• The Costs of War

    As of September 24, 2011

    6,257 American military killed in Iraq + Afghanistan. See other data at icasualties.org

    $1,254,293,000,000 - YES, THAT'S OVER ONE TRILLION DOLLARS - and rising (Iraq + Afghanistan, since 2001). Watch the counter at costofwar.com
  • This Week in Peace History

    September 23, 2007 - Dr. Jane Goodall created Roots & Shoots Day of Peace in 2004 in honor of U.N. International Day of Peace; each year, Roots & Shoots Day of Peace is observed in late September. Roots & Shoots groups around the world fly Giant Peace Dove puppets to celebrate Roots & Shoots Day of Peace for its symbolic meaning. They also plan and implement peace project initiatives to help make the world a better place for animals, the environment and the human community.

    Dr. Goodall was appointed a Messenger of Peace in 2002 by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. People selected as Messengers of Peace are widely recognized for their achievements in music, literature, sports and the arts.

    To commemorate her appointment, Roots & Shoots members at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point first conceived of and created the Giant Peace Dove puppets. Since then, Roots & Shoots groups have flown doves in over 40 countries around the world.

    Check out peacebuttons.info for more.
  • OPC Photo Album!

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It Ends November 6th

Today is October 10, 2011 – it’s the International Day Against the Death Penalty, and so i went a-looking for an action to that effect. i found information at DeathPenalty.org about Taxpayers for Justice’s “SAFE California Act” (SAFE stands for “Savings, Accountability, and Full Enforcement”), which intends to end California’s death penalty by November 6th, 2012:

The SAFE California Act will:

* Replace California’s death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole;
* Require inmates to work and pay restitution to the victims’ compensation fund; and
* Allocate $100 million over three years to solve more murders and rapes in California and protect our families.

The SAFE California Act is an important law because:

* Murders and rapists need to be caught and brought to justice. But 46% of murders and 56% of rapes go unsolved every year. We need to use our limited resources to investigate and solve these crimes and keep our families safe, not on our broken death penalty.
* We remain at risk of executing an innocent. Nationally, 139 people have been freed from death row after they were found to be innocent. With the death penalty, we will always risk executing innocent people.
* Since California voted to reinstate the death penalty in 1978, our state has spent $4 billion dollars to execute only 13 people. If the SAFE California Act is passed by voters on November 6, 2012, we will save $1 billion in only five years.

More information – and an opportunity to donate and/or receive campaign updates – are at taxpayersforjustice.org


Supreme Court: States Cannot Ban Violent Video Games

Mature rating on video game case
In an Associated Press article published in June 2011, Jesse J. Holland reported that the United States Supreme Court rejected the notion that states could ban the sale or rental of violent video games on the grounds that it would be a violation of young peoples’ First Amendment rights. Parents and the self-regulated multibillion-dollar gaming industry should be the arbiters of what children have access to, they said.

Read the AP article HERE.

It’s certainly a complex and longstanding issue, with video games – increasingly more interactive and increasingly visually realistic – dancing a dynamic space between observed media (such as a book, which is what it is each and every time) and actual real-world experience (as some studies suggest, what we see in movies and video games is stored – at least temporarily – in the same part of the brain as things we actually do and see in real life).

Justices Stephen Breyer and Clarence Thomas dissented from the decision, with Breyer saying it makes no sense to legally block children’s access to pornography yet allow them to buy or rent brutally violent video games.

“What sense does it make to forbid selling to a 13-year-old boy a magazine with an image of a nude woman, while protecting the sale to that 13-year-old of an interactive video game in which he actively, but virtually, binds and gags the woman, then tortures and kills her?” Breyer said.

Video games, said Scalia’s majority opinion, fall into the same category as books, plays and movies as entertainment that “communicates ideas – and even social messages” deserving of First Amendment free-speech protection. And non-obscene speech “cannot be suppressed solely to protect the young from ideas or images that a legislative body thinks unsuitable for them,” he said.

i VERY MUCH like that the Court is putting the responsibility back onto parents, but am disappointed in Justice Scalia’s weak and faulty “no precedent” argument:

States can legally ban children from getting pornography. But Scalia said in his ruling that, unlike depictions of sexual conduct, there is no tradition in the United States of restricting children’s access to depictions of violence. He noted the violence in the original depictions of many popular children’s fairy tales such as Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella and Snow White.

