Friday, June 25, 2010


In November 2009 the Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis carolinensis) was taken off the federal endangered list after first being so placed in 1970 because of the effects of the pesticide DDT. The 2010 BP oil spill is occurring at the height of their annual nesting season in Louisiana and Alabama and has created yet another severe threat for the noble pelican, one they may not survive. The lives of three generations of Brown Pelicans including parents, juveniles and as yet unhatched eggs hang – precariously - in the balance.

The Brown Pelican is the smallest of all the great Pelicans and has many unique characteristics to include its coastal habitats and spectacular headfirst feeding dives. Its survival is critical to the environmental integrity of the Gulf Coast. The BP Oil Spill has overtaken two major Brown Pelican rookeries in Louisiana including the rookeries in Barataria Bay (Queen Bess Island) and Four Bayou Pass. Others are in imminent danger.

In a cruel irony some of the contractors that BP sent to the rookeries to clean up the oil ended up trampling many chicks and eggs as reported by Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana President Billy Nungesser who lamented, “They (the pelicans) already have the oil affecting their population during their reproduction time, now we have the so called clean up crews stomping eggs. The lack of urgency and general disregard for Louisiana’s wetlands and wildlife is enough to make you sick.” Seems that the “cure” may be almost as bad as the illness…

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries officials wanted to immediately start building sand berms to hold off the oil and protect the pelicans and the delicate Louisiana ecosystem but experienced delays from the US Army Corps of Engineers and Coast Guard who publicly and inexplicability stated they were concerned about the environmental impact of emergency barriers. Huh?

We surely understand that there could be long term ramifications of these sand berms and they have to be factored and monitored, but the immediate greater obvious good surely would indicate that some action, any action, is preferable over inactivity as we watch the Louisiana coast go down the tubes. Well, finally, and apparently with some White House prodding the plan was implemented starting this last weekend with the tab going to (tad da!) - British Petroleum. Sand berms deserve a shot at helping this situation. Let’s pray that they work…

We Buxtons have a strong association with the Pelican which has been the crest of the Buxton Family Association since its founding by great grandfather Dr. G. Edward Buxton. Myriad Buxtons have matriculated their personal coat of arms with the Pelican In Her Piety sharing honors with the noble Stag (i.e. Thomas Fowell Buxton).

For many of us the Pelican is an awkward animal with a comedic bent, witness Tennessean Dixon Lanier Merrith’s 1910 limerick "The Pelican":

A wonderful bird is the pelican.
His bill will hold more that his belican.
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week,
But I'm damned if I can see how the helican.

For the Buxton Family and many more the Pelican remains a constant symbol of charity, fidelity and self sacrifice. In medieval times (believed to predate the 12th century) the belief existed that, if a pelican was unable to find enough food to feed her young, she would peck at her own breast (vulning) and feed the drops of blood to her young – hence the pelican in her piety. The pelican has since become the symbol of the Passion of Jesus and of the Eucharist and can be seen incorporated in many churches and cathedrals and, yes, coats of arms across the Christian world.

The reality is that the magnificent Pelican has been around for over 40 million years and we surely hope and pray that the efforts to preserve and recover the Brown Pelican will be successful. As more and more information about the oil spill is grudgingly incorporated into our knowledge base, it is apparent that significant work will need to continue for many years to restore the wetlands and fisheries that these birds and many other species depend on. Organizations such as the International Bird Rescue Research Center of California and the Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research of Delaware are currently at the epicenter of the bird rescue efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. God Speed…our future may depend on their success.

We pray that the Brown Pelican (and the rest of us) will be around for many more millions of years occupying their critical niche in our ecosystem. We now realize that, “The air we breathe, the water we drink, cook, and wash with, and the many chemical cycles—including the nitrogen cycle and the carbon cycle, so vital to sustain life—depend on the continued health of ecosystems and the species within them.” We Humans in our arrogance think mostly nothing of the other species that occupy this planet and their critical and strategic role in the pantheon of life. Should we not heed the message we will ultimately be standing in front of a mirror looking for companionship and a raison d’ĂȘtre realizing too late that we are alone and with no hope of recovery.

Who/What will rise to take our place?


Ned Buxton

Saturday, June 19, 2010


The recent tragic events in the Gulf of Mexico (61 days and counting as of this post) aka the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill have unleashed an environmental maelstrom and disaster that is not only the worst ever in the Americas but obviously the whole world. It has been characterized by many as “history's greatest environmental disaster.” Yes, ladies and gentlemen – that means – never has this happened before in Human History. That Herculean estimation has not even considered the consequences of the huge release of methane (which caused the explosion and death of the Deepwater Horizon) whose consequences may be as bad as the oil.

I watched on MSNBC as Dr. Samantha Joye a professor in the Department of Marine Sciences in the University of Georgia's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences commented that one plume of oil (whose existence is denied by BP) has a concentration of methane between 100 and 10,000 times that normally seen in the Gulf of Mexico — enough to completely deplete the oxygen. Where oil and methane go – death surely follows.

