Archive for the ‘Unrelated to incarceration’ Category

A poem, written by Masoninblue, and published full-text here, with permission.

Grand Canyon
Under creative commons on flickr by Moyan_Brenn

OCCUPY is the “prime directive” (h/t shekissesfrogs). I dreamed this poem into being last night after writing a short comment to a diary by Frank Lee Speaking.


We decide

what matters.

We lead

but we are leaderless.

We act

and wait for no one to save us.

We save ourselves.

Sometimes a drop

sometimes a tsunami,

we are everywhere and we are nowhere.

National boundaries do not separate us;

Language does not separate us;

Religion does not separate us;

Skin color does not separate us.

Anything that separates us,

we go around

wear it down

disappear it.

We are becoming . . .

there is no force in the universe that can stop us.

we are an idea taking form

We are becoming . . .

Birthing a new world

No one imagined a year ago.

We are becoming . . .

Let he who doubts the power in a drop of water

leap into the Grand Canyon.

In the beginning there was the word.

We know that word today:


Cross posted at my blog and the Smirking Chimp.


The dumpster delivers.

The dumpster delivers. Useful items for foul weather and safety found in a dumpster by Crane-Station (as masonbennu) on flickr. Note the reflective tape on the bike helmet. Safety equipment is scarce among the homeless population.

What homeless people need most may surprise you. Of course, there are obvious intangibles such as dignity, love, and acceptance, as well as semi-tangibles such as telephone, internet and shower access.

This post focuses on some of the tangibles.

Author’s note. This article is posted at Firedoglake/MyFDL with a bit more commentary and an interesting comment thread.


If you have never been homeless or nearly homeless and wandered the streets, you may not have noticed that there is no place to sit down. American city streets discourage sitting and benches are few and far between. Cotton tube socks are key.

More about those feet and those hands.

Let’s donate a bit of hydrogen peroxide and epsom salts (both mentioned in the discussion) as well as some hand sanitizer, bandaids and gauze. Without good gloves to the hands and shoes to the feet, one cannot safely manage a life in the street. Further, the homeless diabetic population can lose improperly protected hands and feet. A homeless friend of mine also requested bug spray because we live in an area of the South where prior flooding and subsequent standing water brought a large mosquito population to the season.

Superglue, duct tape and zip ties.

Three of my favorites. Superglue is fabulous for small cuts.

Don’t food stamps cover toilet paper?


Toilet paper is scarce out there. This necessary burden often falls, unfortunately, to gas stations and parks. Why food stamps do not cover this necessary part of human living, that every single human being uses on a daily basis is beyond me. When such an item is missing, a homeless person must spend a great deal of time, in a limited geographical area, looking for it.

Why would anyone need a flashlight?

Many reasons. For people surviving on dumpster contents, a flashlight is essential. Winter is on us, and it is dark most of the time. Many homeless folks do not have glasses, and it is difficult to see without extra light. In addition to a small flashlight, those batteries for that light are also essential.

Perhaps a cyclist can weigh in on this one:

Bicycle-related supplies. I gave my friend on a bike a tire pump and bungee cords. Many folks on bikes do not have lights, so they cannot safely navigate during the evening hours, which begin early in the northern areas.

For good measure, throw in this:

My friend asked for nail clippers. To someone else I gave the crem-de-la-crem of the dumpster: a fancy Swiss Army/Leatherman’s Tool. I even gave away a Coleman camping lantern.

On that note, you won’t believe this one:

A can opener. Yes. I have tried to bite and claw my way into a good many food bank cans, because I did not have a can opener (and food stamps will not get you one). If you donate canned goods to food banks, try to donate those cans that have some sort of a pull-tab or pop-off top.

A note on MREs:

Military Meals Ready to Eat are fabulous. If you have some spare ones, donate them, please.

What are we going to put this stuff into?

An inexpensive, light but sturdily constructed backpack.
Also, for trash and rain-resistant storage, sturdy black garbage bags. Folks on bikes will be very happy to have a frame on the bike, so that they can transport things.

What is better? An umbrella or a raincoat?

