Sunday, December 31, 2006
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Artwork by Ben Jones
Written by John Langlois
From The Spoof
(Washington, DC) Following up its announcement that there is no difference in eating food made from cloned animals, the FDA today announced that there is no difference in eating food made from cloned humans.
"Look, protein is protein, a spokesman noted. It's not really cannibalism because these clones weren't really people. They were left-over embryos that we grew to the point that they had enough meat to make a good meal. It's just like eating veal."
When asked whether foods containing the clone humans will be labeled as such the FDA officials said, "This labeling crap has got to stop. People don't need to know what's in their food. They just need to trust the government. After all, we have families, too. We wouldn't let our families eat food that could hurt them."
When asked whether that meant their families were eating cloned humans, the spokesman said, "We can't really tell you what our families eat because to do so would threaten national security."
When asked why cattle companies would want to go to the expense and trouble of raising cloned animals one spokesman said, "Look, off the record, the gene pool has gotten so shallow that we can't even find healthy semen anymore. Between the rGBH, Dioxin, GMO corn and the confinement camps the cows live in, it's a wonder any breeding ever happens."
The FDA spokesman refused to comment on rumors that "flavored" clones would be part of the product offering.
He said, "We don't know anything about chocolate, vanilla or strawberry clones. But we do know that we will be able to offer "smoked, barbequed or extra-crispy."
Sunday, December 24, 2006
When Men Said No To War
On Christmas Day, 1914, in the first year of World War I, German, British, and French soldiers disobeyed their superiors and fraternized with "the enemy" along two-thirds of the Western Front. German troops held Christmas trees up out of the trenches with signs, "Merry Christmas." "You no shoot, we no shoot." Thousands of troops streamed across a no-man's land strewn with rotting corpses. They sang Chrismas carols, exchanged photographs of loved ones back home, shared rations, played football, even roasted some pigs. Soldiers embraced men they had been trying to kill a few short hours before. They agreed to warn each other if the top brass forced them to fire their weapons, and to aim high.
A shudder ran through the high command on either side. Here was disaster in the making: soldiers declaring their brotherhood with each other and refusing to fight. Generals on both sides declared this spontaneous peacemaking to be treasonous and subject to court martial. By March, 1915 the fraternization movement had been eradicated and the killing machine put back in full operation. By the time of the armistice in 1918, fifteen million would be slaughtered.
Not many people have heard the story of the Christmas Truce. Military leaders have not gone out of their way to publicize it. On Christmas Day, 1988, a story in the Boston Globe mentioned that a local FM radio host played "Christmas in the Trenches," a ballad about the Christmas Truce, several times and was startled by the effect. The song became the most requested recording during the holidays in Boston on several FM stations. "Even more startling than the number of requests I get is the reaction to the ballad afterward by callers who hadn't heard it before," said the radiohost. "They telephone me deeply moved, sometimes in tears, asking, `What the hell did I just hear?'"
I think I know why the callers were in tears. The Christmas Truce story goes against most of what we have been taught about people. It gives us a glimpse of the world as we wish it could be and says, "This really happened once." It reminds us of those thoughts we keep hidden away, out of range of the TV and newspaper stories that tell us how trivial and mean human life is. It is like hearing that our deepest wishes really are true: the world really could be different.
Excerpted from David G. Stratman, We CAN Change the World: The Real Meaning of Everyday Life (New Democracy Books, 1991). Available for $3.00 from New Democracy Books, P.O. Box 427, Boston, MA 02130.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Thursday, December 21, 2006
A tiny tale of great transformation...
(From author Nori Huddle's website "The Best Game on Earth")
In the opening years of the new Millennium, humanity is being challenged to make fundamental changes—changes that are as great as the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly.
For over two centuries, industrialized society, like the caterpillar, has been gobbling up enormous amounts of resources. Today, we have begun to see the terrible impact of indiscriminate consumption and development on the Earth's biosphere. But where do we go from here?
For the caterpillar, the next stage of development is the chrysalis, in which the cell structure of the caterpillar's body begins to break down. Similarly, today we read and hear much about "chaos" and "chaos theory" in organizations and in society as a whole. Familiar social and economic patterns are breaking down, while the new patterns of a post-industrial society have not yet become clear.
Within the disintegrating body of the caterpillar, new and radically different cells—so-called "imaginal cells"—suddenly appear. These early imaginal cells are killed off by the immune system of the caterpillar who recognizes them as "enemies"—much the same way forces within the "human body politic" destroyed Christ or Joan of Arc... or later, destroyed Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Humanity as a whole was not yet ready to embrace a new possibility for humankind, bringing about the qualities of heaven on our lovely Earth.
But then, more and more imaginal cells begin to appear. Now the caterpillar is disintegrating into an unrecognizable "soup"—which "feeds" the rapidly proliferating imaginal cells. The imaginal cells begin to clump and cluster together, gaining strength as they join forces with each other, sharing information and building further resonance with one another.
Within the gathering chaos of today's society, those who sense the stirring of a New Possibility are similarly joining with others of like mind and heart. We are "clumping" and "clustering" together, sharing our stories and dreams, weaving these stories and dreams together, building a common resonance and a Shared Story. A sense of urgency grows within us. What is it that we sense? What is it that we wish to create together?
We are dreaming dreams of new possibilities….of a Beautiful New World. These lovely dreams inspire us to action. As these dreams and visions grow clearer, we begin to align with others ever more purposefully. "What can we create together?" "What can I contribute?" "What else is needed?" "How can we do this in a way that most honors each one of us?" The pace of transformation quickens. The aliveness of these purposeful "Soul Partnerships" attracts new people....more dreams are shared.…The pace of transformation quickens again.
