Thursday, January 31, 2008

Stream of Life

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measure.

Rabindranath Tagore

Quote sent by a contributor, thank you.
Picture by S. Schirott, 10/07.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


WSJ reports that a bumper sticker seen around DC these days reads "1.21.2009." That, of course, is the day the Bushites leave town and most likely the Clintonites resume power. I can hear the heralding trumpets already. Someone asked me recently why I didn't spend time in this blog dissecting the political scene, which I follow closely. My enigmatic response: it's as important what's NOT here as what is. Frankly, what's happening on the campaign trail is altogether un-enlightening and seems to be delaminating more every day. Even Barack, whom I have praised in this blog for eloquent and uplifting speeches, does not seem immune from wallowing in the mud with the other Presidential hopefuls. And, what's more frightening, I don't think we've seen the worse of it yet. In about October, the nation will need to be put on life support for all the blood-letting that's going to be had between now and then.

But, having said that, the inescapable Little Voice speaks up to this Observer-in-training who is inevitably responsible for every thought, word and deed.

Little Voice: "Hey, Susan, what is that negative recording doing in your head? It certainly got MY attention. I thought you'd have been past that kind of thinking by now. You KNOW it's always darkest before the dawn--and that includes happenings in your U.S. political scene, as well. For a moment you might have forgotten the inevitable sequence: inertia to movement to chaos/crises to enlightenment/revelation. I'm sure if you put aside your emotions, you would see that we are simply in the crises phase. Keep looking without discouragement and enlightenment will follow. You might think of it like a really painful delivery; you had one like that a quarter century ago--you remember. And look what came after, that beautiful baby girl!"

Susan: "You sure don't make it easy on a person, do you? You never let me wallow with all the others for long. Darn! OK, OK. I get it now. Instead of railing at the present crop of bruised candidates, I will just have to create a list of what my ideal President might be like; what attributes he or she might have; and what responses, reactions and thoughts. Is that better?"

Little Voice: "Now you're back on track. You are not one of my most enlightened students, but you are one of the most persistent. Your new, enriched response will definitely get your negative energy on this weighty matter moving in a more positive direction. If more people did this, it might change the whole outcome. But at this moment, we're looking forward to seeing your list. Bring it on."

Susan: "I'll do my best, but will ask for ideas from others if they think I've missed something relevant. It would certainly be impossible for me to list everything. But with the contribution of others, we might get closer."

The Enlightened Profile

Demonstrates a life that has been given to selfless service
Successful and proven leader in whatever field chosen
Learned, good intellect but not overly so
Genuinely compassionate
Knows the meaning of gracious-loving-kindness and shows it
No entrenched ideologies, including religious
A good orator/uplifting/a sense of humor
Demonstrates an ability to inspire
The ability to move people and get something done
A respectful peacemaker
A warrior when the call arises/fearless (wimps need not apply)
Good character that has undergone a measure of painful experiences/
willing to talk about those honestly
Non-critical nature yet good analytical mind
Diplomatic in dealing with others, particularly in disagreement
A political will that empowers the populace--globally
Demonstrates an understanding of cooperation as opposed to competition
The ability to be "fluid in adjustment but undeviating in aim"
Creative/visionary yet practical
Demonstrates the ability to chose like-minded people with whom to serve
Creates policies in line with these values and attributes
with an understanding of unity in diversity,
of the importance of sharing resources globally, and
of this nation's place in the broader scheme.

Little Voice: "Well, that's a good start. At least you have a template against which to judge the various candidates. But, I've got to run. Someone from the John Edwards campaign is in need of assistance today. He's having a meltdown because his candidate is stepping aside. Between this and a few in the Guilliani camp, I'll probably be kept running all day. Ah, you humans, how you love your trauma dramas. Adieu!"

Well, now I feel better having gotten rid of that negative political energy. The Little Voice demonstrates so much wisdom--too bad it often takes a kick in the pants to get me moving in a more enlightened direction. Guess that's what it means to be evolving. On another note: yesterday I read the February 2008 National Geographic cover to cover. Every article was better than the next, and I would highly recommend buying a copy if you don't already get it at home.

