Monday, March 30, 2009

'The Spirit of the Wind' - International Kite Festival

Cliffs of Bournemouth, South West Coast of England

‘Across the Ocean on the Spirit of the Wind’

I believe that we should connect with our inner child, especially when the memories are happy.

Recently I read that the Niagara International Kite Festival was coming to town for four days, I was instantly transported back to memories of the home-made kites that we flew as young children.

I was born and raised in London, England, and during the summers the children in our family went to the seaside to stay with our Great Aunts who ran a small hotel located in Bournemouth, on the Southern Coast of England. We were extremely adventurous and I remember running on the cliff tops and down the zig zag paths with our homemade kites constructed of old newspapers, flimsy balls of tied together string and a piece of wood.
Over the years I have always owned a kite, nothing elaborate, even now I have one that is collapsible and can be stored in a small pouch. This is kept in my bedroom top dresser drawer next to my other items of extreme value.

Driving north on the Seaway Trail alongside the Niagara River, I wondered what awaited me. None of my friends had found the idea of a kite festival as interesting as I did. As I rounded the corner, hundreds of multi-colored kites flew in the breeze. I joined the crowds. Here were my people—fellow kite lovers, kindred spirits.

At the festival, children from 4 to 94 turned their heads to the skies watching brightly colored kites that looked like graceful mythical birds soaring above and the sky was alive with magic.

This year’s festival theme was “The Spirit of the Wind.” Every year, kite flyers from around the world converge on the mighty Niagara Falls to reenact the following historical event. In 1845, railroad engineers envisioned a bridge spanning the turbulent gorge. Until that time, the only way to cross was to go downstream and take a choppy ride in a small ferry. 
They chose the narrowest point of the gorge, immediately above the Whirlpool Rapids, as the site to connect the United States and Canada.

Local engineers offered a cash prize to the first boy who could fly his kite to the opposite bank. There was a tremendous turn out for the kite-flying contest which took place in January of 1848. It was designed to secure a line across the Niagara gorge to facilitate the building of the area's first suspension bridge. Despite many obstacles, 10-year-old Homan Walsh successfully flew the first line across the gorge. He won $10, an impressive sum of money at that time.

Eight months later, a somewhat primitive bridge at 762 feet long and 8 feet wide opened to the public. Seven years later, using the bridge span as a scaffold, a railroad suspension bridge across the Niagara River was completed. All because of a ten-year-old boy and his kite! Every year professional kite flyers from around the globe participate in this unique event by creating a kite arch connecting the U.S.A. and Canada.

From its origins in Asia thousands of years ago, the sport of kite-flying has spread all over the world.

The colorful kite festival participants, visiting from many different countries, are true international peace ambassadors for the world.

Whether you are flying your kite while across the ocean on the cliff tops in Bournemouth, England or at the raging water’s edge of Niagara Falls you will be following in a tradition of thousands of years, running alongside other kindred spirits with the Spirit of the Wind. Connecting with your inner child.


I am the author of this article which was printed in the Buffalo News in November 2008.

I would like to invite you to consider attending the Annual International Kite Festival in Niagara Falls, New York. The dates this year are September 23 - 27, 2009.

This is a free event and will provide lots of fun for adults and children alike.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

4,263 U.S. Military Dead in Iraq. Long May We Remember Them.

These figures are now over one million!

In previous blog posts I  have  recorded the number of U. S. military that have been killed in the Iraq War. As of 3/25/09 the total is 4,263 with 31,135 wounded.

We seldom read about the number of Iraqis killed since the war started. 
It is estimated that over one million are dead. The number is shocking and sobering.

It is at least 10 times greater than most estimates cited in the U.S. media, yet it is based on a scientific study of violent Iraqi deaths caused by the U.S.- led invasion of March 2003.
That study, published in prestigious medical journal The Lancet, estimated that over 600,000 Iraqis had been killed as a result of the invasion as of July 2006. Iraqis have continued to be killed since then.

The estimate that over a million Iraqis have died received independent confirmation from a prestigious British polling agency in September 2007.