Perhaps we are beginning to witness tentative new patterns of a more enlightened global civilization—a "butterfly civilization"—being formed by these voluntary partnerships of people drawn together by similar dreams and goals and values. Like the butterfly's tiny imaginal cells, we are each attracted by our deep inner impulses to play our appropriate parts—to do what gives us joy—and to support one another. We discover greater aliveness in our lives. The pace of transformation accelerates ever faster.
In recent decades, we have seen the emergence of almost a new "species" of person—one who thinks more collaboratively, who recognizes that the earth is one vast interconnected living system of which we are a part. Many of these people have been working alone or in small groups. Now we are coming together, seeking ways to build the New World of which we have been dreaming in our chrysalis….a way for human beings to live together in peace, health, prosperity and justice on our lovely Earth.
The Union of Concerned Scientists charts the Bush administration's suppression of information
December 21, 2006
By Jenna Fisher,Utne.com
Imagine a world where the current administration actually takes the advice of its leading scholars and scientists. We might have an effective plan for tackling global warming. The drugs our sick take might be safer. The air we breathe might be cleaner. But those ideas seem almost unfathomable in the midst of the Bush administration's systematic manipulation of scientific analyses generated by agencies such as the National Academy of Sciences and the Food and Drug Administration.
The Union of Concerned Scientists is determined to put the science back into the reports that have been through the administration's wringer. The group has an ongoing program to shed light on federal attempts to sidestep scientific integrity for the sake of policy positions. Since 2004, more than 10,000 scientists -- including more than 50 Nobel laureates -- have signed its petition calling on President Bush to, among other things, "return to the ethic and code of conduct which once fostered independent and objective scientific input into policy formation."
Now comes the latest and perhaps most publicly accessible weapon in the group's arsenal: an "A to Z" guide chronicling the government's suppression with a periodic table of seedy elements. More than 50 reports of misinformation are organized by color, date, and element. Take "Vo" -- for school vouchers -- as an example. If you click on that "element" you'll learn that "[i]n July 2006, Department of Education officials announced a $100 million proposal to fund vouchers for poor children to attend private schools, while at the same time keeping quiet about a study released just days earlier that showed private schools to be no more effective at educating children than public schools."
Select "L" -- coded orange for "pollution and contamination" category -- and you'll get the details on the closure of some 27 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) libraries (hence the "L") before budget cuts had actually been authorized by Congress. The budget cuts, which asked for an 80 percent slash, limited access to scientific information that could critically impact the United States by placing it beyond the reach of government scientists and independent researchers -- not to mention the public. "We think this is one of several actions the Bush administration is taking to lobotomize the EPA, to reduce its capability, so it's much less able to independently review industry submissions," Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a Washington-based nonprofit that advocates for federal environment employees, told the Christian Science Monitor.
That sentiment has been echoed across disciplines among those concerned that science is no longer driving scientific policy. As Dr. Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security, told the BBC, "It's very difficult to make good public policy without good science, and it's even harder to make good public policy with bad science."
Go there >> A to Z Guide to Political Interference in Science
Go there, too >> Scientific Integrity Program
And there >> As EPA Libraries Go Digital, Public Access Suffers
And there >> US Scientists Reject Interference
Thousands More Scientists Slam Bush Science Policies
Related Links from the Utne Reader Archive:
Emerging Ideas Roundup: Closing Time at EPA Libraries
The Pentagon Sounds the Alarm on Global Warming
Comments? Story tips? Write a letter to the editor
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Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Monday, December 18, 2006
One Punk Under God The son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker says that Jesus loves you, tattoos and all.
(from Mother Jones)
Dave Gilson December 13 , 2006
On a good Sunday, Jay Bakker’s storefront church in Brooklyn may attract as many as 30 worshippers. That’s alright with Bakker, the founder and pastor of Revolution, a nondenominational congregation that might be described as an anti-megachurch. Intimacy trumps grandeur in this “church for people who have given up on church.” It got its start in an Atlanta bar, luring wayward skaters and punks with a gospel of “ultimate grace,” a come-as-you-are theology that holds that God loves you, combat boots, body art, and all. Bakker, a pierced and heavily tatted 31-year-old, takes a casual yet passionate approach to his role, delivering sermons with titles such as “Nobody Likes a Selfish Bastard,” “Jesus: A Friend to Porn Stars,” and “Galatians Baby!”
Revolution’s modest message and alternative aesthetic are a far cry from the glitzy religious empire built by Bakker’s parents, televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. At its height in the early 1980s, their Praise the Lord ministry boasted 13 million viewers, raked in millions in donations, and ran the world’s largest Christian-themed resort. It all came crashing down in 1987, amid a sex scandal and accusations of greed and embezzlement. The Bakkers divorced, Jim went to prison for fraud, and Tammy’s tear-streaked mascara and fake eyelashes became a punch line. Jay Bakker, who was 11 at the time, hit the bottle, dropped out of high school, and felt that God had forsaken him.
Twenty years later, Bakker is a sober, self-taught preacher with a epiphany. “Whenever I went deeper into the Bible and went into the Greek or the Hebrew or the historical background,” he explains, “I was always afraid like, ‘OK, I’m gonna prove that God doesn’t love me.’ But it seemed that every time I studied deeper, it was actually good news. Sometimes it seems too good to be true.” For many mainstream Christians, Bakker's beliefs are too good to be true. Just ask Ted Haggard.
Bakker’s quiet revolution is the subject of “One Punk Under God,” a six-part documentary series that debuts on the Sundance Channel tonight. The series catches Bakker at a crossroads. As the first episode opens, his Atlanta church is humming along nicely, but he wants to officially accept gays and lesbians—a move that threatens his relationship with his financial backers and his co-founder, a conservative Boomer who’s been a father figure. Meanwhile, he’s trying to close the emotional distance between himself and his real dad, who’s remarried and launched “The New Jim Bakker Show.” He’s also tending to his mom, who’s battling colon cancer. And to complicate things, his wife isn’t so hot about his decision to be a preacher, and wants him to move to New York City, where she’s starting grad school.