A light raincoat with a hood is better. For brothers and sisters on bikes, donate a shorter raincoat, and for those on foot, a light, rain-resistant long coat.

So, what about getting around town. What of the homeless abled who are looking for work or who are trying to get to a Labor Ready line?

Bus passes. An urban area bus pass can mean the difference between getting work and not getting work. It can cut down the time spent looking for a meal from eight hours to thirty minutes.

It is getting cold.

That is what blankets, jackets, knit caps and sleeping bags are for. These items are safety essentials.

What about that dignity, acceptance and no stigma thing?

Quit thinking ‘us’ and ‘them’ and start thinking ‘us’ and ‘us,’ because that is what it is going to be anyway. If you dumpster dive, share. If you are poor, find someone poorer and help them. If you are fortunate enough to have transportation and someone is unable to get someplace, offer a ride. Homeless folks are you and I. We are the ninety-nine percent.

On edit: here is some information about frostbite. Risk factors include diabetes, beta blockers and peripheral neuropathy.

Here is a diversion from #Occupy and the #Paterno Penn State thing, into the arts. I hope you enjoy it.

The staircase by ahisgett:


The Tulip Staircase, Greenwich
By ahisgett
Tony Hisgett
This photo was taken on August 2, 2008 in Cubitt Town, London, England, GB, using a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT.
Under creative commons, attribution, on flickr, with several comments.

The staircase by Do Ho Suh:


Staircase-III by Do Ho Suh (2010).
Tate Modern. Bankside, London.
By jpellgen
This photo was taken on July 23, 2011 in Blackfriars Road, London, England, GB, using a Nikon D40.
under creative commons, attribution, on flickr.

The Staircase by blakeimeson:

Mountain Laurel Staircase 2

By blakeimeson
under creative commons, attribution, on flickr.
This photo was taken on April 2, 2008.
Mountain Laurel Staircase 2

My favorite staircase using mountain Laurel in a very free-flowing and natural way.

The staircase by raindog:

Different staircase

By raindog under creative commons, attribution, on flickr.
jim crossley
This photo was taken on September 19, 2009 in Blackfriars Road, London, England, GB, using a Nikon D90.

Different staircase

I still have a few more City Hall staircase shots to post, but I thought this one might be a nice change of pace.

This is the view up the staircase at the old Express offices at 120 Fleet Street – unfortunately you weren’t allowed up them, or even much room to take photos at the bottom.

I played around with HDR versions for ages then just gave up and settled on this one, which is straight out of the camera with just an exposure boost to lighten it up.

Phil of Ottawa’s staircase:

Queen's Staircase

Queen’s Staircase

Fountain in Queen’s Staircase, in Nassau, Bahamas. The staircase is located at the end of a limestone canyon, the walls of which are covered in vines and moss. It’s a delightfully cool place in every sense of the word.

By Phil Comeau, Phil of Ottawa under creative commons, attribution, on flickr.
This photo was taken on December 27, 2005 in Englerston, Nassau, New Providence, BS, using an Olympus C765UZ.

Do you enjoy looking at staircases?

A group of exonerated death row inmates, who are free today thanks to DNA, but who would likely be dead, had they been in Texas, get together and urge Perry to stop the death penalty in Texas.

Well There’s Your Problem

Kentucky Lieutenant Governor candidates clash on taxes, jobs and mining.

How many regular-sized helium-filled balloons does it take to lift someone? (hat tip shekissesfrogs, Firedoglake/MyFDL)

Helium Pants (hat tip Kelly Canfield Firedoglake/MyFDL):

Don’t fuck with an anaconda in a box (hat tip Ray):

I wrote this a while back, and am just now getting around to posting it here. I will be posting a new Frog Gravy chapter this evening.

It was a sad day in Hell.

Everyone was miserable.

Scott Walker was in the devil’s office to lodge a complaint. He was assigned to stoke one of the hottest ovens, in one of the deepest parts of  Hell, with his partner, Rick Scott.

“I don’t get paid enough,” complained Walker.

“Well I’ll be dipped in shit.”

“No, really,” Walker whined. And that partner, Rick, you-all got me assigned to? Makes me want to shower and check for my wallet. I wanna talk to my union representative.”