Opinion Research Business estimated that 1.2 million Iraqis have been killed violently since the U.S.-led invasion. The count encompasses non-combatants killed by military or paramilitary action and the breakdown in civil security following the invasion.

Data is drawn from crosschecked media reports, hospital, morgue, NGO and official figures to produce a credible record of known deaths and incidents.

During the Iraq War – there have been 4,580 coalitions deaths – 
4,263 U.S., 
two Australians, 
one Azerbaijani, 
179 Britons,
 13 Bulgarians, 
one Czech, 
seven Danes, 
two Dutch, 
two Estonians, 
one Fijian, 
five Georgians, 
one Hungarian, 
33 Italians,
one Kazakh, 
one Korean, 
three Latvians, 
22 Poles, 
three Romanians,
 five Salvadoran, 
four Slovaks, 
11 Spaniards,
 two Thai 
and 18 Ukrainians 
 in the war in Iraq as of March 2, 2009, 
according to a CNN count.

These figures are not reported in the main news media and many are not aware of the actual deaths that have happened since this war started.

Check out this website for the latest statistics:

If you do not agree with the war -
help to support the troops by bringing them home.
 Speak up, stand up, let others know. 
 Make phone calls, write letters – don’t just sit there. 
Do something!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Blessing the Niagara Waters - Squaw Island , NY

Water.......a Blessing
A Ritual Commitment to Our Niagara Waters

In the background the Peace Bridge between the United States and Canada

Water Dance by the Spirit Dance Company

View from Squaw Island, Broderick Park, Buffalo
Looking across the border, yes, the shoreline  you see is in Canada.

 This past weekend, March 21, 2009, a fairly large group of people gathered at the edge of the Niagara waters to celebrate the Vernal Equinox - the coming of Spring - and the recognition of the United Nations World Water Day.

The event was sponsored by the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper (

As I view these photos that I took, I am again grateful for many things. 

1. That I live very close to this wonderful body of water that runs directly into the Niagara Falls.

2. That the United States and Canada , though different countries and governments, exist border to border in peace and harmony.  I wish that it could be so in every country in the world.

3. That whatever happens in our lives Mother Nature never fails us and quietly, gently continues with the process of the changing seasons, the migration of the animals and the budding of flowers that will soon be in full bloom. 

4. And that I continue to have the privilege of being a joyful witness to it all.


The Waters

We give thanks to all the Waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms - waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the spirit of Water.

Now our minds are one.

  From Haudenosaunee - Words Before All Else

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mothering Sunday in the United Kingdom

Happy Mother's Day

In the U.K., Mothering Sunday, sometimes known as Mother's Day, is held every year on the fourth Sunday of Lent. It is exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday and usually falls in the second half of March or the beginning of April.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers  out there,
 especially to my family and friends in England.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Unhappy Sixth Anniversary of the War in Iraq-4260 killed in action

4,260 military  from the United States have been
 killed in action during the War in Iraq
Also some allies from U.K., Spain, Poland, Australia and Denmark


"Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he (Bush) may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose—and you allow him to make war at pleasure."
~Abraham Lincoln


U.S. Military Casualties in Iraq 

U.S.  Deaths 
Since war began (3/19/03): 4260 

Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03)  4120 

Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 3798 

Since Handover (6/29/04): 3401 

Since Obama Inauguration (1/20/09): 30 

American Wounded Official 
Total Wounded:
Latest Fatality Mar. 17, 2009

U.S. Wounded
Daily DoD Casualty Release
320,000 Vets Have Brain Injuries
War Veterans’ Concussions Are Often Overlooked
How Many Servicemembers Were Wounded- official count 31,131
18 Vet Suicides Per Day.

