Thursday, July 31, 2008

Domestic Terrorism

On Sunday, July 27, 200 people were attending the Sunday worship service at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville. Twenty-five children were performing “Annie, Jr.” for the congregation. A man named Jim Adkinsson, who was carrying a guitar case walked in to the church. Once inside he opened the case, pulled out a 12-gauge shotgun and started shooting. The first person he shot was Greg McKendry, a big guy who members of the congregation say stood in front of the gunman to protect them. He killed McKendry, and wounded seven more parishioners. Members of the congregation tackled Adkinsson, and subdued him until the police arrived. Later, Linda Krager, who had been critically injured, died at the hospital.

Churches are sanctuaries - places of peace and worship. Churches are often meeting places for communities, and traditionally places where good works are done for the less fortunate. Stories of violence in churches are made even more horrifying because no matter how we feel about religion, we think of churches as safe places.

As the story from Knoxville unfolded, we learned that Jim Adkinsson is 58 years old, unemployed and having a hard time finding work. He had planned this in advance, and intended it to be a suicide mission. He wanted to be killed by the police responding to the shooting at the church. We also learned that he had written a 4-page letter, explaining that he hated liberals, and blamed them for his failure to find work. According to one of the investigators, Adkinsson targeted the UU church because of “its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country.”

Jim Adkinsson was out of work for a long time. He was about to lose his food stamps. He’d had two DUI’s in the past, and in 2000, his wife took out a restraining order against him. Apparently their marriage ended because of his drinking, and the fact that he put a loaded gun to her head and threatened to kill her. His ex-wife was once a member of the TVUU congregation, but hadn’t attended the church in years.

Adkinsson left his house unlocked, so that the police would be able to enter without difficulty. That may seem odd, but remember, he wanted to be killed by the police. In addition to the 4-page letter, the police also found a stack of books. The books were: Liberalism is a Mental Disorder by Michael Savage, The O’Reilly Factor by Bill O’Reilly, and Let Freedom Ring by Sean Hannity. His reading list certainly is likely to have shored up his prejudices against liberals – may even have created them.

In 1987 the Fairness Doctrine was repealed. In 1988 Rush Limbaugh began his national radio show. That show was the beginning of the tide of hatred that is constantly spewed on our airwaves by conservative talk radio hosts. The decades of bile spewing and casual talk of killing liberals has taken a toll on the nation. The divisiveness of our political and social discourse can be traced back to its beginnings in the Reagan era.

Today, Savage, Hannity, and O’Reilly are three of the most popular voices of the right. Both Hannity and O’Reilly are part of the Fox News network, which claims to be fair and balanced. I’ve had occasion to watch a lot of Fox lately, and I can attest that they are neither. O’Reilly and Hannity both present a very narrow viewpoint, and are not concerned with anything as gauche as the truth. O’Reilly has stated repeatedly that Vermont is a haven for sex offenders who are moving there in droves. There is no factual basis for his claims. Hannity, during his constant anti-Obama tirades on energy, says over and over that Obama is anti-nuke. That’s a lie. Obama is in favor of nuclear power. I heard him say so, last summer in Conway. It’s also easily documented. In the ongoing quest of the right to keep the faithful angry and engaged, the truth is a liability.

Some quotes from the people Jim Adkinsson was influenced by:

“I’ll tell you who should be tortured and killed at Guantanamo: every filthy Democrat in the U.S. Congress.”
- Sean Hannity

“I was so angry and appalled, and the far left has made this guy into a hero, this Glick guy. And, it was just revolting. And if I could have whacked him, I would have.” - Bill O’Reilly (Jeremy Glick’s father died at the World Trade Center on 9/11)

“If I ran this country, I’d hang the lawyer. I would try her for aiding and abetting terrorism — I’d hang her and I’d hang every lawyer who went down to Guantánamo to defend those murderers.” - Michael Savage

The shootings in Knoxville were discussed at length at the far right website A participant identifying as “antiunion person” said,” My best guess is the shooter was probably a diaper wearing Islamic fanatic.” Another forum participant identifying as CharlesWayneCT said, “Its a little surprising to find a UU church had anyone attending who would stand up to a gunman.” He followed that up with disparaging comments about UU theology. There was also a long discussion about how the liberal Knoxville sheriff was probably covering the fact that the shooter was actually a liberal disguised as a conservative to give conservatives a bad name. In other places around the Internet, folks were offering up sympathy and prayers for the UU’s of Knoxville.

There will be those who write in crying that I’m blaming conservatives and advocating censorship. Sadly, there is nothing I can do for those who either can’t comprehend what they read, or are determined not to. I do think that decades of hateful conservative speech, speech that sometimes condones violence against liberals is having an affect on our country. I think that an already unbalanced individual like Jim Adkinsson could be influenced by that kind of violent speech. It’s a conversation that we all should be having, with the folks we usually talk to – and then we should try branching out to talk to the folks we don’t agree with. Don’t let the professional haters continue to divide us.