“One Punk Under God” reveals the human side of a godly man without superhuman aspirations. Bakker has none of the punk-rock bravado suggested by his appearance nor his parents' showbiz chops. Instead, he comes off as unpolished, humble, and painfully honest about his family and his faults. “I don’t have a phone line to God anywhere in my house,” he says. Yet Bakker’s unassuming style is forceful in its own way. In one of “One Punk”’s most touching moments, Bakker reconnects with his father after two years, appearing on his dad’s show to talk about his philosophy (and show off his PTL tattoo). The elder Bakker tearfully declares that his once-estranged son “is what I should be but can not be.”
Jay Bakker spoke with MotherJones.com by phone from Brooklyn.
MotherJones.com: What lessons did you learn from your parents about what to do and what not to do as a preacher?
Jay Bakker: My parents always taught me to love people no matter what. My mom was reaching out to people with AIDS in the early ’80s. My parents always taught me to put other people first. But I saw my parents get in this trap where they created this huge ministry. They created a monster and they had to feed it. They had all these employees and facilities and bills, and all of a sudden they had to raise money all the time to keep all this stuff running. They got themselves between a rock and a hard place and I think that’s why, from a young age, I’ve been taking stands that haven’t been that popular. I didn’t want to have to compromise and I think there were times when my parents had to compromise some of their beliefs and ideas in order to keep their church going. [As a preacher] I just feel like I have to be honest; I couldn’t live with myself if I wasn’t. I think that’s why I’ve been able to reach some people who don’t feel comfortable in churches. I do make mistakes and I can be goofy and quirky sometimes. I’m not the world’s greatest speaker. I don’t try to hide that.
MJ.com: One thing that struck me is how you’ve put yourself in a leadership position where you freely admit you don’t know all the answers. And people literally embrace you for that.
JB: I don’t have all the answers. I grew up around people who told me they did, and then in the long run I found they didn’t. So I figured I better start out honest with people and stay that way. I think there’s pressure when you’re a pastor that you have to have all the answers, and if you don’t, your faith is built on sand. For me, faith is about believing in those things you can’t see and at times can’t understand. I’ve been really blessed to have people who are open to that and stick around. Not everyone does stick around, though.
MJ.com: So people have left Revolution because they realized you didn’t have all the answers?
JB: Well maybe not exactly that, but maybe not the answers they were looking for.
MJ.com: How do you describe Revolution in a nutshell?
JB: We’re really just a small church. We meet in bars. We’re a come-as-you-are-whoever-you-are kind of church. We’re a church about love and grace and acceptance and caring about people and at times agreeing to disagree.
MJ.com: You and [Revolution Atlanta pastor] Stu Damron have a fundamental disagreement on homosexuality but there’s been no split.
JB: I’ve seen churches split on the color of the paint on the walls. With me and Stu, we have a great love for each other and our love is bigger than one particular misunderstanding. I don’t think we can write someone off because they don’t see what I see or we haven’t gotten to the same place yet. Church splitting is ridiculous most of the time.
MJ.com: Have Stu’s views about being a gay-affirming church changed at all?
JB: I definitely think they’ve changed some. I think he’s become more open and sensitive to the issue. I don’t know exactly where he stands at this point. I do know he’s become more open, and that’s pretty cool.
MJ.com: “One Punk Under God” catches you right as you make the decision to make Revolution a gay-affirming church. How did you get to that point?
JB: It took me a long time to get there. I had a lot of gay friends and even had some congregation members who were gay, and I just wasn’t sure where I stood. In my heart, I was like, “How can I condemn these people for their love of one another?” I started looking deeper into the Bible and studying and then I went to a [gay-affirming] church. It all came together at one point. One of my friends came out, and I ran into one of my old camp counselors who had come out. I was like, “This is so strange—all these people who have been important parts of my life are all coming out and are being asked to leave their church or not having anything to do with their church anymore.” It kind of took a while because I knew I’d be risking everything. I knew this particular decision would cause me to lose a lot and would cause the church to hurt.
MJ.com: Has the church been just as strong since that decision?
JB: The church is going well, but we haven’t been supported. We lost a lot of financial support and I’ve lost most of my speaking engagements. News traveled fast.
MJ.com: Can you talk more about the founding principle of your church, the idea of grace, and what that means?
JB: I always thought I had to earn God’s love and approval; I always thought I had to please God. I kept trying, but it never seemed like I could do it, and I thought, “Man, what’s wrong with me?” A friend of mine was like, “Man, you’re full of it. You’re trying to do what Christ has already done: You’re trying to earn your salvation and you can’t—it’s a free gift.” It sounded too good to be true. He said, “You need to start reading the Bible for yourself and stop taking everyone else’s word for it.” When I really started to do this, I realized God loved me no matter what. His love for me wasn’t going to change no matter how good I was or how bad I was. There was something very liberating about that. It actually changed my heart and made me want to follow God more. I got into a 12-step program and have been sober for about 10 and a half years now.
MJ.com: So even though there’s this come-as-you-are philosophy, you’re trying to become a better person, just not in the way mainstream churches advocate.
JB: It’s like not having expectations on other peoples lives. It’s like trusting God in other people’s lives, which I think is a very scary thing for people. When it’s grace, it’s all about God. When it’s legalism or man’s religion, it’s more about what we can do to please God or what we can do to perform. It seems to be more about control, because just trusting God is a little bit harder. I try to love my neighbor as myself but I’m not trying to be a people pleaser. Sometimes that’s hard, because my human nature is to want people to be happy with me. But sometimes I feel my convictions are so great that it would be compromising the truth if I didn’t do that. So sometimes it’s a struggle to say, “This is what I think; this is what I believe, and if you don’t agree with me, oh well.” The hardest thing for people to accept is the gay-affirming issue. It’s hard for people to agree to disagree on that one.
