Buddhist Photo Walk (with haiku)

The following photos I took during a Buddhist Photo Walk, led by Bija Andrew Wright at Still Point Temple, Detroit, Michigan on March 30, 2013.

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Sparrow singing-
it’s tiny mouth
Buson (1716-1784)

Goes out,
comes back-
the loves of a cat.
Issa (1762-1826)

In the falling of the petals
they see no Buddha,
no law.
Issa (from The Six Ways: Animals).

Photo by Michael Kitchen 2013Photo by Michael Kitchen 2013

First day of spring-
I keep thinking about
the end of autumn.
Basho (1644-1694)

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Coming back-
so many pathways
through the spring grass.
Buson (1715-1783)

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Good house:
sparrows out back
feasting in the millet.
Basho (1644-1694)

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This old village-
not a single house
without persimmon trees.
Basho (1644-1694)


Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house
Issa (1762-1826)

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This mind itself is Buddha;
Practice is difficult, expounding is easy.
No mind, no Buddha;
Expounding is difficult, practice is easy.
Dogen (1200-1253)

50th Anniversary of Gideon’s 6th Amendment Victory

You are driving in your vehicle when a police officer pulls you over.  You resign the fact that you were driving above the speed limit, but didn’t think it was a big deal.  You notice the officer looking in the windows of your car as he approaches.  The officer asks for your drivers license and proof of insurance and you give them to him.  He again looks in your back seat window as he returns to his vehicle.  When he returns, he instructs you to step out of the car and asks you if you have anything illegal on your possession that he should know about.  You tell him that you don’t, to which he asks if you mind if he searches the car.  You don’t have anything to hide and allow him.  He finds a small plastic bag of marijuana in the back seat.  You loaned the car to your son or daughter when they went out with friends the past weekend, and assume it belongs to one of their friends.  But that doesn’t matter because you’re sitting in the back of the squad car, on your way to the police station to be booked and fingerprinted.  You’re now facing a charge of possession of a controlled substance, which is punishable by four years in prison.  You’re given an arraignment date.  When you appear before the judge, you enter a not-guilty plea.  Being financially strapped as you are between jobs or lost one of your part-time jobs, you ask the judge for your Sixth Amendment right to counsel.  The judge declines and you’re forced to take your case to trial all on your own.

That’s what would have happened fifty years ago.

The landmark case of Gideon vs Wainwright was decided by the United States Supreme Court on March 18, 1963.  In 1961, Clarence Earl Gideon, father of six, was charged with breaking and entering with intent to commit a misdemeanor, which was a felony under Florida law.  He asked the court to appoint counsel, which the Florida judge denied.  The judge stated that “Under the laws of the State of Florida, the only time the Court can appoint Counsel to represent a Defendant is when that person is charged with a capital offense.”  Gideon was forced to defend himself.  He conducted his own trial and the jury returned with a guilty verdict.  Sentenced to five years in prison, Gideon petitioned the Florida Supreme Court, appealing his conviction based on the lower court’s failure to provide him counsel arguing it was guaranteed under the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights.  The Supreme Court of Florida denied relief.

Gideon didn’t stop there.  He petitioned the United States Supreme Court, which granted him a hearing.  The Court also appointed counsel to represent him.  Oral arguments before the Court were held on January 15, 1963.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

Before 1938, courts would appoint counsel for indigent defendants, however it was sporadic in execution.  In Johnson v. Zerbst, the US Supreme Court held that the 6th Amendment right to counsel was valid in federal court unless the defendant waived the right.  The 6th Amendment Rights – minus the right to counsel – was made obligatory on the States by the Fourteenth Amendment in the 1942 US Supreme Court decision of  Betts v. Brady. In Betts, the court had concluded that because the defendant was a 43-year-old man of ordinary intelligence and ability to take care of his own interests, he was not at a serious disadvantage at trial.

It took only two months for the Court to render its unanimous decision in favor of Gideon.  The Court held that the Betts decision was wrong.  Justice Hugo Black, writing for the Court, stated:

The right of one charged with crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and essential to fair trials in some countries, but it is in ours.  From the very beginning, our state and national constitutions and laws have laid great emphasis on procedural and substantive safeguards designed to assure fair trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant stands equal before the law.  This noble ideal cannot be realized if the poor man charged with crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him.