Particularly enlightening was the cover story on the Black Pharaohs of Egypt who ruled for a short time in the 700 BCs. Apparently, historians have been less than candid about these intrepid warriors, builders and rulers because of past racial prejudice, and I applaud NG for setting the record straight. Also included were articles on potential future western US water wars; the Hazaras of Afghanistan, a little known ethnic group previously persecuted and killed by the Taliban for being Shia Muslims; and a beautiful photographic essay depicting a Japanese poet's journey in the 1600's. This is an eclectic group of articles, but ones that I would bet will keep your attention riveted to the pages.

Daily Weather report: -20 degrees with a -50 degree wind chill. Not a day to sun outside, even though the it is shining brightly without a cloud in the sky. Quite different than the 47 degrees we had a mere two days ago.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pink Gang-up

I have always wondered what would happen if a group of fed-up but courageous women rid their towns of domestic violence and corruption? Things might change, right? Well, we don't have to wait to find out the answer any longer. The WSJ (1-25-08, p. B6) commented on an Asian Sentinel article about a group of women taking back the night in just this way:

"A group of feminist vigilantes has taken it upon themselves to use any means necessary to stop domestic violence and expose official corruption in one of India's poorest regions. The so-called Pink Gang--named for the color of the saris they wear--has about 200 members (including a few men). . .the group formed in 2006 with their first act of vigilantism: beating up a man believed to have dragged his wife through the courtyard by her hair. Since then, their tactics and their targets have expanded in a region where poor women have few freedoms and domestic violence is common."

The commentary does not say what effect this effort has had. However, I would imagine that it has created a metamorphosis in the region not only in the men, who might think twice about beating their wives and daughters, but in the women and girls who now can turn with hope to a group ready to defend them. While it might be hard for some to ever advocate violence as a solution, this might be a case where violence is the only answer at this particular time and place.

It strikes me as potentially a very enlightened solution given the dire circumstances of the victims, who are using this group as a means of self-defense. Group action as self-defense is nothing new, but it is new to these rural, Indian women and could reflect a leap in the evolution of their collective consciousness--part of that accelerating change chronicled in this blog.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sunday Confessions on Monday, Part III

Last night when I should have been sleeping, I was pulled into watching a special on George W. Bush--yes, our President. I didn't want to stay up and watch, but was drawn to look again at this man many love to hate. Actually, I was kind of mesmerized by the whole thing (maybe it was the aftermath of a day in the all too elusive northern Wisconsin sun.) Here sat a man who surprisingly was very comfortable in his own skin, even having made decisions that have put many lives in harm's way. Given all the tough decisions he has had to make and the fact he looks twenty years older, the President still described his life as joyous. That was his choice of words, joyous. Now, that was amazing to hear.

I have to confess, I've always liked George W, much to the chagrin of many around me. But lately, as the spotlight has been drawn to future Presidential hopefuls, I haven't thought much about the man. Frankly, he seemed to have lost his edge in his second term. See, as a rebel in my own family, I never found it hard to relate to what many would call the dark side of the President--he was a risk-taker, knew what he wanted, and pursued it with a vengeance--my kind of man. No one would ever call him a wimp. But, on the other hand, George W, as a man of unwaivering values and principles, was a refreshing contrast to his immediate predecessor. In the hot spot that all our Presidents are placed, the dark and light sides are glaringly visible, and it appears that the audience takes great delight in denouncing or negatively speculating with utter abandon. It is as if the judging audience has no dark and light sides of their own, or at least ones to which they want to admit. But I digress, back to my confessions. . .

I never could see in George W the malignant arrogance and swagger that invited so much antipathy from others; rather, I found those characteristics rather charming in a Texan sort of way. Texans can be an independent breed, and he has been a prime exemplar of that don't-get-in-my-way attitude. Having grown up in Texas, this genre of politicians was not out of the ordinary. The fact he wore his religion on his sleeve was a bit off-putting, but, hey, I've seen worse. I was raised as a Catholic in Texas where Southern Baptists and other evangelicals don't apologized for their proselytizing, nor will they ever. To them it is the fastest ticket to heaven. At least, unlike the terrorists, they are not take innocents with them on the ride.