MJ.com: Your dad was recently in New York preaching at Revolution. He seems to have adopted the idea of grace. What are the similarities and differences between his and your beliefs?
JB: We have a lot of differences. [Grace] is something that’s pretty new for him. The difference is, I’ve been talking about this for 10 years and he’s been talking about it for not even six months. He’s sitting with me saying, “Jay, God loves us,” and it’s funny, because those are things I was telling him years ago. I usually don’t get places before my dad does. It’s even helped our relationship; we have some more common ground to talk about. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs.
MJ.com: What appeals to you about punk culture and the punk aesthetic? How do you think they overlap with Christianity?
JB: In high school I had a lot of punk friends and have always been attracted to punk rock music. When we first started Revolution, I was a skater and we were reaching out to skateboarders and hippies. I like the loyalty that’s in the punk rock scene, but I don’t really consider myself a punk rocker. I’ve sung in bands; I’ve hung out in tattoo parlors a lot, so I got a lot of tattoos. A lot of my friends were tattoo artists. It was just the culture that I was in and was involved in; it wasn’t a premeditated thing like, “Oh, we’re gonna be a punk-rock church.” If you came to our church you’d realize there are only one or two people who consider themselves punk rock. [Punk’s] loyalty and not conforming to what everyone else is into—that’s definitely something that we are. That’s who Jesus was. He was crucified, in my opinion, because he didn’t conform; he loved everybody. He was inclusive rather than exclusive. And that made a lot of people angry. That’s the way I try to live. I don’t probably live that way all the time, but I try to.
MJ.com: In one episode, you say, “I hate Christian politics.” Were you talking about internal church politics or the church getting into politics?
JB: Probably the internal politics, but I’m not a big fan of the church getting involved in politics, either. I don’t think you can say there is a Christian party.
MJ.com: You preached about Ted Haggard a few weeks ago. What was your response to his scandal?
JB: Well, my response was that we may not see eye-to-eye with this guy, but he deserves to be restored. He deserves to be loved and helped. To me, it was sad because I felt like he was automatically kicked out of the church. Why do we keep doing this, when the church is about forgiveness? Jesus explains that the church is like a hospital. But this hospital doesn’t want to let any sick people in. I feel like people like that have had to lead these secret lives because they’re so afraid of how people will react. I think we have to get to the point where we’re restoring people and caring for them, and when they fall, we pick them up. My thing is that we need to love this guy and pray for him and his family and open our homes to him if need be. I don’t know if he wants to come sleep on my futon here in Brooklyn, but he’s welcome to if he’d like.
MJ.com: How is New York treating Revolution?
JB: It’s the best it’s ever been. I’m really happy here. I love New York. It’s made me realize that God’s a lot bigger than I thought he was. It’s a really interesting crowd. We have an agnostic person who comes on a regular basis, a transgender person who said that they found our church because they we’re looking for a church that wouldn’t hate them. The congregation is really great. My mom is really sick with cancer, so I’ve been gone a lot and members of the congregation have been getting up and speaking. I’m starting to realize that we’ve become a church of people instead of a church with this head guy. There’s something really neat about that because I don’t think it’s fair for them to think that I have this hotline to God. Too often we put these pastors up on pedestals and make it all about the man of God. That’s something I’m really excited to be getting away from.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Homelessness Begins at Home
By Samantha Topol, The Believer
The Homeless Museum is part parody of established New York museums (its PR director is a taxidermied coyote), and part commentary on how we relate to poverty in a culture of affluence. Installations like the "Homeless Simulator" and "$0.00 Collection" aim at provoking discussion on poverty -- a mission aided by director of development "Madame Butterfly" and founder Filip Noterdaeme, who occasionally jumpstart dialogue as visitors tour the vagabond gallery. The literally homeless museum is currently squatting in Noterdaeme's Brooklyn apartment. --
Jenna Fisher for Utne Reader
Read Samantha Topol's article at:
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
On my recent trip by Greyhound bus across the country to Ohio I was shocked to see the proliferation of Wal-Marts and Starbucks. In my home county there is a recently opened Wal-Mart Superstore on the edge of town. To hear the people talk about it, you would think they were talking about going too church. Consumerism is a religion in this culture. But could the passion for low prices be undermining the foundation of a strong economy that puts most of us in a position to purchase the goods and services we want?
The following is an introduction to a very informative Frontline Documentary from PBS. To see the show go to http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/walmart/ and click on "Program Online" in the upper right hand corner.
In Circleville, Ohio, population 13,000, the local RCA television-manufacturing plant was once a source of good jobs with good pay and benefits. But in late 2003, RCA's owner, Thomson Consumer Electronics, lost a sizeable portion of its production orders and six months later shut the plant down, throwing 1,000 people out of work.
Thomson's jobs have moved to China, where cheap labor manufactures what the American consumer desires -- from clothing to electronics -- and can buy at "everyday low prices" at the local Wal-Mart.
FRONTLINE explores the relationship between U.S. job losses and the American consumer's insatiable desire for bargains in "Is Wal-Mart Good for America?" Through interviews with retail executives, product manufacturers, economists, and trade experts, correspondent Hedrick Smith examines the growing controversy over the Wal-Mart way of doing business and asks whether a single retail giant has changed the American economy.
"Wal-Mart's power and influence are awesome," Smith says. "By figuring out how to exploit two powerful forces that converged in the 1990s -- the rise of information technology and the explosion of the global economy -- Wal-Mart has dramatically changed the balance of power in the world of business. Retailers are now more powerful than manufacturers, and they are forcing the decision to move production offshore."
"Wal-Mart has reversed a hundred-year history that had the retailer dependent on the manufacturer," explains Nelson Lichtenstein, a professor at the University of California Santa Barbara. "Now the retailer is the center, the power, and the manufacturer becomes the serf, the vassal, the underling who has to do the bidding of the retailer. That's a new thing."