“A tragedy such as this makes us acutely conscious of the beauty and fragility of our lives and those of our loved ones. I am especially saddened by this intrusion of violence into a worship service involving children and youth.I know that many people, both in Knoxville and around the country, are struggling with shock and grief right now. I pray that those so affected will find strength and comfort.” Reverend William Sinkford, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association

messages of support for TVUU

Knoxville Relief Fund

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

NH gas prices

I paid $3.91 per gallon in Meredith on Sunday. On the same day, in Conway, gas was $4.13.

We routinely pay higher gas prices than anywhere else in the state.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

No Good News

The price of gas has tripled during the last eight years. Oil companies have posted record profits, and their CEO’s are enjoying unbelievably high bonuses. We the people are now reaping the rewards of having oilmen in the White House, record high gas prices, and record high food prices. If it weren’t so painful, I’d be amused listening to the complaints of those who seem surprised by what’s happened. After all, we can’t say we weren’t warned.

We’ve been here before. The OPEC embargo of 1973-74 caused a shortage of oil and gas in the US. President Nixon ordered thermostats turned down to 68, reduced highway speed limits, and air travel Carpooling and public transportation increased as gas stations closed or limited sales.

Our much-reviled former President Jimmy Carter developed a comprehensive energy plan in 1977. The oil embargo was still fresh in his mind, and he saw a chance for us to take control and diversify our energy sources with the future firmly in mind. If we’d listened to him, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in now. Instead, he was ridiculed for putting on a sweater and asking us to turn down the thermostat. Carter had solar panels put on the roof of the White House, and ensured that tax credits were offered to those who chose to purchase solar energy systems. Say what you will about Carter, he showed real leadership on the issue of energy. When Reagan took office, he had the solar panels ripped off and eliminated the tax credit. That’s pretty typical of the GOP energy plan: Oil, Oil, Oil, (subsidized by taxpayers) and nuclear power (subsidized by taxpayers.)

So, now we find ourselves being pinched at the pump, worrying about heating our homes, and paying for food – because of our glutinous addiction to oil, war, and of course, our consumer driven economy. When jobs disappear, paychecks remain static, and the cost of living skyrockets, it seems likely that we’ll be buying less cheap crap from China. Since we don’t manufacture much of anything any more, it will be interesting to see what happens with the economy that George Bush described this week at a press conference as “basically sound,” despite troubled financial institutions. When asked why he wasn’t asking Americans to conserve energy, he said that people were “smart enough to figure out whether or not they were going to drive less” and that “the marketplace works.” The unemployment rate in the US has hit a 2-year high, and long-term unemployment has climbed 37 percent in the last year. All of those folks are surely feeling the invisible hand of the market – flipping them the bird. There will be no leadership on the nation’s energy needs coming from the limping duck in the White House.

This week, we were treated to the comedic stylings of McCain economic advisor Phil Gramm. Gramm was quoted as saying we’ve become “a nation of whiners” and the country is only in a “mental recession.” Gramm, who is employed by Swiss Bank USB, is now a hot contender for the centerfold of the GOP compassionate conservative calendar. Presidential candidate John McCain has said that drilling offshore would provide a “psychological” boost for the country. We wouldn’t see any benefit from drilling for 10-20 years, but apparently we’ll feel better if we imagine that we’re seeing lower prices. If we can imagine hard enough, maybe we can imagine that recession away. Click your ruby slippers, folks!

The cost of gas and oil is going to have a profound effect on the economy of our area. We can’t blithely march forward into the future thinking that the steady stream of SUV’s will continue to park at our hotels, outlet stores, and chain restaurants. Some friends in Conway had to move heaven and earth to put up a windmill on their property. It’s time to rethink outmoded zoning regulations. It’s time to rethink our local energy needs, and the future of our local economy. It’s also time to rethink the bypass. It’s a waste of money. The state would be wise to invest that money in fixing bridges and dams around the state. We’d also be wise to think about reinstituting rail travel to the area, and investing in public transportation.

This week, 21 New England lawmakers sent a joint letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asking for a $9 billion boost in federal heating aid. They also asked for an increase of $1 billion for weatherization programs that would help homeowners conserve energy and save money. They’ve asked that these funds be included in new economic stimulus bills. Our Congresswoman, Carol Shea-Porter was one of those who signed the letter, and spoke at a group press conference, as was CD 2 Congressman Paul Hodes. Our NH Congresspersons understand that the winter ahead is going to be very difficult for many NH residents.

The NH Food Bank, which supplies food to shelters, food banks, and soup kitchens around the state, reported this week that their supplies are lower than they’ve ever been. As gas and food prices increase, so will the need. Local food pantries are also feeling the pinch. All who can afford to donate food or money to local food pantries will find a printable list for Carroll County here:
Please be as generous as you can.