But last night even with all that admiration in the past, I tried ever so hard to be an Observer, even if only in training, and see if I could stay neutral about the man while viewing his pros and cons from a distance. Frankly, I was unsuccessful. The folksy portrayal left me liking him even more. Who couldn't like someone who takes no "small balls moves." Never heard that phrase before, but it fits the sitting President well, don't you think? Who couldn't like someone who over and over again says he believes that liberty is God given to every man, woman and child on the planet, and judges all of his political actions against it. This idealism is reminiscent of that emanating from the speeches of Barack Obama, that have been glowingly covered in this blog. He too speaks of freedom and liberty and hope. Although many would consider putting the two men in the same sentence heresy, there is really no reason for that. Good men come in many flavors, and I'm not talking about race.

In the end, President Bush said he would let history be the judge of his actions and cared little about his present low approval ratings. He often referred to Lincoln, who as a war time President was not terribly popular. An anecdote from the Special was telling: the President said that the Gettysburg Address, one of the greatest freedom documents of all time, was derided by the press during Lincoln's lifetime. Whats more, Lincoln went to his untimely death without a clue that the Gettysburg Address would be one of his famous legacies. Because of his felt kinship with the 16th President, the 43rd spends much time in the Lincoln bedroom of the White House gathering inspiration and fortitude. Those interested in numerology might find it interesting that 16 and 43 each equal 7. According to many, 7 is the numerical basis of the universe and this could prove to be an auspicious sign for Bush. Or maybe not.

So how will history judge this beleaguered President? At the end of the TV special, a thought came to me about creating a time capsule of this TV special plus a few other memorabilia of the time period to store away for 20 years. By then, we should know whether historians have judged the President a success, as I would speculate, or a failure, as many others would guess.

If any readers would like to add to this time capsule, please feel free to contribute. I will close the capsule on February 27, 2008--my birthday--with instructions for its opening on February 27, 2028. If I am not around on the physical plane that day, know that I'll be watching from a distance (Observers don't change their stripes on the other side.) If that is the case and whatever the outcome, I will ask that my descendants have a glass of wine and toast that crazy lady who actually liked George W. Bush--and she wasn't even a Republican, only an Observer-in-training.

Note: The Fox News Special, George W. Bush, Fighting to the Finish can be purchased from for anyone with a burning desire to see and hear history in the making.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Advanced Technology as Magic

Yesterday's UFOs kept flying around in my head all night and reminded me of "Clark's Law of Prophesy" from Arthur C. Clarke's Profiles of the Future:

Clark's Law of Prophesy

First Law: When a distinguished by elderly scientist states that something is impossible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

Second law: The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Clarke is challenging us to step into the realm of the "impossible" to open the door of magic, or what some might call supernatural. But is it really that? A wise man once said that one should look to the natural before the supernatural--for everything is natural, meaning it follows universal law. That we know little of that law yet is only a problem of evolution. We will catch up. That's guaranteed.

There are others like Clarke who are venturing a bit past the limits of the present vision and looking at what lies ahead. WSJ reporter Paul Boutin reviewed two books that looked at the future by asking others what they had on their minds (1-16/27-08, p. W8.) Boutin says that John Brockman in What Are You Optimistic About? and Jane Buckingham in What's Next? distilled the essence of the future by interviewing leading scientists and thinkers. His summary of the author's more mundane findings included: human violence is in a steady decline even though the news shows otherwise; the environment is going to get worse before it gets better--but that it is going to get better faster than we expected; the world-wide baby-boom will subside as the undeveloped countries become, well, developed; and business will out-perform the competition by "out-behaving them in customer and partner relationships." Arguable these are improvements for humanity, but a bit ho-hum in the neuvo-thinking department.