To understand the secret of Wal-Mart's success, Smith travels from the company's headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., to their global procurement center in Shenzhen, China, where several hundred employees work to keep the company's import pipeline running smoothly. Of Wal-Mart's 6,000 global suppliers, experts estimate that as many as 80 percent are based in China.
"Wal-Mart has a very close relationship with China," says Duke University Professor Gary Gereffi. "China is the largest exporter to the U.S. economy in virtually all consumer goods categories. Wal-Mart is the leading retailer in the U.S. economy in virtually all consumer goods categories. Wal-Mart and China are a joint venture."
When trade agreements were signed between the U.S. and China in the 1990s, bringing China into the World Trade Organization, American political and business leaders embraced the idea. China's 1.2 billion people were viewed as an enormous untapped market for American-made goods. The reality, experts say, is the opposite. China's exports to the U.S. have skyrocketed.
At a salary of only 50 cents an hour or $100 a month, Chinese labor is an unbeatable bargain for international business. And the Chinese government is doing everything it can to be sure the country's infrastructure supports the export business. Ten years ago Shenzhen's main port did not exist. Today it's on the verge of becoming the third busiest port in the world.
Wal-Mart estimates it imports $15 billion of Chinese goods every year and concedes that the figure could be higher -- some estimates range as high as $20 or $30 billion. Company executives are quick to point out they have always scoured the globe for low cost suppliers to benefit the American consumer.
"We do depend on products from around the globe to draw our consumers into the stores," says Ray Bracy, Wal-Mart's vice president for federal and international public affairs. "We feel they need to have the best product, the best value, at the best price we can achieve."
Some experts contend Wal-Mart's "everyday low prices" are causing a clash between the interests of Americans as workers and the desires of Americans as consumers.
"If people were only consumers, buying things at lower prices would be just good. But people also are workers who need to earn a decent standard of living," says economist Larry Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute. "The dynamics that create lower prices at Wal-Mart and other places are also undercutting the ability of many, many workers to earn decent wages and benefits and have a stable life."
Economist Brink Lindsey of the Cato Institute sees it another way. "I think Wal-Mart is good for America," he says. "Wal-Mart is doing what the American economy is all about, which is producing things consumers want to buy … offering consumers a wide range of goods at rock-bottom prices. It is meeting the market test."
This is little consolation to the unemployed workers back in Circleville, Ohio. Steve Ratcliff, a long-time worker at the Thomson plant puts it simply: "If you want these low prices, then you go buy your products from Wal-Mart. But what does that actually do for this country? It's putting people out of work. And it's lowering our standard of living. That's the bottom line."
Ironically, for Ratcliff and his former colleagues, there are new jobs coming to town. In a patch of farmland right next to the vacant Thomson plant, Wal-Mart has broken ground on one of its new Supercenters. But the Wal-Mart jobs will represent a steep cut in pay from the $15 to $16 an hour workers made at Thomson, and a far cry from the pension, health care, and job security benefits that have long been the norm in manufacturing.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
A friend of my posted this in the Hippie Museum group.
DR. PHIL: The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize
that he must first deal with the problem on "THIS" side of the road
before it goes after the problem on the "OTHER SIDE" of the road. What
we need to do is help him realize how stupid he's acting by not taking
on his "CURRENT" problems before adding "NEW" problems.
OPRAH: Well I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is
why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the
chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of
life, I'm going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive
across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road.
We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or
not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle
DONALD RUMSFELD: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see
the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.
ANDERSON COOPER/CNN: We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but
we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.
JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am
now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about
the chicken's intentions. I am for it now, and will remain against it.
JUDGE JUDY: That chicken crossed the road because he's GUILTY! You can
see it in his eyes and the way he walks.
PAT BUCHANAN: To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.
MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was
going. I had a standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs
when the price dropped to a certain level.
DR SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad?
Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.
ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die in the rain. Alone.
JERRY FALWELL: Because the chicken was gay! Can't you people see the
plain truth in front of your face? The chicken was going to the "other
side." That's why they call it the "other side. Yes, my friends, that
chicken is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay too.
I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that
the liberal media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like
"the other side." That chicken should not be free to cross the road.
It's as plain and simple as that!
GRANDPA: In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road.
Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.
BARBARA WALTERS: Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be
listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming
story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to
accomplish its life long dream of crossing the road.
JOHN LENNON: Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads
together - in peace.
ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.
BILL GATES: I have just released eChicken2006, which will not only
cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and
balance your check book. Internet explorer is an integral part of
eChicken. The Platform is much more stable and will never cra.#@&&^( C
ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the
road move beneath the chicken?
BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with THAT chicken. What is your
definition of chicken?
AL GORE: I invented the chicken!
COLONEL SANDERS: Did I miss one?
Monday, December 11, 2006
By Alister Doyle
Sat Dec 9, 4:46 PM ET
World poverty could be consigned to museums if banks and governments stimulate the creative energies of millions of poor people, Muhammad Yunus, the winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, said on Saturday.
Mainstream banks will come under pressure to lend to the poor after the award to Yunus and his Grameen Bank, the pioneer of microcredits, the maverick Bangladeshi predicted.
"When it's said that a banker got the Nobel Peace Prize it sounds funny," he told a news conference on the eve of the award ceremony in Oslo, triggering laughter.
"A Nobel Peace Prize for a banker? Other (bankers) will say: 'What are we? Why can't we get one?"'
Yunus will receive the $1.5 million prize with his Grameen Bank, which specializes in microcredits to the poor.
"With the Nobel Peace Prize a lot of discussion will go on in the boards of the banks," said Yunus, whose autobiography is called "Banker to the Poor."
Mainstream banks still have not opened their doors to poorer people and Yunus said they could create specialized microcredit branches or invent new ways to lend.
