siren warning. No significant note seemed to have been taken of it, however, save by one or two climate-change deniers high in their usual dudgeon.
There are things we need to know about, and those we don't. Huge draughts of oxygen have been used up over the idiocy of the New York congressman Tweeting images of his crotch to random women all over the country. It is nothing but fifth-rate prurient entertainment. One more "weiner joke" may push me over the edge.
The second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth day stories about the Tweetster have produced above-the-fold, bold-faced headlines and juvenile smirks among the purveyors of imbecility on what is laughably known as "television news."
If the national press of the day studiously avoided mention of Franklin D. Roosevelt's handicap or his 30-year love affair with Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, never mind John F. Kennedy's philandering, why now does it plumb the shallows of the political peccadillo?
When the ruling class in ancient Rome perceived unrest among the plebs, it served them up jaw-dropping spectacles known as "circuses" and a glut of free food known "bread" -- all to sate the masses into passivity, hoping they wouldn't notice that the empire was rotting from within whilst the Hun was at the gate.
I suppose, with all this on my mind, it was not a good time to pick up Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, especially its 15th and 16th chapters, which scorn Christianity and its institutions as pustules on the body politic. I more or less knew that anyway.
It is the clear message of the Gibbon work that signals of Rome's impending end were for some time evident in its everyday life. However, those who might have been able at least to cushion the fall when it came could not perceive those signals in the same way human beings in general so often cannot see the proverbial forest for its proverbial trees.
The bread-and-circuses public policy contributed to that blindness in the same way that the media of the present time, with their emphases on trivia and celebrity, drown out the voices of reason, which are trying to tell us what we really need to know rather than the latest trifles of gossip vended by grinning morons.
al-Qaeda is not our worst fear. Climate change and global warming -- from the mere mention of which most Republican presidential hopefuls are fleeing -- are at the top of our enemies list, together with our Pogo-like selves and our studied disregard of what violence our species continues to wreak upon the only planet we have, and of what the economic and social consequences will be for our children and children's children.
FLASH! We interrupt this essay for breaking news: Kim Kardashian has just uttered a polysyllable. Film at 11.

Harry T. Cook is an Episcopal priest, journalist, author and peace-and-justice activist. His area of research is biblical studies, especially 1st Century Greek texts.  He is a noted preacher and public lecturer, and his writings are published in books, newspapers and other journals. Each week, he publishes a topical essay on his website:

© Copyright 2011, Harry T. Cook. All rights reserved. This article may not be used or reproduced without proper credit.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

As Midwest Floods, both Nebraska Nuke Stations Are Threatened

Here is a story that for some reason hasn't been picked up by the media.  Perhaps it is too focused on the shenanigans of former Rep. Anthony Weiner or the GOP presidential horse races.

Since the nuclear power plant is on the Missouri River, which is smack dab in the middle of the Midwest bread basket and a tributary to the Mississippi River that passes through the lower half of our country and into the Gulf of Mexico, this is clearly not good news.

As one of the Western Michigan University participants in the Soviet Union tour of April 1986 who were caught in the middle of the Chernobyl crisis, I am not fond of nuclear energy because the consequences of something going wrong are too great.  

Kalamazooans live within 40 miles of the Palisades Plant in South Haven on Lake Michigan.  Southwestern Michigan's congressman, Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee, is a great supporter of nuclear power as an alternative to oil and coal-generated energy. 

As Midwest Floods, both Nebraska Nuke Stations Are Threatened

By Rady Ananda  posted in Food Freedom

Tens of millions of acres in the US corn belt have flooded, which will spike the cost of gas and food over the next several months. Worse, several nuclear power plants sit in the flooded plains. Both nuclear plants in Nebraska are partly submerged and the FAA has issued a no-fly order over both of them.

On June 7, the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant filed an Alert with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission after a fire broke out in the switchgear room. During the event, “spent fuel pool cooling was lost” when two fuel pumps failed for about 90 minutes.

On June 9, Nebraska’s other plant, Cooper Nuclear Power Station near Brownville, filed a Notice of Unusual Event (NOUE), advising it is unable to discharge sludge into the Missouri River due to flooding, and therefore “overtopped” its sludge pond.

The Fort Calhoun TFR (temporary flight restriction) was issued the day before the nuclear Alert. The FAA issued another TFR on June 7 for the Cooper plant.