“Bitch, you in Hell,” crooned the devil. “How you think you got any collective bargaining rights when you in Hell?”

“Uh, I…”

“I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do, since I’m feelin’ uh, generous today.”

In the background, Rick Scott screamed, “I AM NOT INSANE!!! I am not INSANE! Let me out! Oh, PLEASE let me OUT OF HERE!!!”

“Think about it Rick. You are not making sense!” shouted Glenn Beck.

“Haltz mau, dummkaupf,” screamed Hitler.

“I’ll pump you full of buckshot and rope you to the hood of my car if you don’t shut  up, Rick,” screamed Dick Cheney. When we get outta here I swear I am going to kill you.”

“We’re never getting out, Dick, if ya think about it,” said Glenn Beck. “We have been here for ten thousand years already. You are not making sense. This does not make any sense.”

“Did you know,” mused Charlie Manson, “That some motherfucker out there owes me money. And when I get out of here I’m gonna…”

“Hey, Glenn,” whispered Rush Limbaugh. “Knock knock.”

“Who’s there?”

“That’s your momma.”

“That’s your momma who?

“That’s your momma knock-knock-knockin’ her head against the headboard when I…”

“You are not making sense. This does not make sense. NONE of this makes any sense.” Glenn was miserable. He began to cry.

“America. Fuck yeah,” said [delete this post, or select payment type].

In the foreground,  in the devil’s office, the conference continued.

“I’m gonna transfer you to telemarketing, Scott. Piece of cake. All you do is answer phones. All day long. Every day. For ever.”

“Oh but I, well no… that’s worse! Plus, I, I’m sick. I got this, like, tapeworm or something, from the water down here. Why can’t I have any bottled water?”

“Plastic fucking bottles,” said the devil. “Who do you think I am, anyway, fart-knocker? Even I recycle.”

Rush Limbaugh overheard this and said, “I can vouch for that. I’ve been assigned to dive dumpsters, for all of eternity. The dude does recycle.”

“And while I am at it, I’m gonna reassign Rick. To the same room as you. He’ll be writing on the chalkboard: ‘I am not a criminal scumbag. I am a Republican.’ “You think five hundred times was a lot? Think again. This is Hell, not Sunday school.”

“But, but…” stammered Scott Walker. But suddenly he felt the poke of a pitchfork to his backside.

While Scott Walker was being escorted through the halls of Hell to his new work site, they overheard:

“Nope. No Dubya-em-dees in here,” said George Bush. “I looked already.”

“Look again, frat boy. This place IS a WMD.


disclaimer: This is a…roast. Pure fun. First attempt at ‘political’ writing.

This full-text unedited article is by Masoninblue, my husband, and is reprinted here with permission.

As most of you know, I have a written a book titled Namaste: If Not Now, When? In a step by step, chapter by chapter basis, I provided a process for revolution beginning with transforming the self, extending the boundaries of the self outward to include others, and finally transforming the world.

What future will we create together? I want to encourage all of us to start dreaming about and imagining that future because we cannot create what we cannot first imagine.

One thing is certain. We cannot and should not return to the way things were before the economic crash. Our economy was based on middle class consumption, from purchasing houses to home entertainment centers and everything else offered for sale on credit. We gorged ourselves on stuff like pigs at a feed trough while almost everyone else in the world struggled to survive on less than a dollar a day.

The great reckoning is under way and far from over. I see an economic tsunami building that within the next 18 months will sweep away our financial system and dramatically increase financial, food, and health insecurity here and throughout the world.

In one of my later chapters, I introduced and briefly discussed microcredit and micropower concepts. Today, thanks to Liz Berry who got me thinking about it, I want to focus on cooperatives.

Wikipedia defines a cooperative as:

a business organization owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit. A cooperative is defined by the International Cooperative Alliance’s Statement on the Cooperative Identity as “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise”. A cooperative may also be defined as a business owned and controlled equally by the people who use its services or by the people who work there. Various aspects regarding cooperative enterprise are the focus of study in the field of cooperative economics.

