Monthly Archives: June 2012

Not in my name, Governor Kasich

Ask Ohio Governor John Kasich to grant clemency to John Jeffrey Eley.

Unless Governor Kasich acts, the State of Ohio will execute Eley on July 26, 2012 for his role in the 1986 murder of Ahsan Aydah.

Ohioans to Stop Executions urges Governer Kasich to grant clemency because:

Prominent individuals connected to the case support clemency for Mr. Eley because they no longer feel his case necessitates his execution. These individuals include:

  • Gary Van Brocklin, the prosecuting attorney who tried the case.
  • The Hon. Peter Economus, one of the three judges who sentenced Mr. Eley to death.
  • Retired detective Joseph Fajack, the lead investigator on the case who secured Mr. Eley’s confession.
  • Guy Trammel, a probation officer familiar with Mr. Eley who prepared the presentencing report.

In addition to the unprecedented support of these prominent individuals, Mr. Eley is developmentally disabled (in the past, this was termed “mentally retarded”). The United States Supreme Court has disallowed the execution of anyone with such low intellectual function.

Three parole board members recommended clemency based on the following facts:

  • The prosecuting attorney supports clemency.
  • Mr. Eley suffers from a developmental disability, which the parole board affirmed, stating, “he is intellectually challenged.”
  • Mr. Eley was influenced to commit the crime by his accomplice.
  • Mr. Eley exhibits extremely low intellectual functioning.
  • Mr. Eley was offered a plea bargain.
  • Mr. Eley’s crime is not the “worst of the worst.”

The Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center of Cincinnati offers the following (slightly edited) report on Eley’s case and recent clemency hearing:

Eley was convicted for murdering 28-year-old Aydah during a robbery of a grocery store. Eley told investigators at the time that he shot Aydah after the shopkeeper reached under a counter for a gun. He said he was aiming at the victim’s shoulder and did not intend to kill him, though the gunshot entered Aydah’s head inches above the earlobe.

The Ohio Parole Board rejected a plea for clemency for Aydah by a 5 to 3 vote on June 20, 2012. Federal public defender Vicki Werneke argued Tuesday during the hearing that Eley is an intellectually disabled, easily manipulated man who followed the lead of another, Melvin Green, the real instigator of the robbery who put the black, snub-nose gun in Eley’s hand the day of the crime.

Public defenders pointed out other mitigating factors — Eley’s impoverished childhood, a history of alcohol and drug abuse and head injuries, and likely brain impairment — as reasons for a sentence commutation. And a psychologist presented as an expert in mental retardation said he believed Eley is mentally disabled and, if tried today, likely would not qualify for a death penalty.

But Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor Ralph Rivera called Eley a career criminal with a lengthy record who “has never learned from his mistakes” and who “denies all responsibility for the crime,” despite his earlier confession.

“It was the defendant who chose to go with Melvin Green, and he chose to end Mr. Aydah’s life,” he said.

Those words contain truth. I grieve for Ashan Aydah and for all who love him. I grieve that violence cut his life short.

But executing John Jeffrey Eley will not bring Ashan Aydah back to life. It will not protect the people of Ohio any more effectively than we would be by Eley serving the rest of his life in prison.

An execution would be an act of vengeance that perpetuates violence within our culture.

So I call on Governor Kasich to grant clemency: no executions in my name.

See you along the Trail.


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Filed under Capital Punishment, Current Events, Death Penalty, Human Rights

June 26 Tweet-in to stop torture

Today is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Join @No_More_Torture, @PresbyUN, and others  in an effort to #StopTorture- by tweeting your members of Congress & the White House against torture, Guantanamo and Indefinite Detention under the NDAA. Also, feel free to tweet on any subject related to the injustice of torture and in support of victims of torture.

Here are some of the hash tags being used:


The National Religious Campaign Against Torture offers some sample tweets:

Torture is a MORAL issue because {say why} #June26

Torture destroys the human dignity and respect entitled to every individual. #StopTorture #June26

Torture violates the inherent, God-given dignity and worth of every person. #NoTorture #June26

Torture desecrates humanity and God who “created humankind in God’s own image.”

Close #Guantanamo, a symbol of torture. #June 26

Find policy statements and other resources on stopping torture from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

With thanks to Carol Wickersham – my mentor on addressing the issue of torture.