Much of the fishery in Louisiana and in other adjoining states has been closed down with the prospects that the closures will continue to expand as millions of gallons of crude (1.47 million to 2.5 million U.S. gallons) pour into the Gulf - daily. The closure is now approaching one third of Federal Gulf waters. The residents in and around once beautiful Barataria Bay in southeast Louisiana in Jefferson and Plaquemines Parishes now refer to that once rich body of water as the, “Black Sea.” Ironically one of the key figures in the American victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans, Pirate Jean Lafitte made his home in these same once pristine waters.

BP CEO (I want my life back) Tony Hayward given some of his most recent outrageous statements continues to make BP look as bad as they probably are (swims like a duck, flies like a duck). Not to be outdone by the gaffe producing Hayward, BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg commented this week in a fit of mind numbing arrogance, “We care about the small people.” That characterization predictability angered many Gulf Coast Residents (me too) who see this as a continuing effort by BP to diminish the scope and magnitude of this disaster. One angry resident conjured up memories of the aforementioned Battle of New Orleans and invited the Brits to replay that end battle of the War of 1812 assuring that the result would be the same… All hail Andy Jackson.

The heavy handed (and probably illegal) tactics by some BP employees and contractors as reported by NPR, CNN, AP, CBS, WDSU-TV, the New Orleans Times Picayune and other news media to limit access to damaged areas is alarming and needs the attention of local, state and federal law enforcement. That said, some are now reporting that local, state and Federal law enforcement now appear to be in cahoots with BP. The one criterion that seems to get their attention isn’t the issue of safety, but rather whether any inquiring group (whether on foot, truck, boat or plane) includes a member of the press? That alone appears to be the sole criteria for BP, the Coast Guard and even the FAA to enforce their blockade. There are substantiated reports that BP is not allowing flyovers of the Gulf of Mexico below 3,000 feet.

Might of Right has seen a video clip on YouTube where a crew from New Orleans WDSU-TV was barred access to a public beach on Grand Isle by private security guards who also denied access to clean up workers despite statements to the contrary by BP Chief Operating Officer of BP Exploration and Production Doug Suttles. After Jefferson Parish law enforcement showed up on the scene access was granted though the security guards literally told the workers they did not have to speak to the media and then told them what to say. The obviously intimidated workers then parroted that suggestion. It certainly would appear that already compromised workers afraid to lose their jobs and their only source of livelihood have gone over to the dark side. They have all apparently signed contracts that explicitly state they are not allowed to comment or offer any details about their jobs.

As reported by Jason Linkins of the Huffington Post, Yahoo News contacted BP for comment on these incidents whereupon they were told by BP spokesman Mark Proegler that, "There have been restrictions placed on photography in the wildlife area because we've been told that it could do harm to the animals.” Proegler continued with comments about the Grand Isle incident stating that "We can't force our contractors to work with media if they choose not to." This absolutely ludicrous response with no basis in law or reality and contrary to BP’s public policy points to the ridiculous spin BP has engaged. As far as we can see the real harm will ultimately come to BP should the real scope of this tragedy be known.

So, we ask, under which legal authority BP (a private corporation) or their representatives are being allowed to enforce a blockade and blackout of what are mostly public lands in a sovereign state aka The United States of America? Inquiring minds want to know

We hear chatter on the Internet that BP is closely monitoring Blogs and Chat Forums that are engaging and debating this affair. Some sources have suggested that BP is flooding these same outlets with their own perspectives to the diminishment of all other opinions. They are controlling the free flow of ideas for fear that the truth will out. I might add that the Might of Right certainly welcomes their scrutiny and participation in any public debate they may choose to participate. Hmmm, wonder if BP owns any Yahoo/Google stock?

Many have interpreted BP’s actions as a less than transparent attempt to cover up the negligence that initially prompted the disaster and their stonewalling actions as the suggestion of their utter disdain for the ecological/environmental ramifications of this disaster. It’s all about the bottom line and how happy are those pensioners who are not getting a dividend this year – or next? Some question whether BP will even survive.

On the other side of the coin we salute BP’s ever continuing efforts to shut down the offending out of control well head though we surely question the tactics of folks representing themselves as BP employees or representatives that would limit access to public and private lands in those United States along the Gulf Coast.

Hopefully BP will not be successful in their attempt to forever buy the hearts and minds of those on the Gulf Coast with their promises of payment of damages and even jobs. That accomplished our ain folk will be hoisted by their own petard even as the oil has pushed at least twelve miles into Louisiana’s marshes and estuaries.

And what do the greater majority of us do? We sit complacently watching our TVs or listening to the radio in the comfort of our big plush chairs and sumptuous homes, remote in hand, while this drama plays out like some distant, surreal and cockeyed environmental soap opera/horror show. It is real, however, to those who have been irreparably harmed on the Gulf coast, especially in Louisiana. Indeed, we have all been harmed (if not anesthetized) and well beyond our ability to get a Louisiana oyster. All you have to do is go to New Orleans and then head due southeast. Just follow your nose. I may be in Dallas but sometimes think I can smell the oil…


Ned Buxton

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest
my head with oil;
My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Several weeks ago Good Shepherd Sunday was celebrated at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Dallas. During the service the congregation enthusiastically recited this, the King James version of the 23rd Psalm aka The Shepherd's Psalm, bringing back many pleasant and, aye, emotional memories for me. It was my favorite psalm as a child and for me represents the different facets of Jesus as ultimate caregiver and protector for all Christians, yea, for all Mankind (Believers or not). The psalm is easily taught and understood by young and old and ultimately allows the committed reader to embrace and make a statement of absolute confidence and assurance in that promise.

