December 28, 2008

Executions are legal in 59 countries; the United States is one of them. Executions are legal in 36 states, one of which is Indiana. It's pointless to debate the morality of the death penalty: arguments about personal belief and individual opinion are unresolvable through discussion. Instead, it makes sense to assess the merits of the death penalty in terms of public policy. Is capital punishment sound public policy?

The death penalty is expensive. According to Chris Hitz-Bradley, an Indianapolis attorney and president of the Indiana Information Center to Abolish Capital Punishment (IICACP), writing in the Indiana Abolitionist, "The cost of just the initial trial and appeal of a capital case [in Indiana] is estimated at $300,000 to $500,000. The state's economists" he goes on to say, "have estimated that 'the cost of this first phase of a capital case is 1/3 more than a case of life without parole.'"

September 21, 2008

The first time I obtained a passport was in 1983, when I was planning to visit Scotland, the homeland of my ancestors. It was plain little booklet with a navy blue cover, impressed with an eagle-and-shield emblem in gold, and the words "United States of America."

The inside front cover contained identifying data, a long string of cryptic numbers and a mug shot of me that evoked the old joke: "If you look like your passport photo, you're not well enough to travel."

There followed a couple of pages of terse instructions and rules about customs, immunizations, visas, embassy contacts and so on, and a place to write name and address of next-of-kin. All the rest of the pages were blank spaces where visa entries would be stamped when you arrived at and left foreign countries. These pages were faintly underlaid with a pattern of Liberty Bells and red-white-and-blue shields, barely visible.

Very neat, compact, well-made, understated, easy to fit into a small, secure pocket. But it had a feel to it, beyond the booklet itself, a kind of potent little unspoken statement that the "bearer is one of America's people; we expect him to behave, and we expect you to treat him decently while he's in your country." Being a veteran and a taxpayer, I felt that the passport and I were made for each other.

August 10, 2008

We gnomes, guardians of Mother Earth and her secrets and treasures, didn't have to worry much about this thing called "energy" in the Olden Times. We never even heard of the word until about the 1600s, and then it just meant, uh, the inclination to get up and go.

Getting up and going in those days was a bigger deal than it is now, because you didn't "go" in your house. You went outdoors to the privy or into the bushes. On cold days we called it "breaking frost," and it wasn't a peasant way to start the day. But it was necessary.

Now "energy" has become a primary concern of us gnomes, because you folks discovered fossil fuels and the uses for it, and in a mere two or three centuries used up most of it, creating shortages, oil wars, global warming and the economic impact of $90-a-tank gasoline fill-ups -- none of which we gnomes had ever heard of or imagined in the thousands of years of our existence living under tree roots in the quiet woods.

Now we have to think about "energy" matters all the time, because you madly consuming humans have brought us close to the brink of extinction by your profligate squandering of fuel energy.

August 10, 2008

The following letter was written by Rebecca Riall, a former board member of the First Nations Educational and Cultural Center, which dissolved after the resignation of all members. Riall resigned to protest IU’s lack of attention to the interests of American Natives.


I am writing to tell you why the First Nations Educational and Cultural Center (FNECC) Board is dissolving and to share with you my challenge to IU to include American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians in diversity policies.

In the remainder of this letter, I speak only for myself, not my former fellow board members.

The FNECC board fought for the establishment of an American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian student center and has, on a volunteer basis, organized the FNECC's programming, represented IU to American Indian communities and provided student support services since 2006.

August 4, 2008


Board of IUB American Indian Center Quits After Lockout; American Indian Students Seek Equitable Treatment Within IU's Office of Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs and Plan Independent Community Center

July 27, 2008

It may be that my generation was the last allowed outside. Born in 1964, the final year of the baby boom, mine was the ultimate generation whose parents either didn’t care about, or were blissfully ignorant of, the real-world’s dangers.

As a 6 year old, I broke my first bone on a jungle-gym that today would violate every tenet of the Geneva conventions. Sharp, metal and covered in rust, it was a geodesic monolith, buried in the school playground, lacerating every kid who dared climb upon it.

Which was all of us.

For my seventh Christmas, my parents bought me a backyard trampoline. As far as I could tell, its purpose was no higher than that of a personal abattoir. Replete with exposed bolts and a brace of jagged springs, the trampoline daily extracted pounds of bloody flesh from both myself and every other kid in the neighborhood.

July 27, 2008

We gnomes are here to protect our home, Mother Earth.

Being human (sort of), we understand that the earth is meant to be used. But not to be overused. We try to protect it from overuse. Our motto is: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

For example, we gnomes can give many reasons not to build new roads.

The best reason is that you can already get from anywhere to anywhere else in America. Anyplace there's any reason to go to, there' already a road to it.

July 13, 2008

I ran across a graph the other day, posted on an Internet forum. It showed, in stark form, the juxtaposition between what we (meaning our federal government) spent last year on research and development of differing types of energy vs. what we spent prosecuting the war in Iraq.

Along the bottom of the graph were little centimeter-high bars representing solar, nuclear, coal and other fossil fuel research. And then there was another bar, about 2 feet tall (at least on my Apple laptop), and that bar was Iraq. (See Solar Power Rocks).

The war in Iraq is costing us about $120 billion dollars a year. In contrast, we spend less than $500 million a year on finding ways of powering the world without having to resort to using oil, purchased from people who hate us.

July 13, 2008

The following is an excerpt from the new book Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland, published this month by AK Press. The book has two chapters on Indiana, both of which appeared in The Bloomington Alternative: “Young and radical” by Steven Higgs and "Criticize Cheney, go to jail" by John Blair.


We are not supposed to exist.

According to the political Steinberg map of the nation, we come from no man's land, fly-over country, the unredeemable middle, where political progressives are as rare as a Hooters in Provo, Utah.

We are children of the wasteland. The rural outback. Where folks carry guns and use them. Where fenced compounds and utopian communes exist side-by-side with a cyanide heap-leach gold mine. Out here cell phones don't work. Not yet, anyway. And some of us would like to keep it that way.

Frank grew up on the wheated plains of eastern Montana. St. Clair hails from the humid cornfields of central Indiana. These states span the glaciated heart of the continent, a region carved and ground smooth by the weight of ice. From a distance, the terrain of the Great Plains appears homogeneous..

July 13, 2008

First, let me introduce myself.

I'm a gnome. I write. Therefore, I am a gnome de plume.

If you know anything about gnomes, you know that we are earth-dwellers. We live in the woods, sometimes under the roots of trees.

You know that we are legendary as guardians of secret treasures. Most people presume that "treasures" means gold, silver, jewels, Rolexes, gallons of gas and other expensive crap. Wrong. You really don't know what the treasures are unless you're an Insider, like us.

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