However, according to Boutin, the most far-reaching and detailed predictions came from information technologists and, I would add, scientists. I think that is probably true because these analytically minded groups consistently thinks out of the box into the realm of magic.
Boutin reports that author John Brockman interviewed J. Craig Venter, the human genome entrepreneur scientist, to find out his take on the future--I'm sure it would make entertaining reading. This is the same explorer who circumnavigated the globe to collect new species from the global seas in order to uncover genes for his enlarging database. Having completed that adventure, Venter with his usual aplomb announced this past week that he will create life from scratch in the test tube for the first time, most likely by the end of 2008 (TIME magazine, February 4, 2008, pp. 44 - 48.) Some would call him and others like him magicians.

But even past this, computer technologists have overtaken ordinary scientists because they create applications that enrich people's lives in real-time. Boutin says that several of Brockman's technical essayists predict that "the Internet, for all it has brought so far, is only the first step before a much bigger leap in information and connectivity between people. [So far it] has been built and used by only a fraction of the Earth's population. What happens when, like telephones and televisions, Internet-connected computers make their way into most of the world's homes and ever more gadgets become Net-ready?"

What would happen if the genome scientists linked with the information technology geeks? That was the burning question on my mind after reading Boutin's review. Will the whole interconnected Internet system come alive one day for the betterment of humanity? Now that would be the kind of magic Arthur C. Clarke would appreciate.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Separating Fact From Fiction

Most of us think we do a pretty good job of separating fact from fiction. After all, we are mature adults who have been around a bit and know the world. We accept irrefutably what our senses tell us, right?

Not so fast. Experiments have shown that we generally only sense what we expect to see, hear, taste, feel or touch. Whats more, our brain has already decided what it will take in nanoseconds before we SENSE a thing consciously. This mental hiccup goes unnoticed, but it probably is the reason most of us stay sane, accepting a view of the world to which our friends and neighbors agree. It's part of the glue that holds societies together and keeps life pretty sanitized.

There ARE those events that stretch our minds beyond the limits of the five senses. Everyone has had one or two of these, I know. Like little blips, they are compartmentalized into a small corner of the brain, not to be discussed or otherwise tampered with excessively. If these unusual events began occurring with more frequency, how would we respond?

Texans, including a relative who emailed, got a chance to experience this themselves with the UFO sitings as reported on the news this month. Lighted discs were seen hovering and then moving off rapidly in a horizontal direction--many lighted discs, seen by dozens of people. Also making front page news recently was Representative and former presidential candidate David Kucinich explaining that he saw lighted discs several years ago while staying at the home of Shirley MacLaine.

There are so many such reports, could all these folks be making it up? No, they could not. Could there be alternative explanations? Yes, there could--particularly from the military who most likely conduct secret operations daily. Could these UFOs be from outer space? Yes, why not. Do we have the information to make a solid judgment? No. Will we ever? Maybe, maybe not. But there is no harm in accepting the unknown as a possibility. If nothing else, it is a way to stretch the mind beyond its usual bounds into the extraordinary.

If all the authors writing these days about armageddon are correct, we are in for quite a ride in the next 20 years or so. Maybe Others hovering in UFOs have come to watch the show. Maybe humanity holds an unprecedented place in the universe in this time sector. Maybe, just maybe all future life depends on man's ability to express right human relations. While one does have to carry on with day-to-day activities, it does not hurt to think broadly about the possibility that man's destiny might be that of a collective savior of which Christ was the forerunner.

But if that thought is too much, other liberating thoughts are possible. The sky is the limit, really. Science fiction has always pushed the mind beyond the ordinary to explore the extra-ordinary. I know this because I was raised by a father who read libraries full of the genre. He was an engineer and bordered on the genius--but managed not to go over into the neverland of strangeness. Even given his reading propensities, I thought he was really straight.

Recently, however, science fiction has been reported as the "last bastion for the literature of ideas. By questioning society's basic rules and speculating on how other worlds might work, science fiction can raise fresher more provocative questions" (WSJ from Wired, 1-25-08, p. B6.) Now I know what Dad was up to. He was exploring other realities in his mind, out of sight of the rest of us. It would have been like him not to share such questions or thoughts. Wish he was here to share with now. But then again, maybe he's watching at a distance from a UFO. After all, he believed they were possible.