Iraqi Casualties - 99,500 dead

The following is written by Gary Jacobson (2002) A Retired VietNam Veteran and can be found on his website. He says it all, better than I could, with the following words:

"Regardless of your feelings about the war, it is important that each and every one of us support our troops in these most perilous times...our nation's sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters. To those who have seen duty clear, and who while far and away from home have put themselves into harm's way...
this prayer is dedicated to you. Bless You...and come home soon!!!"

by Gary Jacobson © 2002 FROM VIETNAM PICTURE TOUR

Bless our vigilant warriors
Give strength to overcome to valiant saviors
Our sons and daughters, wherever they may be
On land, sky, or sailing the briny sea...
Safeguard those so lonely, so far from home
In times blackened dark, yet adventuresome
Watch over them, our brothers, sisters, where they go
Guide them wisely in times they do not know.

Glorify our warriors' calling
Whom we sent forth, righteous principles guarding
Calling them far from home to distant sod
To serve ever faithful, our country, our God
Whether crouched in wind-swept desert foxholes sandy
Or poised on high mountain’s steep cranny
Steel them, brave men and women, our nation’s pride select
The world depends on them, riding war’s bestial ogre to protect!

Bless our nation’s children, carried courageous into duty
Bearing above all things, compassion for humanity
Keep the light of hope glowing ever bright
Bless might of swords flashing shining right
Honoring always, father, mother, sister, brother
Watching always the backs of one another...
Their lives for a country they love more than life offering
Bastions of our grand liberty protecting
World peace ever seeking!

May hearts of men be truly won
When battle’s finally done.
Buoy up these soldiers, our children, sad and so alone
Feeling need in guilt for things seen and done to atone
Give thine balm of Gilead to ease their pain
Shield their sanity in combat that drives men insane
Bless them that they may look back with pride, and smile
Though multitudes of strifes and hatreds rile.

Fortify in our warriors' hearts, humanity's essence
Be gentle when war takes away their innocence
May intrinsic life values still be their choice elect
Defend them from traumatic stress defect
So as they return home, reaching, searching, to touch the sky
Give them answer to the question, "why?"
So a grateful nation may say to valiant sons and daughters
by noble duty sent
"Well done, my good and faithful servant!"

I have been trying to write this piece all week long and I am filled with so many emotions that I am having difficulty in putting words in place. I cannot believe that six years have actually passed without a resolution to the war in Iraq. There has been a strong corps of people who are against the war who have been protesting by sending letters, making phone calls, picketing, marching, displaying Anti-War picket signs on their lawns, cars, windows, clothing, e-mails, blogs, books, magazines, etc..

 The figures quoted above come from official sources. Most of us feel that the numbers of dead and wounded are much higher. The number of Iraqi's killed is in the many thousands with more than 4.2 million Iraqi refugees displaced.

I have done everything that I can think of to protest this war and today I feel the size of an ant who is watching a bulldozers come right over where I stand and I do not have the resources to stop it.  I know that I have the stamina to stay in this for the long haul, but just for today, I lack
the physical, spiritual and emotional strength to do much more than let you know the number of persons who have been  reported dead during this involvement on the Iraqi soil.

The poem above was written by a War Veteran who is sharing his personal experience of taking part in a war. Does anyone else see the pain there? Does anyone else see the numbers killed in action? Does anyone else give a damn about this?

Tonight I'm taking the evening off  - tomorrow I will be demonstrating again. 
Won't you join me? Even if you have never taken part in any type of social action in your life - wont you join me and others in standing up for justice?
It takes courage to take a stand and I believe that if enough in this nation stood up then the 'powers that be'  just might listen.

As in the words of Margaret Meade " Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has."

If you have any comments let me know  at: 

peacesojourner presente!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Action Alert - Killed in Action to date 4,258

Here is an ‘Action Alert’ from Leslie Cagan, National Coordinator, United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ, A coalition of 1,400 national and local organizations)

We must lead in a new direction. For 8 long years, the antiwar movement laid the groundwork for ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and redirecting military spending. We welcome President Obama’s commitment to take our nation in a new direction. However, his course on Afghanistan must be altered now with bold and principled action, which helps address the Afghan’s real need for health care, clean water and education, instead of continuing to cripple Afghanistan with more years of war. Now, we must make the United States radically change its failed policy in Afghanistan.