Gideon’s case was referred back to the Florida court, where a new trial was held.  The court appointed counsel and after only an hour of jury deliberation, Clarence Gideon was found not guilty.  After losing two years of his life in prison, Clarence Gideon was released as an innocent man.

Justice Black wrote in the Gideon opinion that, “government hires lawyers to prosecute and defendants who have money hire lawyers to defend are the strongest indications of the wide-spread belief that lawyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries.”  That doesn’t mean that the states have a public defense budget equal to its prosecutorial budget.  When it comes to per capita spending, according to a 2008 study, Michigan ranks 44th in per capita spending on indigent defense ($7.35 per capita), and is dispensed on a county by county basis, meaning an unbalanced approach to delivery and payment of public defense.

Fifty years ago, it would have been you (or your son or daughter) versus a well-funded, government prosecutor in your case of marijuana possession.  Clarence Gideon’s two-year fight from his prison cell insures that if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.


American Criminal Procedure: Cases and Commentary, Stephen A. Saltzburg & Daniel J. Capra (West Group, 6th Edition 2000)

May It Please The Court…Transcripts of 23 Live Recordings of Landmark Cases as Argued Before the Supreme Court, Edited by Peter Irons and Stephanie Guitton (The New Press, 1993)

National Legal Aid and Defender Association, “Michigan Ranks 44th in the Nation for Public Defense Spending; So-called “McJustice” System Puts Communities at Risk.”

Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963)
Betts v. Brady, 316 U.S. 455 (1942)
Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45 (1932)
Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U.S. 458 (1938)


Where do enemies come from?

Where do enemies come from?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines enemy as “one who feels hatred toward, intends injury to, or opposes the interests of another.”

In our personal life, an enemy can be obvious.  In elementary school, a kid who conspired with two of my friends to steal baseball cards from me became someone I considered an enemy.  In middle school, a kid who introduced me to comic book collecting made physical threats via telephone when in high school became someone I considered an enemy.  I felt hatred towards those two people as a result of their actions towards me.

An enemy can expand into a broader group.  For example, sports rivalries can create enemies.  University of Michigan football fans hate Ohio State University and its football fans and visa-verse.  The rivalry arises from opposing interests seeking the same goal that only one can achieve – a victory over the other on the field of play.  As an Arsenal fan, I hate Manchester United.  I’m also supposed to hate Tottenham Hotspur, because they are the main geographic rival to the Gunners; their stadiums just a few miles apart.  But not having grown up in north London, the battle for the top of the league against Manchester United formed my hatred of the Red Devils and my ambivalence towards Tottenham.

Enemies emerge out of competing ideologies; religion and politics, for example.  Others are based on cultural identities, like nationalities or regions within a country.  There are some people in the southern states of the US that still despise “Yankees.”

These latter group enemies I believe are not genuinely made, but rather learned.  When one identifies with a certain group, the person becomes indoctrinated into making an enemy of another group.  Being a Michigan resident, and not having any ties or familial history with the University of Michigan, I don’t think twice about driving to Columbus, Ohio and calling the Columbus Crew my favorite Major League Soccer team.  I had a conversation with a friend about soccer and going to Crew home games.  He being a University of Michigan fan stated that he could never see himself rooting for a team from Columbus.

I pondered this question of where enemies come from as a result of the recent death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.  To listen to American media and elected officials, one might have been indoctrinated to believe the Venezuelan president was our enemy.  I reject that notion.

United States media has portrayed Chavez as an enemy.  Democratic strategist Doug Schoen on CNN in January, 2009, said of Chavez that “He’s given Al-Qaeda and Hamas an open invitation to come to Caracas.”  Newsweek compared Chavez to Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin.  ABC labeled him as a “fierce enemy of the United States.”  The Washington Post declared Chavez an “autocratic demagogue.”  And of course, Fox News said that Chavez’s government was “really communism.”

A closer examination reveals that Hugo Chavez was nothing close to what the US media painted him to be.

