Saturday, September 29, 2007
The sounds of silence regarding Burma are deafening. Facing certain violence, the Buddhist monks of Burma took to the streets to peacefully demand change in a country that has been ruled for forty-five years by the iron hand of military dictatorship. While it is true that many nations “urged restraint” on the part of the military junta leader General Than Shwe, the basic call for help by the oppressed of Burma have fallen on deaf ears.
Just as the world ignored the early call of the Kurds in Iraq in the time of Hussein, the same deaf ear has been turned to the people of Burma. Lip service aside, there is nothing that the world will do to help the Buddhist monks. If one did not know better, you might think that Burma had oil reserves. But wait, they do have oil reserves and China and India are competing for its control.
A September 29th article by Time/CNN (Simon Robinson) reported that India’s silence on the struggles of its neighbors may well be oil related. Why is the largest democracy in the world and in that region not using its leverage to help end the violence in Burma? The article indicates that the Burmese junta is helping India defeat insurgents in the northeast part of that country. Further, India is seeking to exploit large oil and gas reserves in and around Burma. Having recently lost out in a pipeline contract to China, it is of little wonder that India does not want to upset the military dictatorship in Burma.
It seems that throughout history, the world has been willing to tolerate military rulers if they have control over significant natural resources. The U.S. has long supported such dictatorships in Latin America because such regimes brought relative stability American economic interests. Since it is obvious that both China and India have the corner on the Burma resource market, it is clear that the U.S. has little to loose in condemning the violent actions that have been taken against the monks.
The Buddhist rebellion in Burma is fading. Faced with guns, clubs and water cannons, the peaceful monks are no match for the powerful military. The streets are going empty as soldiers block streets, take over monasteries and silence opposition. By the time the UN envoy actually gets to talk to the military ruler of Burma, the issue will have faded into a footnote in history. One more struggle, one more cry for freedom has gone unheeded all in the name of money and oil. On this day, cry for Burma and its people.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
When you get a cut you add a little antiseptic and seal it off with a bandage. All these treatments do is prevent infection; the actual healing is done by the body and not the treatment. It is a shame that this is not the case with the economy. The FED may cover it with a bandage, but the system is not self-healing.
The sub prime mortgage crisis began in 2006 and just hit its peak, according to some economic analysts. In my opinion, it has been long in coming. The basic issue was that lenders issued mortgages at low rates that were adjustable. At the low rate, home buyers were able to squeak out payments. But, when the interest rates rose and monthly payments rose, the consumer was unable to pay. Many loans were given to people at the economic margin and anyone with an elementary education should have seen that those consumers could not afford a doubling of their payments. Anyone looking for details can easily Google “mortgage crisis” and get more financial information than you could probably use.
One may also recall the savings and loan crisis of the late 70s and early 80s which, according to some, led to the recession in 1991-92. Again, the approach was a bandage in the form of a bailout. And today, we see another bailout, but not a cure. Economic news has seen the current financial woes spread across the world thanks to globalization. The economic markets have become so entangled that if one suffers, they all are affected. This is kind of reminiscent of the web of tangled alliances that led to WWI or the “domino theory” of the Vietnam War era. We all know that markets have been consolidating and control of the economies in the world is spiraling into the hands of the few. Perhaps we should take a lesson from nature.
Diversity is a key for ecological health. As species diversity decreases, an ecological system may collapse. While this is actually happening in the environment today, it should serve as a mirror of our economic systems. As conglomerates grow, diversity is lost and economic systems face collapse. They talk of a tipping point with respect to climate change, the same hold true for economic systems. We are fast approaching the time when the bandage will not work because the system cannot heal itself.
Perhaps the primary reason that the system is in deep financial is “greed.” The powers that be continue to insist that we purchase things that we do not really need and that we do so whether we have the money or not. In one of my articles, “You Are Pre-Approved to Go Deeper into Debt,” I tried to show that we are deluged with offers to take out low interest loans or get starter low interest credit cards in order to purchase that new car, fix the house or take a vacation. Daily offers received in the mail or by email to buy now and pay later are very attractive to those who might be faced with financial difficulties. The offers of thousands of dollars now are even attractive to those with steady incomes who feel that that will be able to keep up in the hopes of growing incomes. Even with the current financial crisis looming over everyone’s head, these cheap credit offers still pour in.
The world cannot sustain wanton consumerism. It is one thing to produce and to purchase products that will enhance the quality of our lives or to decrease our dependence on vanishing fuel systems. It is quite another thing to buy for the sake of buying and to keep up with the latest trends in fashion, the newest junk toys and other products that will soon hit already overburdened landfills. It has been clear that large corporations are not treating consumers and the environment in a responsible manner. We are now in that “pay later” of the buy now syndrome and the question is, “Can we afford the price?”
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
A report this weekend about Lake Superior is both surprising and a bit disconcerting. The report indicated that over the past five years, Lake Superior, the largest body of fresh water on the planet, has lost 12 trillion gallons of water to evaporation. The news story went on to say that the Lake, representing some 20% of the world’s fresh water, has risen some five degrees in temperature. Once deep waters have become shallow and tankers carry such cargo as coal have had to reduce their weights by around 10% to clear the depleted waters. Local docks have become sandbars and owners are losing the ability to meet dredging costs.
So, where all of this has water gone? The latest weather news may give a clue (this is not scientific but it is related). In Sloth Korea a monsoon has taken six lives; in Southeast Asia twenty six more people have died in flooding in India and Bangladesh; in Uganda whole villages, bridges, farms and schools have been washed away by floods; 15 die in floods in Rwanda; and, of course, we have the damage caused buy Hurricane Humberto. There are also reports from Alaska of villagers fleeing floods as storms surges appear to be putting finishing touches on Kivalena, an Arctic island that will soon be lost to the sea.
The UN’s IPCC reported that within twenty five years, 5.4 billion people will be living in areas where water is scarce. Of course, this assumes that computer models are correct. Recent reports indicate that many of these models are actually wrong and that global climate events may occur at an even faster pace. New factors and relationships keep emerging that invalidate projections and events are proceeding at a more rapid pace.
In a book titled “Save Our Species,” author Robin Greenslade gives a litany of climate changes that have gotten out of control. Among the events he cites are: faster Arctic ice melt, the collapse of Thermohaline Circulation, the faster break up of Antarctica ice sheet, a semi-permanent El Nino, massive forest fires, desertification and flooding, rapid glacial retreat and more. Recent global events tend to support these assertions as floods and fires top many of the weather news stories. Fires in the western U.S., Greece and the heat waves this summer in Europe add credence to the dire predictions.
What is beyond reason is the still apparent lack of sense of urgency on the part of policy and lawmakers. Vice President Cheney still wants to debate the issue and the Bush administration as a whole, while finally coming around, is still reluctant to propose sweeping and drastic environmental and energy policy changes. The recent Vermont Federal Court ruling approving several states’ desire to regulate auto emissions is a start but again, time is of the importance and plans to reduce emissions that are still fifteen years in the future will suffice. As a whole, the American public appears to want change but there is a total lack of the sense of urgency.
If the world is to turn these apparent negative climate changes into an advantage, action needs to be taken now. The mass migration of populations to coastal cities, as reported by the UN, is a death march. Concentrating our efforts on bio fuels in the absence of a sound food policy is suicide. Time is rushing by the Nero and the fiddle story cannot be repeated if we want our children to live in a habitable world.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
HELP ME FIGHT TEEN DRUG ABUSE!
This is not just a book promotion effort. Many books are written just to entertain; others are written to send a message. A MAINE CHRISTMAS CAROL is a holiday message to fight teen drug use. Set in contemporary Hallowell, Maine, this retelling of the Dickens classic focuses on the issues that affect today's teens including drug and alcohol abuse and teen suicide.
The reviews of the book have been great. The message is ideally suited for middle and high school aged teens as well as families with teens. Give our youth a gift that not only encourages reading, but that also contains a lesson that is written in today's language that addresses today's issues.
For more information, please visit the books web site at http://dickens111.tripod.com
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT AND FOR YOUR HELP. PLEASE SPREAD THIS MESSAGE!