Not only has this most beloved psalm been inspiring verse and basis for much of my early church life, it has inevitable cross cultural ties that even evoke my more contemporary Scots experiences (and not just for funerals). Witness that the Psalms have achieved an especial status amongst the Scots and in all those cultures that have embraced Calvin/Knox Presbyterianism.

In Scotland and in the rest of Europe prior to the Reformation of 1560 church services were conducted in Latin (well, mostly as we shall see). The Bible was also written in Latin and any attempt to translate into English, Scots, Gaelic, French, German or any other language was considered treasonous and would have been (and was) treated as heresy (witness Tyndale). Since few ordinary folks in the civilized (?) world could read or write, let alone unintelligible Latin, it really didn’t matter. But, then along came education of the masses and folks like John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Miles Coverdale, John Rogers, Martin Luther, John Calvin and John Knox, among others, and the barn door flew open.

While the official Church translation of the Bible was far from the original Greek and Hebrew, the Latin Bible allowed the Church to exert further power over their illiterate masses. An alarmed English Church (and Rome) scared that the English translation would result in a breakdown in their moral and legal authority responded predictably. As absurd as it sounds today the Church continued to forbid “God’s laws in their own language” The reality is, of course, that any translation of the Bible would ultimately break their monopoly on Salvation not to mention their livelihood. Then, as we have noted, along came The Reformation and the printing press and everything changed.

Fittingly, there is strong evidence that the Scots translated the Latin into the Scots dialect early on. Even after the English translations were readily available they were paraphrasing the English and preaching in Scots as this was the only language understood by their congregations. Even after the Union of the Crowns and attempts to discourage the use of Scots, evidence that Scottish ministers would routinely “speake in plaine Scots words” abounds. This same phenomenon existed for those Scottish congregations in Gaelic communities (mostly in the Highlands and Islands – but also elsewhere in Britain) where that eventually extended into Canada (Cape Breton) and the United States. We can easily surmise that in the early history of The Church that St. Ninian nor St. Columba (Calum Cille) preached to the Picts in Latin. More than likely they used interpreters and preached in Gaelic.

The translation of the 23rd Psalm reflects some of the changes taking place in the church to include the following version by outstanding Scottish (Protestant with Catholic allegiance) poet/writer Alexander Montgomerie (1545 -1610) who was well known for his sonnets and lyrics and, aye, psalm translations. Montgomerie was poet laureate to King James VI of Scotland and author of the following translation mostly borrowed from A Scots Garland – an Anthology of Scottish Vernacular Verse by Thomas Henderson, Edinburgh, 1931.

The Lord maist hie I know will be and herd to me;

I cannot lang have stress, nor stand in neid,
He makes my lair In fields maist fair, quhair I bot care,
Reposing at my pleasure, safely feid.
He sweetly me convoys to pleasant springs
Quhair naething me annoys but pleasure brings.
He brings my mynd fit to sic kind,
That fors, or fears of foe cannot me grieve,
He does me leid In perfect freid,
And for his name he never will me lieve.
Thoch I wald stray, Ilk day by day, in deadly way,
Yet I will not dispair; I fear none ill,
For quhy? thy grace In every place does me embrace,
Thy rod and shepherd’s crook conforts me still.
In spite of foes my tabil grows
Thou balmes my head with joy; my cup owerflows.
Kyndness and grace, mercy and piece,
Sall follow me for all my wretched days,
And me convoy to endless joy,
In heaven quhair I sall be with thee always.

Without getting into a rather complicated and ever evolving debate about Scots (English-Scots or Scots-English) it’s interesting to note the contributions of those in and out of the Church, Protestant and Catholic alike, during that period even to this day.

At the annual Kirking of the Tartans service at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games probably ten years ago a visiting Church of Scotland minister offered up the 23rd Psalm in Scots. It went a little like the version that was read and interpreted by the accomplished Scottish stage and radio actor James L. Dow who also happened to be a minister of the Church of Scotland.

It seems that in 1960 the Scottish Home Service of the BBC, recognizing the Reverend Dow's especial qualifications for the job (including his facility in The Lowland Dialect), commissioned Dow to write and read a series of short Biblical texts in Scots. They were broadcast in a radio magazine program that proved extremely popular. Not surprisingly, those texts included the Psalms of David and among them the beloved
23rd Psalm. Our sincere thanks to Mark Thompson, former Chairman of the Ulster-Scots Agency for recovering and publishing a growing collection of old Scots language hymns and gospel songs on his blog, Sacred Scotch Solos.

It takes us home and back to our roots where the Bible wasn’t chained in some church sanctuary, rather made readily available and palpable to the masses prompting history to take a different turn.


Ned Buxton