Separating fact from fiction? It simply isn't possible at this stage in our evolution. But in the meantime, we can stretch our brains. In so doing, we are opening our minds to other realities--if they indeed exist. We might be surprised at what we begin to see, hear, taste, smell and touch. My Dad might enjoy the company.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Fusion of All Men

"Thinkers throughout the world are functioning internationally; this is the guarantee of the future because only when men can think in these wider terms will the fusion of all men everywhere become possible, will brotherhood come into being and humanity be a fact in our consciousness."

From The Problems of Humanity, A. A. Bailey, p. 10.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

And The Walls Came Tumbling Down

Apparently humans cannot be caged. That's what the Gaza Strip Palestinians proved yesterday when they flowed through the man-made breaches in the wall separating them from Egypt. It was reported that masked Hamas bombers blew up the barrier in several places in retaliation for a blockade imposed by Israel last Thursday. The Palestinians did not hesitate to make a bee-line for the freedom on the other side--if only to visit family from whom they have been separated for years or to buy food and other necessities. Some did not dare go through fearing that the wall would be closed while away, with no way to return from Egypt. So, these folks just looked in awe at the huge holes. Some brought there kids. It was certainly a day to remember.

Similar stories of cutting off human from human in the Middle East have been circulating lately. TIME had that article about the intrusive walls going up around Bethlehem right in time for the Christmas season. Or there's the barbed wire fence that cuts off families from families in the Golan Heights. Certainly there has to be a more enlightened way to assure security in the region. But for now, tearing down the wall into Egypt was a welcome reprieve for Gazans, who contend daily with the psychological consequences of an un-winnable war.

President Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas all met earlier in the month to discuss a peace treaty and the formation of a Palestinian State before January 2009. Bush is quoted as saying, " I believe it's possible -- not only possible -- I believe it's going to happen, that there'll be a signed peace treaty by the time I leave office." These discussions came on the heels of December's Middle East Peace conference convened in Annapolis, Maryland. Little headway had been made since that time because of demands by the Palestinians that continued building of West Bank settlements by Israelis cease. Israeli insisted that daily bombing of border towns must stop. Bush's trip was meant to keep the previously built momentum going--even in the face of continued grievances.

Many such peace-making attempts have been attempted over the years. One such endeavor, the Geneva Accord, outlined the core issues that had to be settled in order for a real peace to descend on the volatile area. It has gotten little traction for the most part, but still remains one of the most comprehensive documents on the matter and provides in depth knowledge about the multifaceted nature of the issues facing the hostile parties. Lack of political will has hampered the efforts to resolve the sticky issues, including the fate of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants, the status of Jerusalem, even water rights which is actually a bigger problem than has been previously communicated. After the cameras and reporters left whatever Middle east peace conference was in vogue, little happened. Why? Because these problems would have taken the united will of both sides to secure peace and each was unwilling to compromise. That may be changing in light of President Bush's efforts in collaboration with several Arab states, who for the first time may agree to Israel's right to exist.

Yes, there is now a small ray of hope in the Middle East. But expectations for peace cannot stop at the borders of that region alone. There is one person acutely aware of that fact, 26-year old Omar Bin Laden, who has offered his services to mediate peace worldwide. Yes, this is a Bin Laden of Usama fame, one of 19 children. Paul Schemm, an AP writer reported on January 17, 2008 that Omar envisions tranquil relations between the Muslims and the West and has offered his services as ambassador for peace. No one has yet to take him up on the offer. Global leaders might consider it, however, because this young man, who has renounced violence as a solution, spent time with his father training as a terrorist before returning to the work-a-day world in 2000. Such a Muslim insider might have the street cred necessary to pull a worldwide peace initiative together based on brotherhood, freedom and equality.

