Archives for 2016

Being Played?

hillary-clinton-speaking-thFriday, September 16, 2016, on NPR, reporters covered one candidate’s admission that Obama actually was born in the United States. They asked themselves if this announcement was important. They even asked themselves “Are we being played?”

This is a question all news reporters should have asked themselves long ago.

Dang betcha you all are being played. For months you’ve allowed yourselves to be attracted to the accident by the side of the road. You caused other accidents, and forgot your destination.

Every time you report obfuscations, you do it for entertainment, not to inform your audience. Where’s your need to inform? Where’s your need to ask the key follow-up questions?donald-trump

“What does each candidate stand for? Is their stance consistent? Supported with facts? Are the facts facts? Or smoke and mirrors?”

Each time you print or play a quote, ask yourself, “Am I doing this to entertain? Or “Am I doing this because it helps my audience make informed decisions?”

By now, you need to be giving us a lot more information about what Hillary Clinton proposes, because for over a year you’ve given that information short shrift.

So, she doesn’t give frequent press conferences. Stop being lazy. Go where she is every day. Find out what she says to the people who come to hear her.

And then tell us what you learn.  Hillary Rodham Clinton Signs Copies Of Her Book 'Hard Choices' In New York

Stop being played by the Unbelievable Whizbang who announces a “Really Important Revelation” and then tells us what we already know.


Who Stands up to The Bully?

scapegoat_cvr Selling Fear in America


Do none of us remember when Catholics were accused of plotting to take over the government of the United States? when John F. Kennedy was accused of being a puppet of the devil Pope? when Billy Graham and Norman Vincent Peale told us we should be afraid of the ‘real purpose’ of the Catholic’s among us?

I became aware of the need to stand up to bully liars during those days. The injustice of these accusations about any religion was plain for even my young ears. I knew then that there was power and money behind the idea that we should be very afraid of one group among us.

Those same accusations, almost idea for idea are now being sold to us as truth by today’s professional haters. Except now, the devils in the story are Muslims. And those who want us to believe that all Muslims are a ‘Stealth Attack Team’ are again the people who want us to fear so that they themselves can take over.

These new salesmen are our present bullies – the type of bullies who convinced Oklahoma to pass a law to prohibit judges from considering shariah law in Oklahoma, as if shariah law were taking over the midlands.  They are the type who want us to see all refugees that flee war and terror in Syria as frightening plotters instead of as fearful victims and future patriots.

This year, we have another bully among US. As usual, the media gives the bully plenty of air time: 1st) because he’s entertaining, and then 2nd) because he’s got momentum and is entertaining, and now, 3rd) because he’s got power and is entertaining.

And who handed him the power?

As with all bullies, he sells fear. Many buy that fear because they are afraid and want someone to tell them why they are afraid.

He has not sold fear by himself. He is merely building on the fear that many have sold during recent years – politicians and supposed leaders throughout the nation, a few governors, some senators, craven congressmen, pretend news media . . . all who find that selling fear cements their tenuous hold on audience ratings.

And what do we do, those of us who have seen the bullies at work before?

We watch to see who will confront him. The more we watch, 1) the more the media believes in his entertainment value, and 2) the more air time, the more audience he reaches – us, the watchers, right there on the couch with the fearful. And then of course, 3) the more we watch, the more power he gains.

We applaud when our senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, call bullies on their tactics. We silently cheer when our presidential contenders denounce the bully’s shot-gun spewing of hate. We love to hear President Obama give the smack-down to this dangerous sale of fear.

What else?

Do our pens rest in their inkwells? Should our phones remain in our pockets? Will our twitter accounts lie fallow and our Facebook pages fill with benign photos of cute dogs and each other at parties?

Can we help our leaders call out and face down the bully? Let’s back them up. When necessary, let’s lead them in this face-down.

For years, my writing and research have focused on the repeated use of this fear-selling tactic in our public life. My Scapegoat novels offer Young Adults and their families a view of how this method affects our cities and our neighborhoods, and they offer a way to begin combating hatred and fear.

If you would like to read more about selling fear, you can read among the following: all are available on Amazon and other online vendors.

Fiction for Adults and Young Adults: Scapegoat: The Price of Freedom, (teens fight against hate mongers during the McCarthy era), Rae Richen, Lloyd Court Press, 2014

Fiction for Adults and Young Adults: Scapegoat: The Hounded (the sellers of fear work to destroy a Muslim family and their non-Muslim friends and supporters.) Lloyd Court Press, 2016

Fiction for Adults and Young Adults: The Crucible by Arthur Miller (In this play, America’s earliest use of fear to control has become a symbol of all that has happened since).

And for another exciting historical about teens in Denmark fighting against an army of demagogues, try The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club, Girrar Strauss, Giroux Kindle Edition, by Phillip Hoose.

Non-fiction: Kafka Comes to America: Fighting for Justice in the War on Terror, Steven T. Wax (on prisoner treatment and injustice in Guantanamo Bay Prison by a Federal Public Defender and an Oregonian) OtherPress, 2008

Non-fiction: Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence versus Texas, How a Bedroom Arrest Decriminalized Gay Americans, by Dale Carpenter, W.W. Norton and Company Inc., 2012

Non-Fiction: A Hundred Little Hitlers: The Death of a Black Man, The Trial of a White Racist, and the rise of the Neo-Nazi Movement in America, by Elinor Langer, Picador, Henry Holt and Company New York, 2003. (Langer’s focus is on the death of Mulugeta Seraw and the trial in Portland, Oregon)

Non-fiction: The Supreme Court and McCarthy-Era Repression: One Hundred Decisions, by Robert M. Lichtman, University of Chicago Press, 2012

Non-fiction: A Catholic in the White House?: Religion, Politics, and John F. Kennedy’s Presidential Campaign, by Thomas J. Carty, Palgrave, MacMillan 2004

Read deeply, and get out your pens to help all these writers fight those who gain power using this cheap commodity, fear.


Trump Knows Just Enough History

 Donald Trump must have been paying some attention in history class. That’s where you can learn that being a bully works in America.


Image courtesy

We can’t be shocked that this is happening. It has happened so many times before that its effects are known.

Our country has a long history of allowing the bully his (rarely her) sway over the public. The public becomes a tool of hate.

Our fundamental values as a nation are spelled out in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. However, we are sold the idea that each crisis allows us to ignore our fundamental values and ignore our rule of law.

During a crisis, our victims of choice are those who represent difference and change. Only with great luck and perseverance are these unjustly accused eventually exonerated. By then, lives have been destroyed.

We must fight against scapegoating; Decry the sale of fear; Pull our nation from the abyss.

We will be accused of naiveté. Worse, we will be accused of treason, as Trump has done with our President. Let us not buckle to the sellers of fear.

We will yell down, write down, laugh down and shun those who try to fan our fears.

Let us stand up for Justice for all, and for the Rights granted in our Constitution.

Most importantly, we will vote for those who stand up to the bully.


Want to know our hate history? Here’s a summary (just off the top of my head)

Today’s demagogue/bully joins a long line of historical bullies. Our saving is that there are those who had the courage to say No and stand against these manipulators.

  1. Our history of prejudgment and fear of others began in the early colonies, when the Massachusetts Bay Colony suspected any who did not agree with the religious tenets of the colony founders. The colony leaders accused and jailed many. Many died. The lucky were expelled, such as Roger Williams (1636), who believed in separation of church and state, and the Quaker, Anne Hutchinson (1637).
  2. In New Netherlands, in 1654, leader Peter Stuyvesant promulgated a law expelling Jewish refugees.
  3. In 1732, Georgia, a colony founded as a religious haven, banned Catholics, without thinking much about irony.
  4. However, from time to time, in the long struggle of the American people toward complete religious liberty, several colonies – especially Maryland, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania – made notable contributions to safety for all settlers. These colonies worked to separate church and state, and allow religious freedom.
  5. During the late seventeenth century, during a time when Protestants persecuted Catholics, Catholics persecuted Protestants, and both persecuted Quakers and Jews, William Penn established an American sanctuary which protected freedom of conscience. Penn traveled unarmed among the Indians and negotiated peaceful land purchases. He insisted that women deserved equal rights with men. He gave Pennsylvania a written constitution which limited the power of government, provided a humane penal code, and guaranteed many fundamental liberties.
  6. Rhode Island further attempted to accept the Native-Americans as respected citizens. Roger Williams created a dictionary of the Narragansett language and held that land should be fairly purchased from the tribes. He and allies in his new colony also tried to keep slavery from taking a foothold in their area by passing an anti-slavery law in 1652.
  7. However, after the death of Roger Williams, the two parts of the Rhode Island Colony united. Subsequently, the anti-slavery law was ignored. The slave trade became an important source of income for Newport, and was accepted in those towns around the bay.
  8. Maryland’s gift to liberty and safety from bullies was the Act Concerning Religion – one of the pioneer statutes passed by the legislative body of an organized colonial government to guarantee any degree of religious liberty. Specifically, the bill, now usually referred to as the Toleration Act, granted freedom of conscience to all Christians of any sect. Maryland lived by this act for many generations.
  9. In most colonies the history of prejudice and discrimination continued before the Civil War with the long, long generations of slavery. Religion and pseudo-science became the excuses for fear and control of those we had enslaved.
  10. Prejudice again raised religious venom in the lynching of Mormon founder, Joseph Smith
  11. and later in the predations of the Know-Nothing party against immigrants from Catholic countries.
  12. Many in both North and South, insisted on denying the humanity of Africans, and held that Africans needed the control and parenting: another easy excuse for slavery.
  13. During the Civil War, the draft riots of 1863 saw wide-scale attacks on Blacks in New York City. White northern soldiers often refused to serve with volunteer Black soldiers.
  14. After the Civil War, our violent anti-minority history continued with lynchings of African-Americans, burning of Black churches,
  15. We suspended immigration of the Chinese (Chinese Exclusion act of 1882), the declaration by the U.S. Department of Interior that participation in rituals of Native American tribes are punishable by jail sentences (1883), the Massacre of Lakota Sioux by the U.S. Army (1890) and the systematic removal and herding of other tribes into ever smaller reserves.
  16. In the 20th century, this history continues unabated. During World War I, the KKK re-emerged to target Black Americans, Jewish Americans and Catholics. Immigrants from Ireland were shunned, harassed and worse. During the election campaign of 1928, the Catholic faith of Presidential candidate Al Smith played a loud role in his defeat. Immigrants from Eastern Europe were accused of treachery.
  17. In the first part of the 20th century, any of the lower classes who attempted to organize workers were jailed or killed as a threat to the great steam engine of progress.
  18. Just before World War II, a Catholic priest, Father Charles Coughlin was a popular radio demagogue who delivered anti-Semitic addresses during which he defended Nazi violence.
  19. And though a number of citizens of German ancestry vocally joined Father Coughlin in his race-purity beliefs, it was not citizens of German ancestry who were taken to “exclusion zones” during World War II.  In 1942 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed an executive order for the internment only of citizens of Japanese Ancestry.
  20. Since that war, systematic harassment, suspicion and assassination have been the experience of Blacks who wanted true equality.
  21. During the late 1940s and 1950s, the ease with which people could be accused of communism resulted in loss of jobs, loss of opportunities, loss of freedoms and loss of life for the victims of fear.
  22. For generations, jailing without access to lawyers has been the lot of immigrants from Spanish speaking countries in many parts of the U.S..
  23. During the Vietnam War, those who questioned traditional capitalist goals and the war policies of the Vietnam era were the victims of police brutality and killings.
  24. And, since 2001, but also before, immigrants from the Middle East, and especially those who are Muslim, have been the victims of unwarranted wiretapping, arrest.
  25. Today, deliberate prejudicial exaggerations about Muslim beliefs are given more air time by media and spit out by those who want power. Muslims donations to help others are accused of supporting of terrorist organizations, even though no one has had to prove that the non-profit organizations they support are truly terrorist organizations.
  26. I know of no Presbyterians who are accused of supporting terrorism when they donate to non-profits that help refugees.
  27. This list is just the beginning.



Guns Kill, Not People. So, Control the Money Behind Guns


We have allowed the Gun manufacturers and their front, called the NRA, to control all discussion. They threaten congress with their money.  Republicans, afraid of the gun makers’ big money, refuse to discuss gun control, claiming we instead need to fight ISIL.

They pretend this is an either/or choice. What Hooey!

It’s like pretending we need to choose between fighting ISIL and providing better mental health care.

You and I know we can and do fight ISIL. At the same time, we can and must stand up to  gun makers and sellers. We can say, “You’re not free to sell to those who threaten harm to themselves and others.”

We can offer better health care to the mentally ill, all while fighting ISIL.

The young man in the Orlando night club was a wanna be, a man afraid of himself, with a need to feel power. A sick man.

We must control the sale of guns to the sick. We need to provide real help to the mentally ill. All it takes is courage to face money, and money to face money.  We have to decide to join Congressman John Lewis and the fifty congressmen and women who refuse to back down any longer from the power of the gun manufacturers.

Guns that kill many in seconds are not a self-protection device. Stop letting the NRA pretend unregulated speed-kill has anything to do with the Second Amendment. “A well-regulated militia” is not well-regulated if every sick person can shoot large numbers of the people he fears.

We can fight gun Manufacturers and their NRA  front men while fighting ISIL. We can provide health care and force our congressmen and senators to stop cowering in front of NRA threats. We

courtesy of

courtesy of

speak up and give our representatives courage. We can send money to fight the gun lobby or to the congressmen and women who fight the gun lobby.

Demand action from those others in Congress. They are afraid they may finally have to make a choice between Gun Manufacturer money and the safety and wishes of the majority of their constituents. Tell them what that choice must be.

Tell congress you want them to stop hiding behind false arguments.

Collect Water from the Roof? How? Where?

My neighbor, Robinson, has been collecting water only from the roof of his garage for the last two years. He has given me a very big challenge, and at the same time, the challenge brings a heartache. I know I should do what he has done. But what part of my garden has to make way for the rain collection system?

Do I really have to do this to 1) be safe in an emergency or 2) to rely less on fragile water services and more on myself? Do I really have to rip out that beautiful Japanese maple? Those Roses? The clematis climbing up that downspout?

I’ll show you the problem. Here is my backyard, in winter, behind the garage. Not much room left, eh?

That’s Icarus, by metal sculptor, John Richen, hanging on the garage. I think his unwarranted bravado about the sun is akin to my wish to ignore the future of water in our world.

And here, below, a photo of the most likely downspout for us to use collecting water from the house. Smack in the middle of social life. The grand kids love to play with that farm pump.

The third photo, below, is the collection tank behind the garage of my neighbor. As you can see, he has foregone a good bit of potential plant life to make water collection viable for the rest of his yard.

400 gal tank and 55 gal barrel IMG_3784(1)

And there lies the heartache for a plant lover who also wants to be more self-reliant when it comes to water. Where shall we put the tank, and what plants shall we do away with?

Robinson has two types of collection barrels. One passively collects 55 gallons of water as the rains come. The other is a 400 gallon tank that fills from the garage gutters.

The 400 gallon tank was a gift from a friend. Robinson had a concrete pad poured for the weight of the water he expected. And because the mechanicals on the tank are somewhat below the level of the bottom of the tank, he had to raise the tank on four piers of bricks and wood. (See photo of bottom of tank.)

Robinson had some fence post four by fours and some two by fours. He had caulking glue, so applied that to the bricks to help hold them still on the concrete pad while he worked the tank into place. Next he stacked the wood evenly on top of the bricks. When he was satisfied that all was going to sit level, Robinson placed the tank on top. I believe this was a group effort, maybe some after party happening, but I didn’t ask Robinson how he levitated his tank into place. And I should.

The fifty-five gallon tank sits next to the 400 gallon tank and collects some overflow but also fills naturally with rain.

Robinson has put filtering screen over both tanks (and another 55 gallon tank that he has in front of his house). He was warned by his neighborhood hardware dealer to steer clear of galvanized screening because it can add toxins to the water. Galvanization is a zinc coating on steel or iron screening.

As you can see from the photo above, Robinson used his original garage gutters, taking them apart and redirecting both of them toward the 400 gallon tank.

Double hose bib under tank IMG_3786

Double hose bib

Robinson uses his water to care for his vegetable garden and his collection of blueberry bushes. He has rigged it with a double hose bib, two openings at the bottom. One opening leads to a hose which acts as his back-flow release, or can be used to hand water pots. That hose hangs on a decorative shepherd’s crook about 5 feet above the bottom of the tank. The potential siphon is available whenever he lowers the hose. This makes emptying to clean easier.

The second hose opening leads to the small pipes that water his vegetable garden. Robinson cut a trench under the concrete walkways in order to take water to every part of his garden. Now, the only thing he needs in his garden is a little more sun.

He guesses that a year’s worth of Portland rain will fill his big tank 6 times over. And that’s from just the garage roof – approximately a 20’ by 10’ building.

Imagine what could be happening if we each collected water from our house roofs.

Robinson says, “I’d like to add an aqueduct from the house gutters to this tank, but I might not be able to build it up to the neighbors’ aesthetic expectations.”

True. The bar set by the Romans is high.

So, he’s hoping soon to buy another 400 gallon tank and shuffle water from the house gutters into it. The location of his second big tank is yet to be decided. Some plants will have to go. Or at least move.

Which brings us back to my problem, and I suspect it will be a problem for most garden lovers. What space can I use? What do I have to give up to do what I know I should do? There is a farm pump and barrel with water plants right next to the most important house downspout. And then there is the exuberant growth that happens by summer in back of our garage as in this photo to the right.

All is difficult to give up to barrels. But water is needed. More and more, we should collect it. Where would you put a collection system?

Send me your thoughts.

Next time, the costs and the cleaning and maintenance processes will be explored. And, if you send ideas and photos, we’ll see what you have done or plan to do to collect water.

I’m sure a tank soon will go somewhere in our yard. My poor beautiful roses…

Icarus, who hangs on our garage, is already crying.

Be Prepared to Enjoy

Yes, we’ve talked about how to be prepared for the next emergency. We’ve got a long way to go to really be prepared and I worry about getting you, my eager readers, all the information we both should have.

But, in between writing about the butane stove and giving you-all our next ‘get ready’ alert, the world had given us some moments of wonder.

There was the moment I realized the family’s youngest girl is on the edge of learning to read. The excitement shone in her face as she began to sound out a story about Elephant and Piggie*.IMG_3782

And then there was the moment our Lenten Rose shot up out of the ground in one day and produced flower buds during day two.

Within that same week, I drove along the Alameda Ridge one afternoon after a particularly irrational opportunity to listen to a passle of twaddle-heads. I looked up from the road and realized the sun and the clouds together were telling me to leave worry, and enjoy the moment.

So, I pulled over to the curb and whipped out my phone camera. Telephone wires be danged, the sky beyond them was warm with light and dark with potential rain. The moment became all.



So, my fine readers, very soon, we will be back to the important effort to be prepared, but for this week, I hope you can join me in a moment of beauty.

*All right, here comes a book review. Elephant and Piggie Books are early readers by Mo Willems. Mo Willems is clever enough to keep both the youngster and their adult laughing as this really odd couple of friends learn how to get along even though their worlds are very different.

On our recent excursion to the children’s book section, we came home with Listen to my Trumpet. Piggie plays his new trumpet very badly and then asks for Elephant’s applause. Elephant has to decide whether to be honest with Piggie.

On our way home from the book store, every time we passed under a street lamp, our early reader sounded out a trumpet’s blatty-sound words. She had a wonderful time with Mo Willems’s made up noise words, never realizing she was learning how to read consonant blends like Bluuurk and Gleeeeek.

Willems has written is a whole series of these books, published by Hyperion Books for Children. You’ll enjoy right along with your youngsters.



How Will We Cook When the Lights Go Out?

Part of Rae’s Getting Prepared Series

Remember that for Christmas 2014 we gave our sons and daughter’s families water barrels to store drinking water. We bought water pumps for each household and a lead free hose for the families to share. Meanwhile, we celebrated other family events with gifts of food storage and cook books.

But when the earth rumbles or the east wind blows, we may not have power. How will you and I and our neighbors heat our food?

Even though the Richens have lots of trees on our tree farms, we live in Portland, not in our woods. Moreover, wood fires are inefficient. Our fireplace isn’t built for the hanging pot that my Arkansas relatives once used – true for most homes builtrae4 after 1900. Also, in-house fireplaces drag in cold air to keep themselves burning. You’re going to be trying to keep heat in your house.

We used to have a wood stove that might have been good for cooking, but it put a lot of particulates in the air. We want to find a cooking process that doesn’t turn Portland, the City of Roses into western China.

When the next natural emergency hits your part of the country, you’ll want a way to cook that is clean and efficient. That’s where my friend, Mary, (not her real name,) came to my rescue. She has discovered a simple process that is clean, has low toxicity and doesn’t use a lot of fuel.

You can save fuel, and safely cook your food by buying a one burner butane stove and creating a hot box.

Mary showed me her solution to cooking with as little butane as possible. In fact, we had a great lunch made with her one burner butane stove.

rae2“Five minutes to bring the water to a boil, Mary says. “Add the rice or chopped potatoes or whatever you’ve decided to use. The water comes back to a boil in a minute. Then boil the rice for five minutes only, take it off the burner, add reconstituted air dried vegetables and any other cut up food you’ve decided on. Put it in the Hot Box (more about this below) for a couple of hours. All is cooked and the insulation in your hot box is still warm.”

Off the stove into the Hot Box. Two hours later, her food was cooked and her sleeping bag was warm.

Into the Hot Box

Into the Hot Box

What could be more efficient use of a heating/cooking system?

Why butane and not propane? Chemists will remember that in the presence of plenty of oxygen, butane puts out carbon dioxide, Propane puts out carbon monoxide which we don’t want to be breathing.

“That’s why demonstrations in the grocery store are done on butane burners,” Mary says.

Of course, while butane puts out mostly carbon dioxide, anything used to create fire also creates some carbon monoxide. You cannot use these types of heating materials in a small room. So, no cooking in the closet, my friends. Give the butane plenty of air and store it carefully where there is air, too.

The stove Mary has was built by Stansport, but after much calling around, I was able to buy locally almost the same good stove for my families under two different brands. Big Five Sporting Goods had almost the same stove in two different brands, including the Gas One, which I bought.

So, for my Christmas list, I cleaned Big Five out of them. They’ve restocked. Friends have already bought more for Christmas. You can find them, too.

The other sporting goods and home stores I visited carried only propane stoves for outdoor camping. Those stoves are fine if you are where the carbon monoxide dissipates quickly, like out in the cold morning air, but in an emergency situation, you’ll want to cook where you can keep yourself as warm as possible.

What’s a Hot Box? Mary showed me. Hers is a cardboard box. “The corrugation is one part of the insulation,” she says. “I put my sleeping bag into the box and fold it around all sides of the hot cooking pan and then put the box lid on. The food just keeps on cooking for the next hours.”


So, with the hot box, Mary saves on butane. She can get eight to ten hot dinners out of one bottle. All of these materials can be purchased locally, but you can get butane bottles for a lot less if you buy them online by the case.

You, my friends, already know that I want to credit my creative friend with her real name, but she would rather not be identified. Why?

While helping to host neighborhood preparedness meetings, two different neighbors told her that they didn’t need to take the time to get prepared for emergencies because they knew she had stored all that would be needed.

Wow! Really?

I asked “Mary” how she answered these boors.

“I couldn’t believe they meant it, but then I realized they were serious,” she said. “I just stood there with my mouth open.”

I suggested, “How about “I will share with people who can share with me, so get yourself ready, my friend.”

“Maybe next time, but, it’s unbelievable that anyone would think that way.”

Yep. It really is.

So, I’m off to figure out what to do for family birthdays and any other event I can use as an excuse to help my family and friends get ready.