Other flood-related TFRs were issued on June 13 for the Garrison Dam in Bismarck, North Dakota and on June 5 for rescue operations in Sioux City, SD.  READ MORE

Here is a report on the flooded nuclear power plants by Arnold Gundersen of Goshen, retired nuclear engineer and whisteblower.  The former senior vice president with Danbury-based Nuclear Energy Services.  Since 1989, he has taken on the industry that once supplied him in his family with a comfortable lifestyle and a bright future.  READ MORE

The black triangles in the below image prepared by the Center for Public Integrity show the disclosed locations of nuclear power plants in the US, minus research and military plants. (Red lines indicate both Mississippi and Missouri rivers):

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Food News Summary

When Food Kills
Just a few days ago, a 2-year-old girl in Dryden, Va., died in a hospital after suffering bloody diarrhea linked to another strain of E. coli. Her brother was also hospitalized but survived.
Every year in the United States, 325,000 people are hospitalized because of food-borne illnesses and 5,000 die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s right: food kills one person every two hours.

Yet while the terrorist attacks of 2001 led us to transform the way we approach national security, the deaths of almost twice as many people annually have still not generated basic food-safety initiatives. We have an industrial farming system that is a marvel for producing cheap food, but its lobbyists block initiatives to make food safer.

Perhaps the most disgraceful aspect of our agricultural system — I say this as an Oregon farmboy who once raised sheep, cattle and hogs — is the way antibiotics are recklessly stuffed into healthy animals to make them grow faster.  READ MORE

Maine legislature passes Joint Resolution on state food sovereignty

WHEREAS, according to the Declaration of Independence, all people “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”; and

WHEREAS, food is human sustenance and is the fundamental prerequisite to life; and

WHEREAS, the basis of human sustenance rests on the ability of all people to save seed and grow, process, consume and exchange food and farm products; and

WHEREAS, it is our obligation as elected representatives of the people of Maine to protect the fundamental freedoms as enshrined by the Constitution of Maine and the United States Constitution and to protect agricultural, ecological and economic diversity and sustainability for a free and healthy society; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED: That We, the Members of the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Legislature now assembled in the First Regular Session, on behalf of the people we represent, and in recognition of our State’s proud agricultural heritage, take this opportunity to oppose any federal statute, law or regulation that attempts to threaten our basic human right to save seed and grow, process, consume and exchange food and farm products within the State of Maine.

Farmer/lecturer Joel Salatin champions 'moral farming' as a better way to raise food.

by David Grant, Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor. / November 24, 2009  
Meet the best, loudest (and only) Christian-libertarian-capitalist-environmentalist-lunatic farmer on the face of planet Earth....

On a foundation of Christian principles, Salatin has built a farming ecosystem where cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and rabbits interact ecologically in a way that goes beyond conservation.

“What we’re looking at is God’s design, nature’s template, and using that as a pattern to cut around and lay it down on a domestic model to duplicate that pattern that we see in nature,” Salatin says.

What that means for Polyface in practical terms is that the cattle graze different areas of pasture every day. Then chickens pick through the same fields, eating bugs and spreading cow manure before clucking back to mobile coops.

The farm’s pigs generate fertilizer by rooting around the floor of the barn, lured by sweet corn into aerating the mix of hay, cow manure, and wood chips. The finished compost is spread on fields. This process not only takes almost nothing out of the environment, it puts nutrients back in.

“We believe that the farm should be building ‘forgiveness’ into the ecosystem,” Salatin says. “What does that mean? That a more forgiving ecosystem is one that can better handle drought, flood, disease, pestilence.”  READ MORE

More on the spirituality angle of food production as I am currently working on an article for U.S. Catholic magazine about spirituality and urban gardens.  Olga

Monday, June 13, 2011

Farm Life Suits "City Girl"

Farming and rural life wasn’t the easiest transition Kim Sanwald ever undertook, but she is one “city girl” who is convinced that moving to the Cloverdale truck farm was by far the best decision she’s ever made.

The first-time book author shares the process of her transition—along with 80 fabulous recipes—in her new book, Basics with a Twist:  Life and Food at Brickyard Farms.

Although Sanwald never imagined herself a truck farmer, she finds it “suits” her quite well.

After 36 years as a manager for a dental office, she admits it was a little scary to give up financial perks and benefits for full-time farming with her partner, Valerie Lane.

“Our life here is modest but it feels authentic,” she said.  “I feel calmer and more passionate about what I do.  I’m totally in love with the market and in working with food.”

Selling healthy, flavorful food and sharing recipes excites her and has become a way of helping to enhance other people’s lives, she said.