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Filed under Current Events, Human Rights

Purple flowers, Ghost Ranch 5

Ghost Ranch
Abiquiu, New Mexico

23 August, 2010

A picture posted a couple weeks ago
shows a bee enjoying
purple flowers at Ghost Ranch.
This photo was taken over a year after the first one.

It cannot be
the same bee.

Perhaps a descendant?

 See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Ghost Ranch Views, Photo

Why I like New York 7 – Danny Boy

“… every time I hear that melody, something breaks inside …”
Tom Waits

Some songs work like that. For reasons known and unknown, they touch us in ways expected and unexpected.

In New York, one never knows when one will hear such songs.

Music fills the city.

Music of all types.

Music made by amazing musicians – professional and amateur alike.

Surrounded by the music, one hears the songs that break us – touch us – stir us – move us – remake us.

Today, while waiting at the Times Square station for the R Train on my visit to Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn,  I heard a solo trombonist.

I made my way to the sound of the song as it ended. The echoes of the tune ended and he began a new song – a melody that fits Tom Waits’ lyrics for me: Danny Boy.

Thankfully the train did not arrive until he finished. The glow remains with me.

See you along the Trail.

p.s. ‘bones are on a roll as the instruments around me lately.

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Filed under Music, New York

A piece of chocolate

Reports state that Mahmoud al-Sarsak, the Palestinian national footballer player has ended his prolonged hunger strike.

Mahmoud al-Sarsak, 25, refused food for more than three months. He joined other Palestinians in the mass strike against the policy of administrative detention and for human rights. When the others ended their hunger strike, al-Sarsak continued in protest of being held in Israel – without charge or trial – for three years. He vowed to remain on strike until Israel released or charged and tried him.

As he neared death last week, he had agreed to take milk for a few days to allow Israel time to reconsider.

The Ma’an News Agency report that al-Sarsak agreed to start eating on Monday in a deal that will see him released on July 10, according to his lawyer.

Mohammad Jaberein, al-Sarsak’s lawyer, told Ma’an News that al-Sarsak signed the agreement during his visit to the prisoner on Monday. Ma’an goes on to say:

Under the deal al-Sarsak will visit a civilian hospital for treatment on Tuesday, but the same day will return to Ramle prison clinic until his release on July 10, the lawyer added.

The news service reports that Israeli prison authorities asked Sarsak to eat something in their presence to ratify the deal.

In response, al-Sarsak took and ate a piece of chocolate.

Thanks be! May the deal be honored.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Current Events, Human Rights

Purple flowers, Villa Blanca, Colombia

1 April 2010
Villa Blanca, Colombia

I try to post purple flower pictures once a week,
an act of discipline,
creating a theme,
building an audience
(know that I deeply appreciate both of you).

However, today I did a blog post on Colombia for work.
And as I looked for a picture,
I came across this one
and it too me back
to a very special day.

At Villa Blanca, where displaced Colombians,
who in an act of courage and grace
beyond my imagining rebuild and start anew,
on a sunny April day, gathered
Presbyterians from Colombia and Presbyterians from the United States.

With agricultural implements
and symbols of faith,
a worship space was created;
prayers were said, songs were song,
love was shared.

I was there.
I remember the people.
I remember the time.
But until I saw this picture,
I had forgotten the purple flowers.

See you along the Trail.


Filed under Friends, Photo, Travel, Worship


It is hot. There is no doubt whatever about that. Marley is dead. And it is hot.

By some form of warped, interior, illogic, I believe that my refusal to complain about the cold entitles me to whine when it is hot. And it is hot.

My friend Laura asserts that it is “hotter than two hamsters fartin’ in a wool sock.” I do not know how she knows that. I do not want to know. I don’t even want to ponder any possibilities. I take her at her word. It is hot.

As I began to work up a privileged rant, friends intervened to provide perspective. Nancy welcomed me to her former world pointing out that such heat is the norm where she lives (until she moves – and the truck was there today). Lloyd approached the issue in another way. His Facebook post reminded me that, as hot as it may be here in New York:

It is not 120 degrees.
I am not 5700 miles from home.
I am not dressed in a full combat uniform.
I am not carrying a pack weighing 70 pounds or more.
And it is very unlikely that I will encounter a bomb.

Reflecting on Lloyd’s post reminded me that there is more to it than that:

I have shelter.
That shelter has air conditioning. And a fan.
The air conditioning in my apartment and my office works (sorry, Ryan).
I have water – as much water as I need to stay hydrated.
Most  subway cars are conditioned. Most times it works. I can find another one if it doesn’t.