According to the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), “co-operatives provide over 100 million jobs around the world, 20% more than multinational enterprises”. For example, check out these statistics.

1. 45.3 million people in Asia are members of credit unions.

2. 4 out of 10 Canadians are members of at least one coop and coops employ 155,000 people. Coops are the largest employer in Quebec.

3. 23 million people in France are members of one or more co-operatives or approximately 38% of the population. 75% of all agricultural producers are members of at least one co-operative and 1 in every 3 persons is a member of co-operative bank. 21,000 coops employ more than 1 million people.

4. 1 out every 4 people in Germany belongs to a coop and 440,000 people are employed by coops.

5. In Japan 1 out of every 3 people belongs to a coop.

6. 40% of the adult population of New Zealand belong to coops and mutuals.

7. 239 million people belong to coops in India.

8. Almost 50% of the population of Norway belongs to at least 1 coop.

9. 50% of the population of Singapore belong to coops.

10. In the United States, more than 29,000 co-operatives operate in every sector of the economy and in every congressional district; Americans hold over 350 million co-operative memberships. 900 rural electric cooperatives provide electricity to 42 million people in 47 states. 30,000 coops employ more than 2 million people.

The ICA lists the following 7 principles for cooperatives:

1st Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership

Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

2nd Principle: Democratic Member Control

Co-operatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner.

3rd Principle: Member Economic Participation

Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

4th Principle: Autonomy and Independence

Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter to agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.

5th Principle: Education, Training and Information

Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of co-operation.

6th Principle: Co-operation among Co-operatives

Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

7th Principle: Concern for Community

Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.

There is no better time than now, before the economic tsunami crashes our financial shores and fractures our fragile economy, to think and act holistically, globally, and cooperatively.

If not now, when?


Cross posted at my website and the Smirking Chimp.

This full-text article is reprinted here with permission from the author, Masoninblue, who is also my husband.

Author’s Note: I will be incorporating this essay as a chapter in Namaste: If Not Now, When?

Namaste: If Not Now, When? is my intellectual property. I retain full rights to my own work. You may copy it and share it with others for non-commercial purposes, but only if you credit me as the author. You may not sell or offer to sell it for any form of consideration. I retain full rights to publication.

Previous chapters are posted here in my Diaries or at my website.

My real name is Frederick Leatherman. I was a criminal defense lawyer for 30 years specializing in death penalty defense and forensics. I also was a law professor for 3 years.

Now I am a writer and I haul scrap for a living in this insane land.




Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)

Photo by Dag Endresen on flickr under Creative Commons

Little Red Hen The Ninety Niner Without A Job lived in a
barnyard rural American town where most of the small business buildings were boarded up. She spent almost all of her time walking about the barnyard walking around the town diving dumpsters for food, and scratching everywhere for the
worms maggots off the food packages when her husband was not looking because the food was still perfectly good.

She dearly loved fat the food she found, and since it was nutritious, she fed it to her children.

“Chuck-chuck-chuck!” she called to her chicks hungry children, when she was lucky enough to find food.

When they were gathered about her, she would distribute choice morsels of her tid-bit latest dumpster raid. A busy little body was she!

A cat Democrat who was about as useless as a screen door on a submarine usually napped lazily in the barn door between rounds of golf at various upscale resorts, not even bothering himself to scare the rat Republican who ran here and there as he pleased.

And as for the pig banker who lived in the sty on Wall Street—he did not care what
happened [to anyone] so long as he could eat and grow fat [and rip people off, especially if they were poor.].

One day the Little Red Hen Unemployed American Citizen Who Used To Have A Job found a Seed. It was a Wheat Seed, but the Poor People In America waswere so accustomed to bugs and worms that they had nearly given up on finding anything good about their lives any more. She bit it gently and found that it resembled a worm in no way whatsoever as to taste although because it was long and slender, a Little Red Hen might easily be fooled by its appearance waited to die, thinking that she might be eating some Monsanto-created Coming Plague, but she didn’t die and the seed was a good seed.

Carrying it about, she made many inquiries as to what it might be. She found it was a Wheat Seed that poor people work hard and are kind and that, if planted, it would grow up and when ripe it could be made into flour and then into bread.