This letter to the President was initiated and sent, by eight members of Congress, on Wednesday, March 11, 2009.

Dear Mr. President:
We have noted with some concern your announcement that an additional 17,000 US troops would be sent to Afghanistan. As the goals of our seven-year military involvement remain troublingly unclear, we urge you to reconsider such a military escalation.

If the intent is to leave behind a stable Afghanistan capable of governing itself, this military escalation may well be counterproductive. A recent study by the Carnegie Endowment has concluded, "The only meaningful way to halt the insurgency's momentum is to start withdrawing troops. The presence of foreign troops is the most important element d riving the resurgence of the Taliban."

The 2001 authorization to use military force in Afghanistan allowed military action "to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States." Continuing to fight a counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan does not appear to us to be in keeping with these directives and an escalation may actually harm US security.

In a tape released in 2004, Osama bin Laden stated that al Qaeda’s goal was to "bleed...America to the point of bankruptcy" in Afghanistan. He continued, "All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note . . .." We would do well to pay attention to these threats and to avoid falling into any such trap through escalation of our military presence in Afghanistan.

We are also concerned that any perceived military success in Afghanistan might create pressure to increase military activity in Pakistan. This could very well lead to dangerous destabilization in the region and would increase hostility toward the United States.

Mr. President, in reviewing the past history of Afghanistan and the nations that have failed to conquer it -- Russia spent nine years in Afghanistan and lost many billions of dollars and more than 15,000 Russian soldiers-- we urge you to reconsider the decision to send an additional 17,000 troops and to resist pressure to escalate even further.


Representative Neil Abercrombie (D-HI 1st)

Representative Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD-6th)

Representative Walter Jones, Jr. (R-NC 3rd)

Representative Steve Kagen (D-WI-8th)

Representative Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH 10th)

Representative Ron E. Paul (R-TX 14th)

Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY-1st)

Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA 6th)

Endorsing Organizations

• Michael D. Ostrolenk, President, American Conservative Defense Alliance

Mary Ellen McNish, General Secretary American
• Friends Service Committee (AFSC)

• Robert Greenwald, President Brave New Films

• Erik Leaver, Foreign Policy In Focus

• Joe Volk, Executive Secretary, 
Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)

• Tom Hayden

Phyllis Bennis
New Internationalism project, Institute for Policy Studies

• Robert Naiman, Senior Policy Analyst Just Foreign Policy

• (Rev.) James Kofski, Associate
Maryknoll Office for Global
• Concerns

Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice
• Lobby

Dave Robinson, Executive Director
Pax Christi USA: National Catholic Peace Movement

• Kevin Martin, Executive Director
Peace Action

• John Leinung, Steering Committee
September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows

• Leslie Cagan, National Coordinator,
United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ, A coalition of 1,400 national and local organizations)

• Michael Eisenscher, National Coordinator
U.S. Labor Against the War

• Kevin Zeese, Executive Director
Voters for Peace

• The Honorable Tom Andrews, Director
Win Without War (A coalition of 40 national organizations)

• Susan Shaer, Executive Director, 
 Women's Action for New Directions

The first step to ending the occupation in Afghanistan is to stop increasing troops!
Wondering what you can do to stop the widening of a senseless war in Afghanistan? Call President Obama and your Congressperson today, and tell them that together we must stop the military buildup and completely withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Please ask your members of Congress to urge President Obama to reconsider military escalation in Afghanistan.
You can call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for your Representative's office. When you reach your Representative's office, ask for the Foreign Affairs Legislative Aid.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Going Green - 2009

If it is Thursday it’s Going Green

Change Your Clock & Change A Bulb!

As we experienced Daylight Saving Time a few days ago this is a good time to change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detector(s). This is suggested by the National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Changing the batteries twice a year will make sure that the detector(s) will be working in case there is a fire.

Some inexpensive detectors also need to be replaced completely about every five years or so. Sooner or later, all batteries, even rechargeable, are no longer usable. When it's time to dispose of them, you will want to keep them out of the landfill, where they may leach acids and heavy metal pollutants into the soil and groundwater. Look for centers that recycle them instead, and buy only types that you know your center handles.

While you've got the ladder out to check your detectors, why not change a bulb?

Switching to energy efficient bulbs in your ceiling fixtures could save you $30 a year per bulb on your electricity bill.

Energy efficient lighting is particularly important in the fall when Daylight Saving Time ends and the days are shorter.

The latest generation of energy-saving lighting includes compact fluorescent bulbs that fit in standard light sockets and provide pleasant, uniform light.

Low-energy halogen or LED lighting is also becoming widely available. 
Visit or for information on lighting rebates and discounts.

Of course you have a smoke detector in the attic – while you are up there take a look around and check on any areas that may be letting in cold air.

Insulating your attic is probably the most important step you can take to reduce home energy use. Research the project before you start. Learn what’s best for your house and the local climate, considering such issues as type and thickness of insulation, proper moisture barrier, and ventilation methods.

Do your part: Visit the DOE website,, for useful information to get started. Even a house built as recently as five years ago is likely to be one of 46 million under-insulated American homes.

Be on the look out for toxins - a range of natural insulations can help you tighten up your house without the use of synthetics, which may contain toxins such as dioxin. Cellulose fiber, wood fiberboard, loose-fill hemp, sheep’s wool felt, or vermiculite can provide good wall insulation. Many include fire-retardant and insect-repellent treatments and are reusable or biodegradable at the end of a building’s life.

By the way, have you caught up on that hour of missed sleep yet? I am still having difficulty adjusting.   :-)

Remember the 4 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair

Monday, March 9, 2009


                                                  Dan Piraro - cartoonist

Bird Feeders

Before I moved to Buffalo I lived in a house that had a very large lot and had a typical English flower garden. The new (to me) home has a very small lot which is only 28 feet wide. 

Previously in my garden I had 14 birdhouses and several bird feeders all of which provided me with hours of pleasure. Last year I had some difficulty placing the feeders at a location where I would be able to view the birds as they came to visit. Due to lack of space I had to cut down on the numbers and  the desire was to place them near a window.

Along one side of the house is a very long paved driveway and there is only about 24” of walking access on the other side. So, I finally decided on two feeders placed strategically outside of windows.

During the summer months this worked well – the birds arrived daily and I would view them from either my kitchen or bedroom window. I was happy and they were happy. However, I had not given much thought as to how I would access them during the winter months. 

Here is what happened, after Western New York received almost 100” of snow during the season, I no longer had access to refill the feeders. The snow had a thigh high accumulation on the ground preventing me from walking alongside the house.

What to do? I tried several times to reach the feeders but to no avail. So, while feeling guilty that I was no longer providing seed for my little feathered friends I realized that I would have to wait until spring to relocate the feeders.

Meantime I started noticing a daily gathering of birds around my house and I tried to scatter seeds around but of course this was foolish. Have you ever thrown a handful of seeds on top of snow? They sink from sight immediately! I can only imagine that when springtime comes I will have a harvest of sunflowers, millet and various other plants from the seeds that I scattered.

I saw this cartoon in the Parade newspaper and while I was not languishing in bed during the winter months I could relate immediately. I am sure that the birds that were gathered around my house were devising a way to get in to get my attention. If I had raised a window for a short space of time – they would have entered the home to check on me.

Anyway, I am glad to say that the winter season is coming to an end and I will soon have access to the feeders. Now I have to find other locations for them.

Once again, proving that “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” – now where did that quote come from and why do I have it in my head?
Oh yes, Robert Burns said it to a mouse after he turned up her nest with a plough, in November, 1785. He felt guilty when he realized that she and her family would have no home during the winter. I recognize that guilt - I have been carrying that feeling for a while. Now I am wondering if the words I have written will be quoted more than two hundred years from now.

 Mice, birds, close enough! 
Sometimes trying to live in harmony with nature is not as simple as it may seem.