In 1998, Hugo Chavez won the election for President with 56% of the vote, and was inaugurated in 1999.  Speaking out forcefully against globalization, he introduced a hydrocarbons law that doubled royalties charged to foreign oil companies and replaced Petroleos de Venezuela, the state-owned oil company’s top executives with people loyal to him.  (Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, John Perkins, pg 196).  Prior to his election, austerity measures imposed by the IMF in 1989, saw Venezuela’s per capita income plummet 40% between 1978 and 2003.  (Perkins, page 197).

 Chavez kept his commitments to the poor – urban and rural.  Instead of re-injecting profits into the oil industry, he invested them in projects aimed at combating illiteracy, malnutrition, diseases, and other social ills.  Rather than declaring huge dividends for investors, he helped Argentina’s embattled President Kirchner buy down that nation’s IMF debts of more than $10 billion and he sold discounted oil to those who could not afford to pay the going price – including communities in the United States.  He earmarked a portion of his oil revenues for Cuba so it could send medical doctors to impoverished areas around the continent.  He forged laws that consolidated the rights of indigenous people – including language and land ownership rights – and fought for the establishment of Afro-Venezuelan curricula in public schools.  (The Secret History of the American Empire by John Perkins, pg 111).

The Bush administration was complicit with a coup attempt in Venezuela in April, 2002, removing Chavez from power.  However, they underestimated the Venezuelan people’s support of Chavez, who ran out the insurgents and returned Chavez to power 48 hours later.

During Chavez’ 14 year presidency, poverty fell from 55% in 1995 to 26.4% in 2009.  Unemployment was 15% in 1999, which has fallen to 7.8% in June, 2009.    “Over the last fourteen years, Chávez has submitted himself and his agenda to fourteen national votes, winning thirteen of them by large margins, in polling deemed by Jimmy Carter to be “best in the world” out of the ninety-two elections that he has monitored.”  Over 30,000 communal councils, direct participatory democratic structures were formed over Chavez’s presidency, making the country more democratic than prior to Chavez’s first election victory in 1998.  Cooperatives and self-managed workplaces also grew.

Perhaps you’ll recall Hugo Chavez’s speech on September 20, 2006 before the United Nations.  Popularized in the news was his referral to George W. Bush as “the devil” who, having spoken there the day before, Chavez said he could  smell sulfur.  A New York Times reporter said that Chavez received “loud applause that lasted so long that the organization’s officials had to tell the cheering group to cut it out.”  (Helene Cooper, “Iran Who? Venezuela Takes the Lead in a Battle of Anti-U.S. Sound Bites,” New York Times, 21 September 2006, cited in What We Say Goes by Noam Chomsky, pg 45).  Did they cheer about Chavez’s name calling?  The NY Times reporter did not address that question.  “It was because he (Chavez) was expressing a point of view that happens to be very widely accepted in the world.  In fact it’s the overwhelmingly dominant position.  Chavez’s views are called “controversial.”  It’s quite the opposite.  It’s the views of the U.S media and commentators that are controversial.”  (Chomsky, pg 45)

Where do enemies come from?  There are those who harm you personally, the ones you know and can identify.  But then there are others who try to convince you that “they” are your enemy, because you are one of “us.”  The corporatocracy tried to sell to me that Hugo Chavez was an enemy.  He was an enemy to their tyranny only.  Not to the people of Venezuela or, for that matter, people around the world, including Americans.


“Hugo Chavez Kept His Promise to the People of Venezuela” by Oscar Guardiola-Rivera http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/03/05-8#.UTfKPckDdXs.facebook

“Chavez Democratized Venezuela Making it the Most Equal Country in Latin America” By Gregory Wilpert http://venezuelanalysis.com/video/8073

“In Death as in Life, Chavez Target of Media Scorn” by Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. http://fair.org/take-action/media-advisories/in-death-as-in-life-chavez-target-of-media-scorn/

“The CIA Was Involved in the Coup Against Venezuela’s Chavez” by Eva Golinger http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/800

“On the Legacy of Hugo Chavez” by Greg Grandin http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/03/06-2

“Hugo Chavez Dead:  Transformed Venezuela & Survived U.S.-Backed Coup, Now Leaves Uncertainty Behind” – Democracy Now! http://www.democracynow.org/2013/3/6/hugo_chvez_dead_venezuelan_leader_leaves

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. 2004).

The Secret History of the American Empire by John Perkins (Dutton, 2007)

What We Say Goes by Noam Chomsky (Metropolitan Books, 2007)