And finally, change is coming to the Middle East from other sectors with a speed that may surprise some. Why is that? A few enlightened Muslim leaders are emerging who are speaking out for positive change. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, who completed two years as ruler of the Emirate of Dubai and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, said recently in the WSJ:
"Perhaps the fundamental question that I learned to always ask was : How can we serve as agents of positive change? That's why I prefer to call Dubai 'Catalyst Inc'. . .We are engaged in a different type of war that's really worth fighting--fighting to alleviate poverty, generating better education, creating economic opportunity for people, and teaching people everywhere how to be entrepreneurs, to believe in themselves. . .I always ask: How can I help? What can I do for people's lives? That's part of my value system" (1-12/13-08.)
If that short excerpt surprised you, it did me for its enlightened and liberating tone. At same time, it gave me hope that such exemplars might possibly be able to lead the Middle East and, yes, maybe even the rest of the world, out of darkness into light.
Could it be that in the hands of Muslim leaders lies the peace we all seek?

The wisdom of the past provides it's own outline for peace, in the Middle East and elsewhere. It lies in recognizing a nation's inherent responsibilities as a corporate citizen of Earth Inc, no matter what type of government or state religion is promulgated. In The Problems of Humanity A.A. Bailey clearly states:
"The task of every nation is twofold: 1.) To solve its own psychological problems. This it does by recognition of their existence; by the quelling of national pride; and by taking those steps which establish unity and beauty of rhythm in the life of its peoples; and 2.) To foster the spirit of right human relations. This is accomplished in recognition of the one world of which we are a part. This later involves also the taking of those steps which would enable it to enrich the whole world with its own individual contribution" (p. 29.)

Note: Information on the Gaza wall demolition came from The New York Post with Post Wire Service and the Times of London as well as Agence France-Presse, January 24, 2008; information on the Middle East Peace talks came from United Press International, January 9 - 10, 2008; information about Omar Bin Laden was sent by a watchful contributor. I welcome all such enlightening mail.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What's TV Got To Do With It?

Sometimes when looking through the newspaper, it's a challenge to find any information on enlightened change. The journalist's motto, "If it bleeds, it leads," leaves little room for enlightenment. Blood and guts always gets the news headlines--unless it's a slow news day, of course. Then we might hear about someone's cat up a tree. In any event, yesterday's newspaper was one of those unenlightened days. I had almost gotten through the whole WSJ without a hit--something that has never happened--but decided to read "World Bank's Priorities On Power Overlook Poorest." The World Bank's poor record regarding accountability and corruption would at least give me news to read, even if not for this blog, I thought. What a surprise, then, to find embedded in this article a nugget of lighted change!

The power in the headline referred to electricity and how funds from the World Bank were supposed to pay for rural electrification. As is usual with these WB projects, the energy grids in the developing countries rarely extend to remote areas. But when they do, the WSJ reports "that the advent of electricity can change centuries old patterns. Villagers use the electricity first for lighting and second for TV." What really got my attention was the following finding:
"The latter [TV use] is associated with a reduction in family size--a long sought goal. The median rural family had 0.6 fewer children after electrification than before. The report cites two possible explanations for how television might achieve this. One is that villagers learn about contraception by watching soap operas and informational programs. Then 'there's the leave me alone, there's something good on TV argument'. '
Amazingly, surveys found that the sex education aspect of TV viewing was the reason for fewer kids. In the developed world, we take for granted the sex education we receive in school and the freedom we have to express ourselves sexually. But this is obviously not the case in the undeveloped countries. The Nobel Laureate in Economics, Amartya Sen, would not be surprised by this uncovery. Back in 1999 he said in his book Development As Freedom that in Bangladesh birth rates were lowered when girls and women began attending school. Note this, it was NOT the contraceptive programs that made a difference in birth rates, but rather the general education after which many of the women got jobs.

Along this same line, an enlightened contributor sent an article regarding the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) which is run by a spunky gal with a doctorate from the University of Cambridge who has made ending female oppression her life's work, according to Ladies Home Journal, June 2006, p. 140. Noeleen Heyzer is quoted as saying: "When you're looking at issues of ending violence against women, normally you work at it from an angle of victimization. WE look at it from the perspective of empowerment. If you empower women economically, they will not be as vulnerable. I believe we can abolish violence against women the way we have abolished slavery."

