by: Sigfried Gold on December 4th, 2013 | No Comments »
Economic and power relations are the place where any set of lofty religious or humanistic ideals come to ground, where the rubber hits the road. And for those atheists who care about making a better world (rather than just making religious people look dumb) this is a place where atheists and the religious can help each other face a most formidable, perennial, intractable challenge: how to structure institutions for the benefit of their members or the public at large while discouraging exploitation and the use of institutional power for the private gain of trusted leaders.
My current favorite of the atheist religions–which don’t generally consider themselves religions–is Nonviolent Communication or NVC, and I was confirmed in my positive regard for the NVC movement when I came upon this piece by Miki Kashtan on Tikkun’s blog addressing crucial questions of money, higher values and inner peace. Kashtan attacks the problem of money in a mode of full-fledged utopian dreamery, offering ideas and experiments that point toward the reform of our society’s whole economic exchange structure. She summarizes some of her intentions thus:
In how I engage with money and resources, I continually strive to move closer to my vision of how I want to see these operate in the world at large. I aim to move from considering exchange value to valuing people and life; from seeing relationships through the lens of exchange to participating in a flow of generosity; from allocating resources based on output equity to caring for everyone’s needs; from making things happen based on the ever-s-subtle coercion of money incentive to complete and wholehearted willingness; from thinking about our merit to sharing our gifts; and from wondering about what someone “deserves” to contributing to everyone receiving all we need. (Miki Kashtan, personal communication)
But I want to focus on a specific problem she raises: how can she offer her services as a trained NVC teacher and practitioner in a way that is consistent with her values? She is, from what I can gather, in considerable demand in the NVC world, but many of the people and organizations who would like her help have little money to pay for it. Does she sell her services only to those who can afford it? No, that would not fit her values. But how can she meet her own financial needs otherwise?
by: Jack Gabriel on December 3rd, 2013 | No Comments »
You can usually tell if a recording is inspired from the opening twenty seconds. There is a certain energy, a certain élan, that takes you from the ordinary to the special, from genesis to realization, quite quickly, perhaps in two dozen heartbeats.
There are many such songs on the new CD ,”The Human Project”, the first solo release by Gabriel Meyer Halevy. There are striking anthems, which celebrate the diversity and harmony of humanity. There are delicate ballads, and gracefully rhythmic pieces, that mesh South American, Arabic, Mizrachi and Far Eastern nuances. Their fusion sounds organic and natural. Paul Simon’s Afro-Gospel-Doo Wop and Idan Raichel’s Ethiopean-Spanish-Israeli pieces come to mind. The lyrics very much support the music. It is as if the words and melodies are passed from voice to voice, in Spanish, Hebrew and Arabic, effortlessly enriching songs with multiple translations. It draws you into a sweet and exciting space. That’s no easy feat, and that’s what makes this recording so successful and special.
by: Allen L Roland on December 3rd, 2013 | 1 Comment »
(Permafrost in Siberia. Methane emissions from the Arctic permafrost increased by 31% from 2003-07/ Photograph: Francis Latreille/Corbis)
Experts say methane emissions from the Arctic have risen by almost one-third in just five years, and that sharply rising temperatures are to blame.What very few people understand are both the short and long range consequences for the planet in regards to a sudden increase in Methane emissions.
As the Guardian points out:
This recent discovery follows a string of reports from the region in recent years that previously frozen boggy soils are melting and releasing methane in greater quantities. Such Arctic soils currently lock away billions of tons of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide,leading some scientists to describe melting permafrost as a ticking time bomb that could overwhelm efforts to tackle climate change.
by: Michael Hulshof-Schmidt on November 27th, 2013 | 20 Comments »
(Credit: CC-BY-NC-SA by Hutson Hayward)
Last night we inadvertently caught about 5 minutes of the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving episode, just enough to hear Linus declare: “… We thank God for the opportunity to create the New World for freedom and justice.” Irony much? What an extraordinarily white perspective that does not align with reality. Freedom and Justice for whom?
I often wonder: as North Americans, do we collectively and conveniently choose to forget the genocide of the native peoples living in North America, the use of bio-warfare? Yes, multi-generations of white folk have benefitted from the slaughtering of indigenous populations in North America, from stealing land and causing the loss of many languages and cultures. It is ironic that the early survival of the Plymouth colony depended so heavily on the agricultural and fishing advice of the Wampanoag.
The whole idea of a “first Thanksgiving” is historically murky at best, with both religious and civil harvest festivals easily traceable to the Spanish in St. Augustine and British colonies in Jamestown and Plymouth. The native populations also had histories of harvest festivals, thus rendering a colonizer’s claim of “first” another in a series of misappropriations. Regular Thanksgiving celebrations as fixed civil events became common much later, dating to the 1660s.
by: David Weinstein on November 26th, 2013 | 4 Comments »
(Credit: CC-BY-NC-SA by Nove foto da Firenze)
By now most of us have seen photos and heard reports of the heartrending loss of life and destruction from Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. The monster storm has affected 11 million people and destroyed 670,000 homes. Blown-out towns have been reduced to grim junkyards of rubble. It seems beyond words. But words and images are all we have from afar, so I will ask a few questions and try to connect a few dots.
The shock of this sheer devastation has aroused the compassion of the American people, perhaps evoking memories of September 11. But at the same time, not enough of us are talking about the connection between extreme weather incidents and climate change. There is a grim irony in the fact that the UN Conference on Climate Change was meeting in Warsaw at the same time as Haiyan. It’s an outrageous reality that this body has reached no agreement about curtailing greenhouse gases and global warming.
This is basically because the United States Congress steadfastly refuses to pass any clean energy legislation commensurate to the clear and present danger of catastrophic global warming, despite Super Storm Sandy, droughts, floods, and wildfires on our own shores. Why is this, especially since the majority of Americans support its government taking action to fight global warming? One can only conclude that our government values profits of the dirty energy sector over the well-being and lives of their own citizens.
by: Beverly Alves on November 22nd, 2013 | 4 Comments »
(Credit: Creative Commons)
Sarah Palin has done a terrible injustice to humane, caring, and coordinated health care. Palliative care is a medical specialty which provides coordinated, comprehensive care to reduce pain and suffering, while trying to heal or cure anyone who is given a life-threatening or life altering diagnosis. Sadly, without any factual or medical knowledge of palliative care, Mrs. Palin called this essential medical care “death panels.” Because of her, and some others, palliative care was removed as a covered benefit from the Affordable Care Act. Dr. Diane Meier, Director of CAPC (The Center to Advance Palliative Care)at Mt Sinai, spent a year in DC trying to get palliative care into the Affordable Care Act; however, at the last minute it was removed as a covered benefit because of the fear created by Palin and others calling it”death panels.”
Sadly, Mrs. Palin is back on the scene and is continuing to make remarks about “death panels,” reinforcing this idea in her latest video. Unfortunately surveys indicate that many Americans believe still believe this. I have written this Open Letter to Mrs. Palin to help educate people and try to undo some of the harm she and others have done. It is my hope that people will learn about this essential care, ask for it if/when it is needed, and contact their elected officials to ensure that palliative care is part of the Affordable Care Act or any bill that provides health care.
by: Jay Sterling Silver on November 21st, 2013 | No Comments »
The reasoning behind Richie Incognito’s racist bullying of Miami Dolphin’s teammate Jonathan Martin must be fully understood before we can make any sense of the sketchy facts and conflicting opinions surrounding the story, or appreciate how the logic fails.
(Richie Incognito/ Credit: Creative Commons)
As the argument goes, Martin, a mild-mannered, cerebral Stanford grad, had to be “toughened up” to thrive in the heat of NFL battle. Like the verbal abuse heaped on raw recruits in boot camp to engender a fighting spirit, the anger provoked by racial derogation and talk of sodomizing Martin’s sister would, in theory, acquaint him with the fire in the belly that he needed to summon on Sundays to vanquish opposing linemen. This type of bullying, the reasoning goes, promotes the greater good – in this case, of winning football games.
The trouble with this reasoning is two fold. First, the target is non-consenting, since the strategy wouldn’t work if he was. The statement “Mr. Martin, we’ll be calling you horrible names and expressing the crudest desires with regard to your lovely family as a sort of drill, like running laps or lifting weights, so you’ll play better” would thwart the exercise.