"Go to the poorest people, even the beggars -- we lend money to the beggars," he said. "We have done it. You can do better than we did because you have longer experience."
Peace prizes usually go to politicians, campaigners for human rights or worthy U.N. institutions. Yunus, 66, said the 2006 Nobel Prize had shown "poverty is a threat to peace. It's been talked about but never said in such a resounding manner."
The award also showed the importance of including everyone in the financial system.
Set up in 1976, Grameen Bank is a pioneer of microcredits, tiny loans of perhaps $50 that enable poor people to start up businesses by buying a cow, some chickens or materials for weaving baskets or other handicrafts.
Unlike mainstream banks, Grameen does not demand collateral and willingly reschedules loan repayments. Grameen has 7 million clients in Bangladesh, 97 percent of them women and almost no one defaults.
Grameen has given interest-free loans to 85,000 beggars. The microcredit system had been imitated in more than 100 countries, from the United States to Saudi Arabia.
"Poverty museums" could be set up country by country, or city by city, as poverty was eradicated, Yunus said.
"If you continue to do that we will create a world which will be a poverty-free world and we will have a global poverty museum to say 'goodbye to poverty on this planet'.
"It's possible, and I believe in it," he said.
He said Bangladesh was on track to do its bit to meet a U.N. goal of halving the worst poverty by 2015. "If Bangladesh can do it, anybody can do it," he said.
Mainstream banks had been ignoring him for years, he said, but that was changing.
"When I screamed at that time people hardly heard me because my voice didn't go very far. Now with the Nobel Peace Prize I only have to whisper and the whole world hears loud and clear."
Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited.
An effective poverty reduction strategy
Microfinance is often considered one of the most effective and flexible strategies in the fight against global poverty. It is sustainable and can be implemented on the massive scale necessary to respond to the urgent needs of those living on less than $1 a day, the World’s poorest.
Microfinance consists of making small loans, usually less than $200, to individuals, usually women, to establish or expand a small, self-sustaining business. For example, a woman may borrow $50 to buy chickens so she can sell eggs. As the chickens multiply, she will have more eggs to sell. Soon she can sell the chicks. Each expansion pulls her further from the devastation of poverty.
Microfinance, the Grameen way, includes several support systems that contribute greatly to its success. Microfinance institutions offer business advice and counseling, while clients provide peer support for each other through solidarity circles. For example, if a client falls ill, her circle helps with her business until she is well. If a client gets discouraged, the support group pulls her through. This contributes substantially to the extremely high repayment rate of loans made to microfinance entrepreneurs.
An equally important part of microfinance is the recycling of funds. As loans are repaid, usually in six months to a year, they are re-loaned. This continual reinvestment multiplies the impact of each dollar loaned.
Microfinance has a positive impact far beyond the individual client. The vast majority of the loans go to women because studies have shown that women are more likely to reinvest their earnings in the business and in their families. As families cross the poverty line and micro-businesses expand, their communities benefit. Jobs are created, knowledge is shared, civic participation increases, and women are recognized as valuable members of their families and communities.
From The Grameen Foundation
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Doorway to the Stars
If you close your eyes and release your imagination all things are possible. A simple cabinet door can be a portal to another world. A world where the sky filled with planets looks very different from the one we know. A world where mighty pyramids channelling energy to receptive minds, sit quite comfortably alongside fairy castles - a world where you will find wonder and tranquillity. Stay a while and dip your feet in the river of peace. You will feel refreshed.
This is from the incredible paintings of Josephine Wall. Check out her story and her works at http://www.josephinewall.co.uk/josephine.html
Friday, December 08, 2006
BCS Determines No Team Worthy Of Facing Ohio State In Championship Game
December 7, 2006 The Onion Issue 42•49
COLUMBUS, OH—In what many BCS officials are citing as "proof that their flawless system indeed works," no Division 1-A college football team was found to possess the sheer excellence required to face Ohio State, the No. 1 ranked team since the season began, in this year's BCS Championship game.
"The main job of the BCS is to place the best football players in the nation in a single game in order to decide the national champion," said BCS chairman Mike Coleman. "This year, our computer took hours to process the polls' relevant data—by which I mean the opinions of the nation's finest sportscasters, sports-radio hosts, coaches, color commentators, and ESPN The Magazine contributors—and determined that no championship game is necessary. No team in America deserves to even step on the same field as Ohio State, let alone actually play in a game against them."
"It's good to know that, after the Harris and the USA Today polls carefully and painstakingly take care of the fallible, emotional, potentially biased human element of the ranking through old-fashioned voting, the BCS then takes that human element and subjects it to its own infallible rigid mathematical formulas," Coleman continued. "It's a confidence-inspiring system that has never failed us before."
"Although I'll be the first to admit that previous years have usually featured some sort of game," Coleman added.
According to Coleman, the University of Florida's lackluster running game and one-loss season, USC's "abominable" offense and two losses, and Michigan having already lost to Ohio State 42-39 seemed to be the determining factors in the BCS's decision. Coleman also said that Ohio State clearly being the most popular and exciting team in college football didn't hurt. However, Coleman insisted on adamantly stating for the record that the BCS is not a popularity contest.
"I think this year more than any other year proves that the BCS is working," ESPN College GameDay anchor Lee Corso said during a live broadcast from Ohio State's campus. "The system does an excellent job taking into consideration things that poll voters don't even think about: strength of schedule, whether or not the team won their conference, total distance the teams' fans are willing to travel for bowl games, average amount spent on souvenirs by alumni, and grade point average. After all those things, it's Ohio State, baby. And only Ohio State."
Corso then put on the costume head of Ohio State mascot Brutus Buckeye and was met with cheers from thousands of students.
"My guys were disappointed at first, but they eventually understood," said Michigan coach Lloyd Carr. "We had our chance against Ohio State and we blew it, and I guess a rematch would be boring. But can you blame us for thinking we had a chance? Sure, Troy Smith is easily the best player ever, and that defense, well, quite frankly, I'd be afraid for our guys' safety if we had to go up against that defense again, but our fans are rabidly single-minded and a lot of them have poll votes."
"I wish Bo Schembechler had lived to see this," Carr added. "He had a vote in the poll, you know."
Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer agreed with Carr, saying that even if his team had been offered a chance to play Ohio State, he may not have taken it.
"We don't deserve to play Ohio State. Period," Meyer said, adding that though Florida had a tough schedule, being the SEC champion was not the same thing as being Ohio State. "Every coach that I know voted for Ohio State in the coaches' poll, or at least had them second after their own team. In any case, I can certainly see why no one who votes in the BCS wants the national championship to be decided by a mere football game."
All coaches interviewed supported Meyer's claim, with the notable exception of Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis, who said that despite his team's two losses, weak schedule, and unremarkable defense, he still felt in his heart that Notre Dame deserved a chance at the title—a feeling that, according to a BCS official who wished to remain anonymous, was not completely overruled.
"First of all, I should note that although Notre Dame is an independent, and a highly regarded independent at that, it does not have its own special set of rules as far as determining its football team's rankings," the official said. "Instead, we use a special set of mathematical algorithms to determine its football team's rankings, which the BCS specifically determines only after ranking all the other teams. And though I shouldn't say this, we—er, the computer—would have dearly loved to have seen Notre Dame in the championship."
The Fox network has announced that in place of the game on January 8, it will broadcast four hours of Buckeye players working out in preparation for the 2007 NFL draft.
© Copyright 2006, Onion, Inc. All rights reserved.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Monday, December 04, 2006
Amma says, "The real purpose of life is to experience what is beyond this physical existence. However, each one looks at life differently. Most human beings see life as a constant struggle for survival. Such people believe in the theory, "The fittest will survive". They are satisfied with the normal way of living- for example, getting a house, a job, a car, a wife, a husband, children and enough money to live. Yes, these are important things, and we need to focus on our day-to-day lives and to take care of our responsibilities and obligations, small and big.
But there is more to life, a higher purpose, which is to know and realize who we are. By knowing who we are, we gain everything. A feeling of complete fullness, with absolutely nothing else to gain in life. That realization makes life perfect. Regardless of all we have accumulated or are striving to acquire, for most people life still feels incomplete - like the letter "C". This gap, or lack, will always be there. Only spiritual knowledge and realization of Self can fill the gap and unite the two ends, which will make it like the letter, "O". The knowledge of "That" alone will help us feel well-grounded in the real center of life.
Spirituality is not blind faith; it is the ideal that eliminates darkness. It is the principle that teaches us to face any adverse circumstance or obstacle with a smile. Spirituality is the teaching for the mind."
Someone asked Amma, "Why should one follow the spiritual path?"
Amma replied, "This is like the seed asking, "Why should I go beneath the soil, sprout and grow upward?"
Excerpted from the book "From Amma's Heart"
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder,has spurred a National Dialogue among educators, health professionals, parents, developers and conservationists.
In this influential work about the staggering divide between children and the outdoors, child advocacy expert Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation—he calls it nature-deficit—to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression.
Last Child in the Woods is the first book to bring together a new and growing body of research indicating that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. More than just raising an alarm, Louv offers practical solutions and simple ways to heal the broken bond—and many are right in our own backyard.
For more information about The Children and Nature Network visit their website at http://www.cnaturenet.org/
Social Healing for a Fractured World
A Summary Report to the Fetzer Institute
Judith Thompson & James O’Dea Shift Shift Issue #7 4(2 ratings)
Since 1997, a worldwide series of dialogues has taken place among a diverse group of practitioners engaged in reconciliation, restorative justice, trauma healing, peacebuilding, educational development, and human rights approaches for addressing and transforming collective social wounds. These conversations were funded by the Fetzer Institute and co-facilitated by Judith Thompson, an internationally recognized peacebuilder and researcher, and James O'Dea, now president of IONS. Earlier this year the results of these dialogues were delivered in a report to Fetzer. We feel privileged to share the findings with you.
Around the world, new ideas and initiatives are arising to address intractable conflicts and complex intergenerational wounding. Previous approaches to "social transformation" have much wisdom and insight to offer, but their solutions are often incomplete, leaving out the fullness of human experience and the influence of larger social systems. Methodologies directed at justicemaking, conflict resolution, and social change have all matured as disciplines in an era of specialization. Political psychologists, for example, in keeping with the dominant paradigm for understanding the psyche, have often overlooked the spiritual dimension of human life. Traditional diplomacy has generally focused on negotiated settlements that ignore festering resentments and thus do little to heal the underlying social wounds. While each has mastered part of the required skills for social healing, they neglect other essential dimensions. But things are changing.
Social wounds involve multiple dimensions of societies and individuals. Many now believe that to truly heal the greater social body requires addressing the healing needs of individuals and the transformation of social institutions concurrently. Truth, justice, compassion, and peace all appear to be necessary elements in social healing. This means drawing intelligently from the insights of psychologists, peacebuilders, human rights advocates, religious leaders, and traditional healers. Healing a social wound at the root level asks for an integrated approach that honors all facets of our nature and offers strategies for the use of various tools.
The primary element that makes the emerging discipline of social healing unique is its intrinsic holism. It understands both humans and societies as complicated systems. It sees the importance of structural reform in tandem with more personal work around trauma, shame, and violence. Social health, it claims, must take into account all dimensions, from the personal to the political, from the biological to the spiritual. Legal redress is not enough. Personal forgiveness is not enough. True social healing involves change on many levels.
This holism extends to epistemology: Practitioners regard information that comes from bodily experience, from ritual, from relationship, and from spiritual knowing as valid sources of data. The role of inquiry and dialogue is vital to this process--a form of participatory discovery that emerges when people have a chance to interact with each other.
A coherent vision of social healing thus has begun to emerge, developed by a diverse and international group of visionaries and practitioners. We witness people like genocide survivor, artist, and peacemaker Arn Chorn Pond from Cambodia, whose consistent and often painful self-reflection, public testimony, and work in the field have produced a deep and intimate understanding of the inner processes of "the wounded healer." South African Reverend Michael Lapsley, who was severely maimed by a bomb meant to kill him, has gone on to create a worldwide movement for "the healing of memories," bringing together former aggressors and victims to facilitate acknowledgement, apology, remorse, truth, compassionate witnessing, and forgiveness.
Second-generation Holocaust survivor Mary Rothschild and former Hitler Youth Gottfried Leich have journeyed through the fear, trauma, shame, and guilt of the past to a miracle that Gottfried called "a bridge across the abyss" and which Mary called "emotional restitution." These two individuals and others from the organization One by One have taken to heart Martin Buber's invitation to meet on a narrow ridge where "I-Thou" encounters reveal the "in-between"--that place where a greater knowing and truth reside.
Father Leonel Narvaez is starting schools of forgiveness and reconciliation in Colombia, bringing to a culture of violence seeds of new possibility through honoring the humanity in guerilla fighters, paramilitary youth, and victimized villagers alike. Abdul Aziz Said, Director of the Center for Global Peace at American University, is teaching the power of love to graduate students at one of the most distinguished training grounds for diplomats. Career diplomat Joe Montville, an early pioneer in this field, has been altering the landscape of diplomacy and international relations by challenging old models of top-down negotiating and encouraging a multiplicity of nongovernmental approaches to peacebuilding.
Through dialogue, storytelling, compassionate listening, and healing circles, such exemplars are helping individuals to overcome their sense of "otherness" and to move from suffering to joy through connection to the whole. In this way, the work of social healing is helping to soften our well-habituated identity frames and open up a door to a greater sense of "We."
The Field Takes Shape
As an emerging discipline, social healing does not yet have commonly accepted definitions. For now, it is most accurate to talk about the emerging contours of the field.
The first broad contour relates to the recognition of "mind" or "consciousness" as a core aspect of the social healing process, both individually and collectively. Just as medical research has discovered the links between a person's mind (thoughts, feelings, emotions) and body, social healing views the social mind--our commonly held images, attitudes, beliefs, and collective traumas--as instrumental in shaping and creating either the repetitive feedback loop of victim/perpetrator or the liberation from it. In the same way that spirituality, forgiveness, healing, and love play a pivotal role in social healing on a personal level, organized efforts to build peace cultures can create language, images, and processes that promote awareness and loving-kindness on the collective level.
Social healing is thus seen as multidirectional and includes an assumption of micro (individual), mezzo (cultural institutions), and macro (societal) relatedness. It follows from this assumption that social wounds are, in some sense, held in the social "body"--the shared structures of meaning that bond societies together. As a result, the healing process for social groups requires not only the transformation of personal consciousness, but also intersubjective and system-wide transformations, which are themselves interactive and interdependent.
This means that social healing looks at structural issues together with spiritual issues and understands that they are linked. Traditional structural issues of justice-- economic, political, social, and cultural--are all honored as primary to social healing. They are seen as seamlessly connected to the quality of our awareness, the expression of compassion in action, and the truth of interdependence. Social location (as conferred by race/birth), privilege, and power are "spiritual concerns" that we must embrace as aspects of being in the here and now of our own culture. The truth is that "We are all one" and "We are not all one." Both absolute and relative realities must be held simultaneously; both universal and particular lenses are necessary to perceive what is true and meaningful to the project of social healing.
Social healing practitioners in the United States, for example, need to be mindful about not overlooking our own context of power in the world or the legacy of systematic imbalances created by a history of slavery, genocide of native peoples, discriminatory policies, and an ongoing mentality of punitive and retributive reactions to wrongdoing. A social healing awareness must extend to our responsibility for the greater whole and the impact that our own privileges may have on others. In other words, truth and reconciliation are crucial processes to take seriously in all contexts. In that spirit, social healing practitioners honor the role of truth in countering false narratives and myths that provide the foundation for systematic oppression and dehumanization. From the Nuremburg Trials to Nunca Más (focusing on the "disappeared" of Guatemala) to South Africa's addressing of apartheid injustices, a truthful recounting of the past is a necessary antidote to the systemic lies that often shield social wounds.
The Work Begins . . .
Human evolution is replete with widespread trauma and wounding. We carry into the 21st century the burden of hundreds of millions of people who have experienced the ravages of genocide, human rights violations, racial oppression, and ethnic conflict. At the same time, before we have reached the halfway point of the first decade of the new millennium, new wars, violent strife and neglect have added millions of additional victims to the toll of those who are psychologically, emotionally, and physically scarred and wounded. Some psychologists have suggested that human culture as a whole has been saturated by unhealed wounding, which, if unchecked, will continue on a downward spiral toward inevitable violent disintegration.
Transitioning from violence and massive social wounding to building peaceful and just futures is no easy journey; the complexity lies in finding the balance between truth, justice, peace, and mercy. All of these are necessities for healing and none can be ignored. Reconciliation is also a multigenerational task, not an immediate fix. In the end, each attempt at social healing on the macro level offers not only more insights into how it might be done better, but elicits more reflection, creates a deeper conversation, and gives birth to new ideas.
JUDITH THOMPSON, PHD, directs the Compassion and Social Healing Initiative, in affiliation with the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding. She is a former Peace Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard, co-founder of an award-winning youth leadership organization, Children of War, and is currently assisting the Greensboro (North Carolina) Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
JAMES O'DEA, president of IONS, is the former director of the Washington, DC, office of Amnesty International, and former executive director of the Seva Foundation. He speaks to groups around the world on issues of personal and global healing