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Something is fundamentally wrong! After two millennia of organized Christianity the world is not a better place. The same can be said for Islam and all organized religions. Faiths that were established upon the teachings of love have become the pillars of hatred. Teachings that claimed we are all brothers and sisters have turned brothers and sisters against one another. Each religion rails against the other and within religions sectarianism will prove their undoing.
What went wrong? There is an award winning video called, “Church Outside The Walls” that has been produced by Family Room Media. One of the basic premises of the video is that there is no real biblical foundation for the concept of a physical church with its corporate styled power structure. Keep in mind, this video was produced largely by former ministers and pastors that spent on average twenty to thirty years as part of that structure. No longer able, in good conscious, to stand before a congregation and act as intermediary between the people and God, these men and women basically took the “church” and left the building. Citing the historical evolution of the modern church as a way for the few to dictate to the many that began with the Roman Emperor Constantine, the video illustrates how the organized religion has no basis in scripture and has, in fact, separated man from God.
Video host David Frederickson, author of the book, “When The Church Leaves The Building,” takes the viewer through a journey that exposes the myths that underlie religious institutions. Noting that versions of the Bible had been re-written to satisfy the needs of a growing church and political power structure, Frederickson sets up the interviews of a growing number of former clergy that, while maintaining their faith in Christ’s teachings, have abandoned the role of leading and dictating to an unsuspecting flock. Those interviewed indicated that since leaving the organized church structure with all of its manmade rules and corporate organization, they have actually developed a more personal relationship with God. Claiming that the “body of Christ” is really the people in a congregation and not the church, these former preachers of the “word’ have discovered that the stifling and divisive nature of organized religion.
The video shows that the early church was really just a casual get-together of like minded people in a community who shared their hopes, dreams, food and shelter to those in need. Rather than preaching, there was discussion and sharing with perhaps a “facilitator” to help those with the finer points of the Christ message. This facilitator evolved into bishops, popes, pastors and deacons who began to assume total authority over teachings and relegating the true congregation to on-lookers and mindless followers. This drastic turn of events began in the year 112 with rules issued by Ignatius and went down hill from there. Even the Protestant Reformation was exposed as a movement that only replaced one authoritarian religious hierarchy with another.
Churches built by Constantine and most since his time were actually designed to prevent the interaction of its members by focusing all eyes toward a podium and building ceilings so high that the focus was on the church leader and the rising arches put God symbolically out of reach from all but those in control. In essence, they built the precursor to the modern cinema where all attention is placed on the screen in front and everyone saying “shhh” if you try to talk. Whether built of simple materials of the most expensive stone and glass, the physical church, according to Frederickson, fosters separation and blind obedience.
The participants in the video, who seem to represent a growing phenomenon, claim that since leaving the church and all of its encumbrances and demands, they have actually moved closer to their families and their God. Rather than spending the typical one or two hours a week at a church service and many more hours performing corporate church functions, these former ministers have found that they actually have made God a more integral part of their lives. One participant said that rather than work for God, God has become his friend and that the relationship is based upon love and not on the number of hours punched in, the donations given, the church taxes prepared or groups created and controlled. Most said that their former “service” was an illusion and not based upon the realities of the teachings of Christ.
Indeed, something is fundamentally wrong with organized religion and the downhill slide began only twelve years after the last apostle’s death. History has witnessed the continuous bloodletting fostered by religious institutions. Sectarian violence has not been confined to Islam, as seen today in the Middle East, but has followed the trail of every major religion as they have struggled to gain theological dominance or world religious thought. As these institutions attempt to fight off their inevitable “green mile,” a growing sense of spirituality, one without walls, is emerging.
From the gifts of giving on the Oprah Show to those discovering how to use the Law of Attraction, a new non-institutionalized spirituality is spreading across the globe. People are waking to the God within and the “Secret” is becoming a household world. From the revelation that Jesus taught esoteric laws to the growing exodus from the confining walls of church steeples, humanity is on the cusp of a Great Awakening where the true congregation is found discussing spiritual principles rather than dictating religious dogma. Perhaps the fundamental flaw in organized religion has served its purpose by showing what not to do and the reaction to its failings will lead humanity into a clearer light of understanding.