Like the office or the plant where the rest of us labor, though, the locker room is a workplace subject to laws that protect the workforce. Certain employers and employees may yearn for the days when harassment wasn’t actionable and the workplace was as hostile as the boss chose to make it, but the legislature saw no need to carve out an exception for racist bullying or threats of violence on the offensive line any more than on the assembly line. Players’ accountsof the rough and tumble locker-room culture where “men are men” are no more morally compelling than wistful accounts of the days when women and minorities “knew their place.” And Dolphins’ head coach Joe Philbin wasn’t kidding when, asked about the locker-room harassment, he responded “I’m not concerned about any of that stuff. My focus is on [the team's next opponent] Tampa Bay.”
by: Sigfried Gold on November 20th, 2013 | 1 Comment »
(Credit: Creative Commons)
Big things are happening in the religious marketplace. When I use the word marketplace, I don’t think I mean it metaphorically. Over the past several decades we’ve witnessed the dissolution of religious monopolies in large parts of the world. Maybe God was so saddened by the breakup of Mama Bell (or was it Standard Oil?) that He ended His own monopoly in an act of in-corporate solidarity. Or maybe He was just afraid of losing market share and wanted to jump on the mass customization or personalized marketing bandwagon. The world is so small that marketplaces–for commodities, religions, literary genres, what have you–can and must cater to every imaginable taste. People with every imaginable taste can, increasingly, find each other and form communities of the like-minded. Are we headed for a balkanized society where everyone huddles into ideological, religious or musical taste enclaves, jealously defending their shrinking turf from encroaching neighbors? Or is it more like how now you can enjoy a different kind of ethnic food every night of the month even if you live in a smallish city?
by: Amanda Armstrong on November 19th, 2013 | 3 Comments »
This Wednesday, November 20, could be defined by one of the largest labor strikes in the history of the University of California. Custodial, food service, grounds, and health service workers affiliated with AFSCME 3299 are planning to strike on all UC campuses. They are forming picket lines to contest the stark acts of intimidation they faced from supervisors prior to a work action some of them undertook last spring to preserve safe staffing levels at UC hospitals. A number of workers were pulled into private meetings with supervisors and threatened with consequences if they joined the strike.
Student workers gather on the steps of Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley. Credit: Susie Levy.
Graduate students and undergraduate tutors affiliated with the UC Student-Workers Union (UAW 2865) have announced that they will strike in sympathy with AFSCME service workers on November 20. This brings the total number of UC workers who could strike this coming Wednesday to 35,000. A strike of this scale, composed of an unfair labor practice (ULP) strike and a sympathy strike, is historically significant, as labor analysts such as Joe Burns have argued that the re-emergence of the sympathy strike is key to the revitalization of the U.S. labor movement and of broader social movements against inequality and the precarious conditions of labor and life faced by the majority of the population.
Those who manage the university have recently taken steps to thwart and discourage Wednesday’s historic strike. At UC Berkeley, Vice Chancellor George Breslauer recently sent an email about the strike to all department chairs and deans. In the email, Breslauer incorrectly and misleadingly asserted that graduate students are not legally permitted to strike because their contract negotiations with UC management are still ongoing. He also instructed department chairs to inform graduate students in their departments that they must teach on Wednesday and that all changes in work routines should be approved by the chairs in advance of November 20. Breslauer has thus facilitated the dissemination of inaccurate and coercive information to professors and graduate students alike, and deputized department chairs to enforce a baseless and likely unlawful message to graduate student instructors: thou shalt not strike.
by: Allen L Roland on November 19th, 2013 | 2 Comments »
(Credit: CC-BY-NC-SA by Surian Soosay)
I thought Chernobyl was bad,until I saw this. Here’s a time lapse map of the 2,053 nuclear explosions that have taken place between 1945 to1998. It starts slowly but skip to 1962 and the buildup becomes overwhelming before the world seemingly comes to its senses.
But now let’s deal with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1987 when a simple experiment to see if the steam turbines could power the coolant pumps if there was a loss of power, led quickly to a nuclear disaster on the night of April 26, 1986. A disaster that nearly poisoned the world with a dose of lethal radiation. [Seconds From Disaster - Meltdown at Chernobyl]
Today, we have Arnie Gundersen putting up a new video on the upcoming fuel rod removal at the ongoing radiation disaster of Fukushima, and it cuts to the core of the worldwide radiation danger we now face at Fukushima. EPCO has produced a reassuring short video describing how the fuel removal process is supposed to go, mixing animation and documentary footage to soothe away any viewer’s worries. Arnie Gunderson calls it a “fantasy cartoon” and shows excerpts from the TEPCO production followed by his own explanations of how TEPCO is misleading the world.