Hansel and Gretel kill their captor by baking her in an oven, Cinderella’s evil stepsisters have their eyes pecked out by doves and the evil queen in Snow White is forced to wear red hot slippers and dance until she is dead, Scalia said.

“Certainly the books we give children to read – or read to them when they are younger – contain no shortage of gore,” he said.

video game responsibility flyerYou’re wrong, sir: the books that we give children to read are NOT the original Grimm Brothers’ tales most probably for the very reason that those stories ARE particularly morbid and gory. These stories have ALL been sanitized and retold to soothe our ever-evolving cultural values. Essentially, we’ve deemed the darkness of them to be distasteful, and have edited it out of the common tellings. If we were of a progressive mind toward editing violence from our deep subconscious menu of “Things That Excite Us” and “Conflict Resolution Options”, it seems the case could be made for a) starting with the children, and b) starting with their media.

For the record and to reiterate, i see this issue as complex and evolving, exciting and important. i’m glad that this conversation is happening at our highest lawmaking levels. Where i’d like for it to be happening even MORE, however, is right where the Supreme Court wants it to: in livingrooms and in toy store aisles.

The AP article is HERE. Please, share your thoughts!

Capital Punishment Support on the Rise in CA, Though Questioned on Largely Economic Grounds By State Senators

This is an Associated Press article reprinted by the Ventura County Star on June 28, 2011. It describes in brief some of the grounds on which a few State Senators are challenging the capital punishment system in The Golden State. Click the image for a larger version that’s easier to read, then TAKE ACTION below!
AP article about capital punishment, clipped from the VC Star in June 2011

To contact State Senator Loni Hancock to express your appreciation and support for her actions and position:
EMAIL HER using this form | Call her District office at (510) 286-1333 | Call her Capitol office at (916) 651-4009

To contact State Senator Kevin de León to express your appreciation and support for his actions and position:
EMAIL HIM using this form | Call his District office at (213) 612-9566 | Call his Capitol office at (916) 651-4022

To contact State Senator Joel Anderson to offer him a different view on “the price of justice”:
EMAIL HIM using this form | Call his District office at (619) 596-3136 | Call his Capitol office at (916) 651-4036

Let’s Bake Cookies and Clean House While We Still Can!

Hagar the Horrible, by Dik Browne

Kristofer Young: Living Peace in Ojai

Living Peace in Ojai logoWhatever happened to “Living Peace in Ojai“? If you’ve lived in this valley for at least the past few years, you know that there’s usually a big to-do on a weekend near the International Day of Peace, September 21st. This has taken the form of workshops on nonviolent conflict resolution in Libbey Park, film screenings at the Ojai Playhouse, ceremonies and other gatherings both indoors and out, public art projects, massive interfaith services in Libbey Bowl, and more. Hopefully you remember the bright colors, the impassioned music, the solemn silences…hopefully you felt like you were Living Peace during that event…hopefully you left with resources to do it elsewhere and more often.

But what happened? Here we are on the weekend after the International Day of Peace with no festival, no flyers, no uplifting messages and images chalked onto our sidewalks and public spaces. Well, i’ll tell you that the nuts-and-bolts reason that there’s no weekend-long celebration this year is that the annual event called Living Peace in Ojai is coordinated by an extremely small core group of people, and a volunteer force that’s created anew each year. i have been so honored, excited, exhausted, and gratified to be an organizer at various levels of that annual event over the past several years. We have often noted that, just like the act of “living peace”, putting on the event takes tremendous creativity, energy, and time. It cannot be sustained at a fever-pitch each year, and so it must ebb and flow in scale.

The metaphysical reason that the LPIO EVENT seems absent this year is because Living Peace in Ojai is just that: it’s something we DO. It’s not an event…it’s barely even an “organization” in any traditional sense…and it’s why this year’s modest expression is even more appropriate.

Noble Peace Prize medalFor each of the past four years, the Ojai Peace Coalition has given an award to one local peacemaker or org. We call it the NOBLE Peace Prize – an obvious play on words – and the intent is to shine a light on the work being done all around us, all the time, that furthers the cause of a more healthy and connected world. The organization and the award leave “peace” to be openly defined in the broadest sense, and consider any work of integrity to be noble in nature. The philosophical understructure of giving an award, a concept which grates at many a peacemaker’s senses of hierarchy and “value over”, is that whom we hold up as s/heroes, whether real or legendary, is one of the building blocks of what we call CULTURE. The broadest pursuit and value of the Ojai Peace Coalition is to explore and implement what it means and takes to grow a CULTURE OF PEACE, so acknowledging and lifting up those that are already living such a culture is one of the ways that we’re doing that.

The process of choosing an honoree is evolving each year, to accommodate broader community, greater scale, and increased legitimacy and transparency. The nomination and voting periods are completely open to the global public, although eligible nominees must live in and/or do their primary peace work within the Ojai Valley.

This year, from a pool of five nominees, the voting public resonated most with the work of Kristofer Young, for whom the nomination text read:

Kris embodies everything this prize seeks to reward and more. From Peace Corp in the 70s to CPR today (and a lot in between), Kris is like the energizer bunny of peace politics activism, human care through integrative medicine, sustainable local food production and consumption, personal solar energy production, … labels are too constraining. All who know him know his tireless passion for making a difference in the lives of all he can reach. I can’t think of anyone who deserves this recognition more than Kris.

Indeed, it is this “energizer bunny of peace” element that makes it okay that giving Kris this award comprises the entirety of the Living Peace in Ojai “event” for 2011, because Kris is DOING precisely that. He has left peace so open that it can be found within every facet of life, and has integrated it into his so deeply that it’s ever-present. Kristofer Young IS living peace, and he is certainly noble about it. See, “peace” is a powerful concept and practice because it’s huge; you don’t even have to call it by name to be operating toward its fulfillment. Kris’ care for the health of other humans and his care for the health of our earth are just two examples of that. Peace is also dangerous because it’s huge; it encompasses so many values and strategies that it is too often a vague and politicized term, threatening to mean little…and yet Kris isn’t afraid to keep using that very word. “How many times do I have to say ‘peace’?” he requoted to me last evening, “As many times as it takes.”

Kris Young & evan austinAnd he’s been doing just that for a long time: a few of his efforts toward a more peaceful world include Peace Corps service in the 1970s, raising children that continue to seek his counsel and honor his wisdom as adults, and serving currently in his 9th year on the executive board of Ventura-based Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions. You may have seen him at vigils to mourn troop deaths in Iraq, at rallies in support of universal healthcare, leading town hall meetings and gatherings at Representative Elton Gallegly’s Thousand Oaks office, standing alone in Casitas Springs with a giant handmade sign reminding you to vote, and much more. You may be a patient of his at Ventura Chiropractic & Massage, Holistic Center for Healthy Living and been treated to greater comfort, empowerment over your own health, and judgment-free invitation to explore what it means to be health-full. You may have even been on the receiving end, as i have, of a phone call to say literally nothing more than “I love you”.

At the gathering in Ojai’s Libbey Park on the International Day of Peace (Weds Sept 21, 2011), with an intimate, candle-lit group of about 40 people, Dr. Young shared some of his greatest peacemaking tools (Nonviolent Communication) and a selection of personal poetry spanning several years. The piece he wrote on October 15, 2002 was my favorite:

Years have taught me that fear is built into us.
How easy is conflict.
How effortless misunderstanding.
No energy is required to slip out of loving connection with others.
Dis-ease arrives uncalled.
I openly ask for your help in creating and maintaining love, peace, balance, and harmony in my life and in the world.
Without request, I give my energy to you and to the world toward that same love, peace, balance, and harmony.

May it be so for each and all of us, for as my friend Kris noted at the end of another poem,

humanity lives and travels as a group
nourished by compassion, we make our way awkwardly through time

Noble Peace Prize 2011 Nominations are Open Now!

Noble Peace Prize Justice Ad

FREE Intro to Meditation

This just in from Meditation Mount: