Hypocrit-in-Chief on the Environment

I’d been out and about on Earth Day weekend and when I got my hands back into the soil today I couldn’t restrain myself any longer. I’m talking about the disingenuous 116-character tweet the Hypocrite-in-Chief sent out on Earth Day, a lame attempt at showing support for the environment:

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 7.27.24 AM

More outlandish than his hypocrisy is that 74,648 of his followers liked it and 14,163 retweeted it. As a public service to those whose knowledge of the president’s position on the environment is based on his 116-character tweet I feel obligated to share the actions he’s taken since he took office:

– Appointed a man who openly rejects scientists’ consensus on climate change, Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, the main guardian of clean air and water, and then slashed the EPA budget by 31%.
– Ordered the EPA to remove the climate change page from their website, an order that was later rescinded.
– Cut Department of Energy programs that focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency.
– Slashed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the primer climate science research agency by 17%.
– Appointed a budge director, Mick Mulvaney, who called climate change a waste of money that the administration will no longer fund.
– Slashed the Department of Interior by 12% which affects protection of National Parks, including cutting $120 million for land acquisition required to protect against development that threatens clean air and water in parks.
** to put this funding into context, the combined budgets of the EPA, and Departments of Energy and Interior are less than 1.5% of the federal budget. By comparison the Department of Defense is 16%. ($46 Billion vs $490 Billion)

Katharine Hayhoe is a conservative Christian climate scientist whose mission is to persuade nonbelievers about climate change. In an interview with NPR she talks about the misinformation coming from the White House regarding climate change. Listen to the interview with Katharine Hayhoe here.

It takes considerable effort to coordinate and write legislation to achieve the measures the president has taken against the environment. It takes roughly 30 seconds to tap a 116-character tweet. I’d have more respect for the President if he’d just say what he is: A hypocrite.

I leave you with photos I shot las year on hikes in the Rocky Mountains and Mount Rainier, two of the nations many natural treasures that deserve to be protected for future generations.



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Poet’s Rebellion

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 11.27.48 AMPoets often kid one another that their work is saving the world, but the role that poets played in Ireland’s independence 101 years ago today is no joke. The Easter Rising of 1916 in Dublin, Ireland was also known as the Poet’s Rebellion because it was led by six patriotic poets and other men of letters including actors and teachers. The group, backed by Irish nationalists and socialists marched in Dublin and seized the General Post Office where they read the “Proclamation of Independence” which read in part:

“In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom. … The Irish Republic is entitled to … the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman … cherishing all of the children of the nation equally and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.”

The rebellion led to the execution of fifteen of the protestors but was the beginning of a civil war that created the Free Irish State. William Butler Yates memorialized the movement in his poem “Easter 1916.”

Easter, 1916

William Butler Yates
I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.
That woman’s days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our wingèd horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.
Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road,
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone’s in the midst of all.
Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven’s part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse—
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.



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Birthday of Irish Literary Icons

“If you have the words, there’s always a chance that you’ll find the way.” – Seamus Heaney

Today is the birthday of two iconic Irish poets. Seamus Heaney, born in 1939 was a native of Northern Ireland. Heaney won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 “for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past.” He began publishing poems in the 1960s about ordinary things like potatoes and bullfrogs. Here he reads “Digging.”

Samuel Beckett, born on this day in 1906, was known mainly as a playwright and novelist. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969, and like Bob Dylan didn’t go to Stockholm to accept the award because he didn’t want to give a speech. Beckett moved to Paris in 1937 where he befriended another Irish ex-pat, James Joyce, who he helped with Finnegan’s Wake when Joyce’s eyesight began to fail. He moved to a farm in rural France during the Nazi occupation and worked for the French Resistance.

Literature, resistance and everyday miracles.




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Enlightened Leaders Value Arts and Culture

“We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.”
– John F. Kennedy honoring Robert Frost in speech at Amherst College

Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 9.42.21 PM                                   Robert Frost                                               John F. Kennedy

On October 26, 1963, President Kennedy honored poet Robert Frost in a speech at Amherst College who died in January of that year. In the speech, Kennedy made clear the need for a nation to represent itself not only through its strength but also through the arts, this from the President who stood down the Russians during the Cuban missile crisis. You can listen to Kennedy’s speech here, and read the transcript here.

Two years later, President Lyndon Johnson signed the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act, creating the National Endowment for the Arts.

Fifty-two years later, President Trump submitted his budget proposal to Congress that eliminates $148 Million for the National Endowment for the Arts and $148 Million for the National Endowment for the Humanities, the same budget he proposed to increase defense speeding by $53 Billion to $639 Billion.

Cultural programs make up 0.02% of the federal budget. By his proposal he has demonstrated his total distain for the arts that is only matched by his ignorance of science, the environment, and human suffering and dignity.

To understand a billionaire’s values you only need to follow the money.  The man is an abomination, an embarrassment.

The Enablers


552 Days Until Mid-term Elections
November 6, 2018


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Eccentric Genius – Synonyms

“What am I in the eyes of most people — a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person — somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then — even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart.” – Vincent van Gogh in a letter to brother Theo

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 8.45.07 AMVincent van Gogh (March 30, 1853 – July 29, 1890)

Art has a mysterious way of touching emotions. With the expansive body of work Vincent Van Gogh produced during his tortured lifetime, “A Pair of Shoes” is the single painting that grabbed me by the collar the moment I first saw it many years ago in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Its attraction, I believe, is in its honesty. Knowing Van Gogh’s story, his struggle with mental illness while still becoming one of the world’s the most prolific artist. It is a work of empathy that says, “Walk a mile in my shoes” – the poor, homeless, indigent, mentally ill, addicted, and in these most callous of times, refugees.

Many years after first seeing “A Pair of Shoes” the painting came back to mind when I was rehabbing a home my wife and I bought, and after I changed at the end of the day I took the the photo below of my work boots. Sometime later I wrote the following poem for an Ekphrastic art exhibit.

                          “A Pair of Shoes” Van Gogh – 1887                              “A Pair of Shoes” JB – 2015

Tired Soles

Tortured soul nerves frayed

soles scuffed in cobbled alleyways

beaten leather, laces splayed

a peddler’s Pair of Shoes

bears the weight of genius,

the artist,

a peasant on a pilgrimage

to Arles from Paris

Gauguin’s room a burst of light

Sunflowers, an inferno of gold

Sheaves of Wheat

pale sulfur internal furnace

the toll of life, madness.


jim brennan

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Ekphrastic Poetry

“When we get more houses than we can live in, more cars than we can ride in, more food than we can eat ourselves, the only way of getting richer is by cutting off those who don’t have enough.” – Nelson Algren


From the Ekphrastic Poetry reading at the Manayunk Roxborough Art Center on March 5, 2017. Autumn II is my reaction to the painting below, those tall, sturdy women with a Philly spin.


Autumn II

I call the tall redhead Ruby

her twin sisters are copper and auburn

the cousins mostly blonde and brunette,

they’re lean and slender with diverse skin

which doesn’t matter the way they band

together in the fiercest storms,

take a winter squall for example,

when the thermometer drops below zero and

wind plasters two inches of ice to their bodies,

these sturdy women shun the most frightening gusts

and sway like the Evangelical choir on Lehigh Avenue

where Dick Allen lifted one over the grandstand

planting disciples onto the field like saplings in spring.


           jim brennan

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Immutably Whimsical Tony Hoagland

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Poet Tony Hoagland can make you laugh as easily as he can make you cry, but mostly his poetry makes me laugh. Hoagland’s work has been described as zany, wisecracking and disarming, his words shed light on an oblique perspective on everyday life he finds absurdity in the most difficult circumstances. Take “Fetch” for example, in which he describes finding true companionship is a four-legged friend:

but that was before I found out my metaphysical needs
                                                                      could be so easily met
by the wet gaze of a brown-and-white retriever
with a slight infection of the outer ear
                                           and a tail like a windshield wiper

“A slight infection of the outer ear?” I’m jealous.


And then there is “Dickhead” which begins with the lines:

To whomever taught me the word dickhead,

I owe a debt of thanks.


My first Tony Hoagland collection was What Narcissism Means To Me about which poet Marie Howe writes, “Hilarious, searing poems that break your heart so fast you hardly notice you’re standing knee deep in a pool o implications.”

If you need proof, read Fred Had Watched A Lot Of Kung Fu Episodes

And then a poem that might evoke sad memories, yet leave you with a smile:

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
by Tony Hoagland

On Friday afternoon David said he was divesting his holdings
in Stephanie dot org.
And Cindy announced she was getting rid of all her Dan-obelia,
and did anyone want a tennis racket or a cardigan?

Alice told Michael that she was transplanting herself
to another brand of potting soil
And Jason composed a 3-chord blues song called
“I Can’t Rake Your Leaves Anymore Mama,”
then insisted on playing it
over his speakerphone to Ellen.

The moon rose up in the western sky
with an expression of complete exhaustion,
like a 38-year old single mother
standing at the edge of the playground. Right at that moment

Betty was extracting coil after coil of Andrew’s
emotional intestines
through a verbal incision she had made in his heart,
and Jane was parachuting into an Ani Difranco concert
wearing a banner saying, Get Lost, Mark Resnick.

That’s how you find out:
out of the blue.
And it hurts, baby, it really hurts,
because breaking up is hard to do.

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