When she discovered that, she knew it ought to be planteddecided to become an activist humanitarian. She was so busy hunting food for herself and her family [and gas was so expensive and money was so scarce that, naturally, she thought she ought not to take time to plant it.

So she thought of the Pig Banker—upon whom time must hang heavily and of the Cat Democrat who had nothing to do, and of the great fat Rat Republican who sat on the golf course smoking cigars and drinking single malt Scotch, and she called loudly:

“Who will cares enough about people to plant the Seed?”

But the Pig Banker said, “Not I,”

and the Cat Democrat said, “Not I,”

and the Rat Republican said, “Not I.”

“Well, then,” said the Little Red Hen Teeming Masses Of Poor, Underemployed, Unemployed, Uninsured, Tired American Citizens Who Were Fed Up With Being Taken Advantage Of, “I will.”

And she they did.

Then she they went on with her daily duties through the long summer days, scratching for worms and feeding her chicks struggling to scrape by and barely feed their families, while

the Pig Banker grew fat,

and the Cat Democrat grew fat,

and the Rat Republican grew fat,

and the Wheat grew tall and ready for harvest.

So one day the Little Red HenStruggling Starving People Including Veterans And Children, by the way, chanced to notice how large the Wheat was and that the grain was ripe, so she they ran about calling briskly: “Who will cut the Wheat?”

The Banker said, “Not I,”

the Democrat said, “Not I,”

and the Ratepublican said, “Not I.”


then butter my butt and call me a biscuit,” said the Little Red Hen People Who Were Beginning To Lose Hope,

I We will.”

And she they did.

They got the sickle from among the farmer’s tools in the barn and proceeded to cut off all of the big plant of Wheat.

On the ground lay the nicely cut Wheat, ready to be gathered and threshed, but the Little Red Hen Only People In America Who Were Actually Doing Things That Matter had a family to raise and she did not know if she they had the time to harvest the wheat.

Poor Little Red Hen People Who Longed For The Days When The Country Didn’t Suck! SheThey felt quite bewildered and hardly knew where to turn.

HerTheir attention was sorely divided between her duty to her children and her duty to the Wheat, for which she they felt responsible.

So, again, in a very hopeful tone, shethey peacefully called out, “Who will thresh the Wheat?” And again, when the Wheat was ready for threshing shethey called out for help, and each time shethey called for help, they got the same answers:

The PigBanker, with a grunt, said, “Not I,” and the CatDemocrat, with a meow, said, “Not I,” and the Republican, with a squeak, said, “Not I.”

So the Little Red HenTired And The Downtrodden, looking, it must be admitted, rather discouraged, said, “Well, I we will, then.”

And she they did.

Even as she they sleepily half opened one eye, the thought came to her them that to-day that Wheat must, somehow, be made into bread.

Feeling that she they might have known all the time that she they would have to do it all herself, they went and put on borrowed a fresh apron and spotless cook’s cap from the town bread baker, Bill Egnor. First of all she they set the dough, as was proper. When it was time she they brought out the baking tins, kneaded the bread, divided it into loaves, and put them into the oven to bake. All the while the Democrat sat lazily by, giggling and chuckling.

And close at hand the vain Ratepublican powdered his nose and admired himself in a mirror.

In the distance could be heard the long-drawn snores of the dozing PigBanker.

At last the great moment arrived. A delicious odor was wafted upon the autumn breeze. Everywhere the barnyard citizens sniffed the air with delight.

Although she they appeared to be perfectly calm, in reality she they could only with difficulty restrain an impulse to dance and sing, for had she they not done all the work on this wonderful bread to make the world a better place for everyone’s children and granchildren?

Then, probably because she had acquired the habit, the Red Hen People Who Worked For What They Believed In called:

“Who will eat the Bread?”

All the animals in the barnyard were watching hungrily and smacking their lips in anticipation, and

the Pig Banker said, “I will,”

the Cat Democrat said, “I will,”

the Rat Republican said, “I will.”

But the Little Red Hen Passing Public That Consists Of People Who Have Some Sense said,

“No, you won’t. I We will.”

And she they did.