“We want to see more people sitting around their tables and eating good food.”
A partial view of the 5.5-acre Brickyard Farms in Cloverdale

Brickyard Farms is a five-and-a-half acre truck farm whose success is attributable to the production of fresh, flavorful vegetables including 17 varieties of tomatoes, seven varieties of potatoes, hard garlic, three varieties of beets, seven varieties of carrots as well as different greens:  collards, kale, Swiss chard, spinach. 

“Many people want the perfect tomato, with no blemishes,” said Sanwald.  “When you grow heirlooms, you have to get over that.”

Brickyard Farms vegetables are grown in good clay soil that has “some amazing minerals” that enhance their “shocking taste,” she said.  This is all done without chemicals or sprays, although the farm is not certified organic.

Last year Sanwald and Lane grew 4,800 tomatoes from 1500 plants.  They planted 650 seed potatoes and harvested 7,000 pounds.

On Saturdays Brickyard Farms participates in the Fulton Street Farmers Market, the oldest and largest market in Grand Rapids and it’s the host of loyal customers whose enthusiasm, support, and interest in eating healthy vegetables provides the “biggest payback,” for the hard work they do, said Sanwald.

Val Lane and Kim Sanwald with dog, Bleu
Sanwald and Lane’s daily routine begins at 8 a.m. with coffee and a walk around the fields to check on the plants.  They are accompanied by their two dogs, Bleu and Ella.  By 10:30 they are out planting, cultivating and/or harvesting vegetables up to six hours or only four hours if the summer heat is too exhaustive.  They cook and eat their evening meal together, which consists of homegrown vegetables throughout the year thanks to the graces of their hoop house.  Then, they settle down to an evening of relaxing or reading with their nine cats in a beautiful custom-made house that Lane built.  During this quiet time Sanwald also manages to write her blog as well as essays and reflections on farm activities.

“We have a list a mile long of things that need to be done,” said Sanwald, 57, “ but I don’t want to kill myself doing them.”

The couple also has two farm hands who assist with various chores on this self-sustaining farm that includes chickens, ducks, a goose and a soap-making operation.  They also rely on family, friends and neighbors who barter their skills and services in getting many things done. 

“This works beautifully in rural settings where there is less of everything:  less money, less employment, less affluence in general,” she said in her book.  “It preserves a feeling of self-respect in a community and the feeling of there being enough for each of us.”

Sanwald’s self-published book took two years to write and six more months to prepare for publication.  It came about because she found herself giving out hundreds of recipes to customers at the market.  Lane suggested she put them all together in a cookbook, however, Sanwald was anxious to write about her new life as a truck farmer and what it meant to her.

Kim writes frequently on her blog as she prepares another book on farming
“The book is a validation of who we are and who I am,” she said.  “I love to write and cook.  It’s my creative outlet and this book stretched me and my learning process.  By combining both of these things, I am able to help others as well.”

She has plans to write a second book that encourages people to grow their own gardens.

One impetus for the book actually came from a teenage memory.  Sanwald had just received a vanity set that made her feel beautiful and “classy.”  However, her mother reacted harshly to her by saying:  “who do you think you are?” It was a hurtful question that Sanwald carried with her throughout adulthood. 

As she composed Basics with a Twist, Sanwald found that the answer to her mother’s question was “yes, who do I think I am becoming!” 

Her journey involved an 18-year marriage, divorce and years of depression and therapy.  It ended up with Sanwald coming out, realizing her need for a more authentic life and eventually partnering with Lane.

But the farm has impacted her life tremendously.  Being close to the land and close to her source of food has awakened something in her that continues to unfold.

One day as she was harvesting kale she suddenly broke down in tears realizing that she was connecting with the earth in a deeply spiritual way.  She found she genuinely enjoyed growing things. 

“I’m home,” she said.  “I felt like I had arrived.”

Sanwald first started working on the farm in 2007 when she and a group of friends came to Lane’s aid after her partner, Cate Burke, had died unexpectedly from a blood clot at age 46.  Lane had purchased the farm in 2001 after leaving a career as a building and remodeling contractor for Womyn’s Touch. 

Sanwald has always loved food and she usually purchased healthy food from the grocery store in the city.  Working at Brickyard Farms, however, has changed her whole relationship with food and it has enhanced her life physically:  she shed 30 pounds and two dress sizes.

“I feel better,” she said, “and the better I feel, the more I want to do [this work].”

Basics with a Twist is available for purchase at the Brickyard Farms website, Schuler Books, Kazoo Books, and Amazon.

Sanwald will give a book talk at Kazoo Books (2413 Parkview, west of Oakland Drive) on Wednesday, June 22 at 7:00 p.m. 

For more information about the book, see the website: