Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Sad Situation in Gaza

Is anyone out there?

The situation in Gaza just gets more dire.  The only power station has been destroyed.  How much more suffering will that cause?

At The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald has a new article including a graphic which puts the fatalities of both sides in context.

My heart really aches for the people of Gaza.  I'm outraged at the horrors they are suffering.  Will no one put an end to this?

Friday, July 25, 2014


I can't help but send my thoughts and prayers to the people of Gaza during this most horrific invasion.  The story of a shelter being bombed as reported by The Guardian is just one of the tragedies of this crisis.  They also have a "live blog" detailing current developments as they come in.

Everyone should come together to insist that there be a peaceful solution.  And that there will be some relief for the Palestinians who have so few options.

Mirroring a social media campaign (nope, I'm not on Twitter or facebook) -- I call on both sides to refuse to be enemies.  Instead, reject violence and embrace common humanity.

Praying for peace...


I just recently posted the following poem at The Intercept comments:

To the people of Gaza -
People walking, but where will they go?
People crying, but who will hear?
Families torn apart, but who will help heal?
Homes destroyed, lives upended, will there be any hope?
May our ears be open to hear and our hearts be softened to care.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Thoughts of Peace

Today, in the aftermath of the four children killed in Gaza, as the ground assault has started there, as tensions are high in the Ukraine, we MUST think of peace.

I remember when I was in eighth grade and we students were practicing for our graduation.  We were rehearsing the song "Let There Be Peace On Earth (and Let it Begin With Me)."  One of the teachers suddenly stopped us.  She told us that war had just broken out in the Middle East (ok, now I've really dated myself) and we should sing the song with feeling if we really meant it.  I don't think at that time I understood much about peace and war, but this certainly brought home to me that these were quite important concerns.

Through the years, my feelings evolved. I have a button declaring: "War is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things."  But still, I don't think I really came to see war as the horrible choice it so often is right away.  There may be times when it is necessary (WWII, for example), but I've come to see those times as really few and far between.  History is too littered with them: wars that go on for years, claim way too many lives - too often those of innocents.

How long have we humans been on this planet?  Long enough that you'd think we'd have learned by now how to solve our differences without violence.  But no.  We still shoot at each other.  We still get out the rockets, missiles, land mines, and bombs.   And the horror is there if we are strong enough to search out the reports and really look and read (and yes, just skimming some reports can be gut-wrenching).  

It is critically important NOW, that each of us finds some way to oppose the violence and atrocities occurring around the world.  Comment to the White House Comment Line (202-456-1111).  Write letters or make calls. Maybe join a peace group or anti-war rally.  Pray and meditate (I so believe in the power of prayer!).  Maybe somehow, the little things will start adding together to make a change.

And we shouldn't forget music!  Do your radio stations play much peace or anti-war music these days?  Mine don't seem to.  But here are a couple of links to get us going:

"War" by Edwin Starr    and   "Crystal Blue Persuasion" by Tommy James & The Shondells


Monday, July 14, 2014

Hurrah for the Church of England

I'm not British, but I am Episcopalian - Anglican, so I was so excited to hear on the BBC World News (on my local PBS station) that the General Synod of the Church of England has just voted to allow women to be consecrated as Bishops, beginning in 2015.

You can read a nice account, along with some analysis and even videos at the BBC News site here.  I really loved what the Archbishop of York had to say:  "Generations of women have served the Lord faithfully in the Church of England for centuries. It is a moment of joy today: the office of Bishop is open to them." 

I certainly remember all the controversy over first the ordination of women Priests and later Bishops here in the U.S.   There were some in the parish I grew up in and attended at the time who were so against the idea of women becoming Priests.  Guess what?  That parish now has a woman Priest as rector! 

There was controversy again when The Very Rev. Barbara Harris was consecrated Suffragan Bishop in Massachusetts in 1989. Guess what? Now we have a woman, the Most Rev. Dr. Katherine Jefferts Schori, as Presiding Bishop of Episcopal Church!

Some interesting notes on Rev. Harris:  1)  if you read over Rev. Harris' Wikipedia entry, you'll notice she also attended one of my alma maters - Villanova University;   2) I actually heard her speak to a small group of us, but I can't remember for sure whether that was at the Episcopal parish in Villanova, PA or the one in Newark, DE.  (believe it or not, I was not that impressed with her at the time!) and 3) Rev. Harris was once an oil company executive, as was our Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby.

I am just so delighted that our sisters in England will have a new opportunity to serve Christ.  After all, isn't that what Christianity is all about?  Maybe it's just me (well, at least the members of the Synod agree, as did those in the U. S. who opened doors for women Priests and Bishops here) but I feel that everyone should be encouraged and able to serve to their own capacity.  The road ahead may have challenges, but I'm thrilled we're taking it.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

How Low?

In case you missed this...

The AP found in e-mails obtained by a FOIA request, that our U. S. NSA and intelligence apparatus had notice of the destruction of hard drives of The Guardian which held Snowden files - and celebrated the news! Remember that at the time of the revelation, the White House was distancing itself from the fray.

The Guardian story on this is here.  There is also a fine post on this at The Intercept, including reaction to other recent Intercept stories.

Every time I think the spooks can't descend any further, they seem to hit a new low.  How do we counter the mentality exhibited by their smug arrogance? Suppose we make them all write the First Amendment, by hand, 100  - no, that's not enough - 1,000 times.  Might it then sink into their minds somehow?  What will it take to get them to start respecting our civil liberties?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

More on that Facebook Experiment

Hello there.  I hope sometime during all the holiday weekend observations, celebrations, and cookouts, someone will read this!

It's difficult to get that facebook experiment out of my mind. I am just gong to mention in passing facebook's non-apology apology which I would imagine most of you have read about.  Apologizing for poor communication?  Get real!  It would be funny if it wasn't so infuriating.

Today I received an e-mail from the National Academy of Sciences which published the study, which linked me to their statement.  I think a very legitimate question would be: why would they ever publish the study when they had concerns over practices of informed consent and opt-out?  I'm extremely upset at the suggestion that because facebook is private, their terms of service give them a pass to turn users into lab rats.  It was mentioned in the e-mail I received that the NAS would be allowing reader comments on that facebook experiment article in the next few days.  I'll update this post with a link to that. I think everyone should really let them have it!

The American Psychological Association posted a brief statement on their site just reiterating their policy on informed consent, supposedly in response to this study. That's it.  No specific concerns expressed,  no suggestion they might in any way review this.  

There has also been some discussion if this infamous study received government, specifically, Dep't of Defense, funding.  Seems at this point unclear, although: the Cornell author had received DoD Minerva Initiative research funding in the past and another Cornell researcher is currently receiving funding.  Here's a fairly decent overview, with a link to the Minerva Initiative site.

I know this will be hard to "hear", but I think it is probably time for users to leave facebook.  I know folks get hooked, but I really feel the only way to make a statement is to leave.  Fewer users, less advertising revenue MIGHT wake them up.


You can find the full text of the study, the expression of concern - and now comments here.

But be warned, I think they're using Discus for comments and I believe it's a pretty notorious tracker. 


EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center has filed a complaint about this study with the FTC. Thanks for the link, Lyra1!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Infamous Facebook Experiment

I don't have a facebook account and the more I'm hearing about this "social network" the more glad I am that I don't.

I'm sure most of you have heard of  the so-called experiment run by a facebook researcher and some academic researchers (from U. Cal. and Cornell) in January 2012. they wanted to see if manipulating news feeds to some users altered their moods.  A follow-up article also discussed reaction and facebook's "defense."  Get this: the National Academy of Sciences who published the study is supposedly investigating if the experiment had even had an ethical review.

Most objections to the study center around the question of whether users had given informed consent, which is supposedly required by ethical guidelines.  Consider the fact that: facebook updated its data use policy to reflect "research" - months AFTER the infamous social contagion study.

While not the worst experiment ever done, I believe it was totally unethical.  There was at least one commenter at The Guardian who was concerned that some  already sad facebook user could have been emotionally manipulated into some potential act of self-harm.  Was there ANY thought given to any "unintended consequences" of this research?

 I contacted the National Academy of Sciences but have yet to receive a response.  I contacted Mr. John Lohse, Director of Investigations at Univ. Cal. and received a response!  He thanked me for bringing this up and indicated it had also otherwise been brought to his attention. He indicated there would be a review and possible determination of some action.

I also received a reply from the Director of the Institutional Review Board of Cornell.  He pointed me to this statement on their website.  I couldn't believe what I was reading.  If you haven't so far clicked on the link, please do so and read the statement.  Read the last paragraph a second time.  It indicates no review by the team overseeing human research is necessary.  Are they kidding?  I wrote back to the Director and told him I felt there should be some review of how any Cornell researcher got involved with such questionable research in the first place!

Unfortunately, unethical experiments have taken place in the past.  Although this may not be the most egregious one, it has come to light and we need to shame those involved.  We need to advocate for better reviews and more stricter adherence to ethical guidelines to prevent future abuses.  We have to look out for reach other!