Many folks – too many folks – some of them here in New York – do not have all those things. Many folks – too many folks – some of them here in New York – do not have any of those things.


It does nothing about the heat.

But it reminds me of who I am and what I have. And, hopefully, it shapes what I say and what I do.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Current Events, Friends, New York

Why I like New York 6 – Learning Opportunities

It amazes me what I can learn and where I can learn it in New York.

On the Uptown 1 this evening, I noticed a guy who sat reading his iPad and massaging his gums with his finger. I did not watch long. Not a pretty sight.

As I turned away, I realized how foolish I had been.

I had always seen the subway as a means of transportation.

Silly me.

It is actually a moving self-care-based dental facility.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Travel


Last night’s time of prayer – prayer service – brings to mind some definitions – these belong to me, not to Webster or anyone else.

Shelter – a place of protection from the elements, from animals, from other people

House – a place to live, constructed in many ways and different styles using a variety of materials

Home – a place of belonging, built on a network of relationships and interactions with one another, grounded in love, filled with memories

May we all have shelters … houses … homes.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Family, Friends

Would you be willing to do that?

“I would like to have a prayer service for my son at my house'” she said. Would you be willing to do that?”

I pondered for a few moments, not sure what to say. I have prayed in people’s houses. I have celebrated Communion in people’s houses.

I have visited many people who were shut-in over the years, although probably not as frequently as I should have done. I have visited people where they live at times of death and situations of stress or moments of joy. I have visited to nurture and build relationships.

On all those visits, or at least all that I can remember, I have prayed. With the people I visited, I have prayed. For the people I visited, I have prayed. Sometimes the person I visited prayed for me. Other church members and friends went with me at times. Often I went alone.

“You see six months ago my son received a diagnosis of cancer,” she continued. “He has had treatment and recovered, and I want to give thanks to God. I want a prayer service. Would you be willing to do that?”

The use of the word “service” wondered me. It is one thing to go and pray with someone.  But services of worship, are public in my Reformed understanding. The Session approves celebrating Communion at times and places other than the usual worship time and place; representatives of the congregation usually accompany the celebrant. A private service?

After some quick thought and prayer – she sought an answer now – I decided this would really be the same praying with someone in the place where they live. I would view this as a time of prayer. If she preferred to call it a service, well I could live with that.

“I will,” I replied.

The planning began. We talked a time or two, and we exchanged email. The service morphed and developed. In the end, it became a service of thanksgiving. It would be a time to give thanks for both her sons and to give thanks for the house in which they lived – their home.

She emailed directions. And at the appropriate time late yesterday afternoon, I set out.

As the A-train rattled toward the destination, I wondered what the evening would bring. Would there just be the four of us? If I said a prayer or two would she consider that a service? If she did not, did it matter?

I came off and descended the steps to the sidewalk. There I discovered that my email server had gone down so the email with the directions could not be retrieved. Fortunately, I had the wisdom (or maybe just needed some busy work during the trip) to enter the address in my Google Maps application while on the train. I turned to that and began the short walk  to her house.

Upon arriving, and before entering, I noticed three things. A pile of shoes stood at the top of the stairs – far more shoes than three people would need. Through the window, I could see the shadows of many people. A buzz of conversation, punctuated occasionally by laughter, came through the door.

Her son answered my knock and escorted me in to the living room. People filled the room. Family members. People from church. Any thought of a private service disappeared. This would be a communal time.

As I sat down, two of the men from the church left. The introductions had not ended when they returned with hymnals.

Quickly I reorganized my prayers and shaped a service. I invited the family to pick some hymns. When they had done so, we started.

I gave a call to worship. We sang. We prayed. We gave thanks for life’s blessings and God’s goodness. We gave thanks for her sons. We gave thanks for her house – her home. We remembered and prayed for God’s healing, comfort, and strength for all in need. We passed the peace, reminding one another of God’s love.

The closing hymn for the service – and it truly was a service – was “Let Us Break Bread Together.” And after a benediction, we did.

Outside, behind the house, family, friends, sisters and brothers in Christ enjoyed a meal of Guyanese and Trinidadian foods, supplemented with fried chicken and red velvet cake. Joy moved from table to table. Grace abounded. Thanksgiving bubbled over.

“Would you be willing to do that?” And I am blessed because I said I would.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Family, Friends, Worship