“Unsustainable situations usually go on longer than most economists think possible. But they always end, and when they do, it’s often painful.” Paul Krugman

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

McCain is NOT pro-choice

It has come to my attention that a lot of people think the former maverick is, in fact, in favor of a woman's right to make her own reproductive decisions. He may have said that, back in the old days, before he repudiated everything he's ever stood for - but McShame is dying to overturn Roe v. Wade.

McCain on the issues

Awaken Your Inner Elephant


Stop whining, and let Phil Gramm teach you how to imagine a good economy!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Crimes and Cover-ups

In July of 2005, a US Army Private named LaVena Johnson was found dead in a contractor’s tent. She had been raped, beaten, shot, and set on fire. LaVena Johnson was found with a broken nose, a black eye, loose teeth, and lye had been poured in her vagina. There was a blood trail leading away from the tent, and she had been set on fire. The Army determined that Private Johnson’s death was a suicide.

When LaVena’s body came home, her family became suspicious of the Army’s investigation and conclusion of suicide. Her father, Dr. John Johnson was concerned about the bruising on her face, and the fact that the Army claimed his daughter had shot herself with her M-16. The exit wound in her head was too small, and appeared to be from a pistol. He wondered why the exit hole was on the left side of her head when she was right handed. White military gloves had been glued on to her hands to hide burns. That did it. Dr. Johnson and his wife began calling for an investigation into what really happened to LaVena. For the next few years they used the Freedom of Information Act and Congressional offices to request information from the Army.
After 2 years, the Johnson’s were able to get a copy of a CD that showed photographs taken of LaVena’s body at the scene, and other pictures of her naked body taken during the investigation. There were bruises, scratches, and bite marks on the upper part of her body. The right side of her back, and her right hand were burned. Her genital area was bruised and lacerated, and lye (a corrosive liquid) had been poured into her vagina, presumably to destroy DNA evidence of rape. It boggles the mind that this could be ruled “suicide.”

According to the Department of Defense, one in three women who join the US military will be sexually assaulted or raped by men in the military. I doubt that statistic is hanging on the wall in recruitment offices, or even mentioned to the young women who bravely volunteer to serve their country. This statistic is double the US national numbers for rape. It is unconscionable.

Private Johnson’s death is not the only suspicious “suicide.” Since the beginning of the war in Iraq, approximately 94 military women have died there. Of those 94 women, the military says that 36 died from non-combat related injuries such as: illnesses, vehicle accidents, natural causes, or suicide. Two female sailors were shot and killed in Bahrain by a male soldier, and remarkably, their deaths were classified as a homicide. Five other deaths (including Private Johnson) were labeled suicide. There are other deaths that are suspicious. Eight women at the Camp Taji base have died of non-combat related injuries. Three were raped before they died. Two military women have died of non-combat related injuries on the Balad base. One was raped before prior to her death.

US Army interrogator Specialist Alyssa Peterson, an Arab linguist, expressed concern about how interrogations were being handled. After two nights of working in “the cage,” she refused to participate in any further interrogations. She died in Sept. 2003 of a gunshot wound to the head, an alleged “suicide.” Members of her unit refuse to discuss the interrogation techniques Peterson objected to, and the military says all records of those techniques have been destroyed. Mighty convenient all around.

The military has never welcomed women, unless they were nurses or secretaries. Women have long been regarded as “spoils of war” by military men, the execrable conduct of military men in Japan being a perfect example. Hundreds of women have been raped around the Okinawa base since 1945, and the military has generally turned a blind eye to the crimes. In April of this year, a Marine was charged with raping a 14-year-old girl in Okinawa. He is serving a 36-month sentence. Sadly, there are many more stories, including that current investigation of another rape of a 14 year old by a member of the US military.

At the Navy’s Tailhook Convention in 1991, dozens of US military women were accosted and sexually molested by their brothers in arms. The Pentagon Inspector General found that the Navy deliberately undermined it’s own investigation to avoid bad publicity, and ignored the participation of senior officers. A number of charges were made, but no one was ever found guilty. The Navy promised change – this incident was supposed to create all kinds of new changes in attitudes toward all women in the military. To be perfectly blunt – it hasn’t.

In 2006, Col. Janis Karpinsky told judges at the Commission for Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration, in NY, that several women had died of dehydration in Iraq, because they stopped drinking liquids in the afternoon (during 120 degree days) so that they wouldn’t have to use the latrine after dark. The bathrooms were poorly lit, and place where women were frequently assaulted or raped.

Rather than face any of this head on, the US military has continued to cover up and enable the crimes of military men. They have lied to grieving parents about the way their children died. This is unforgiveable. The military needs to be investigated, and held accountable for the crimes and cover-ups it has perpetuated, and they need to change their long held contempt for women.

“The military wants a system that protects its policies and privileges.” Benazir Bhutto

The photo at the top of the page is Pfc LaVena Johnson.

Please sign this petition asking for justice in the LaVena Johnson case.