Those are strong words coming from a UN staffer but this executive director, who has been campaigning since 1994 exclusively for women, puts money where her mouth is: "Less than 10 years ago, rapists in Peru and Costa Rica could avoid criminal prosecution by offering to marry their rape victim. Thanks to lobbying efforts by UNIFEM, these laws have been repealed."

Genital mutilation is another problem on which UNIFEM works, and February 6th is proclaimed as the UN's End Genital Mutilation Day to bring the matter to the attention of the public. An unforgettable article a few years back in WSJ brought my attention to the horrendous consequences of the practice that often disabled the girls who undergo the procedure, and infection was rampant. The cult-like cutting was performed by locals with simple tools and often left the women scarred for life, both physically and mentally. Some of the fortunate ones came to the US for repair, but many not so fortunate have died. UNIFEM has worked extensively to change this outdated tradition and, because of its efforts, many countries have now banned the practice, including Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast and many others.

UNIFEM also understands that having money empowers poor women. One example of its enlightened and innovative economic efforts include: "In tsunami-devastated Indonesia, UNIFEM provided immediate financial support to craftswomen, allowing them to weave protective hats that were in big demand by newly arriving relief workers seeking refuge from the hot sunshine and in turn helped to stimulate the shattered local economy."

It appears Ms. Heyzer strongly believes that education is key to ending the "slavery" of women in male dominated societies for it was the impetus behind the history-making launch of a radio station in war-torn Iraq: "Support from UNIFEM enabled the launch of Radio Al Mahaba, Voice of Women, the first non-government women's radio station in Iraq. The station's programming features female human rights stories by volunteers and journalists." Given Ms Heyzer's dedication to right human relations, this global female empowerment movement is certainly in good hands. This article was proof that one outspoken voice like hers could make a difference, especially when it had the backing of the United Nations.

Having said that, empowerment as the result of economic advances benefits all peoples, not just women, a fact that was highlighted in the 2008 Index of Economic Freedom (410 pages, $24.95 available at 1-800-975-8625.) The summary of the index findings as noted in WSJ on January 18, 2008 concluded: "The freest 20% of the world's economies have twice the per capita income of those in the second quintile and five times that of the least free 20%. In other words, freedom and prosperity are highly correlated." Freedom apparently neither expanded nor contracted last year, and the numbers changed little. However, there were bright spots such as Chile and El Salvador but Egypt was a shining star with the most improved economy in the world, jumping from 127th to 85th. Mauritius was in second place and moved into the top 20 out of a total of 157, with 5 not rated. Interestingly Iraq was in the latter category along with Sudan and Congo Democratic Republic.

In this same summary, the French journalist Guy Sorman, who wrote a treatise entitled Globalization is Making the World a Better Place, was quoted as saying: " 'Globalization is one of the most powerful and positive forces ever to have arisen in the history of man.' It fosters economic development, moves countries from tyrannies to democracy, sends information and knowledge to the most remote corners of the globe, reinforces the rule of law, and enriches culture." One could argue that this is NOT the case, but would have to confront what appears to be an inevitable global movement toward freedom, even if accomplished incrementally through individual nations as they lift themselves out of poverty.

And finally, as Russia finds its place among the powerful democracies of the world, it is opening a think tanks dedicated to studying western democracy. The WSJ reports that "a prominent lawyer said President Vladimir Putin endorsed his plan to open monitoring offices in New York and Paris to study the US and French political systems and recommend improvements" (1-18-08, p. A7.) That seemed like a rather ballsy move, but Putin might have been feeling confident having just received TIME's Man of the Year Award. Among other things, Anatoly Kucherina, the think tank's founder, will look at the US's election system that choses a President based on electoral rather than popular votes and the compatibility of capital punishment with democratic principles. For years some Western democracies have had such think tanks making recommendations to the USSR/Russia. It might be fair and reasonable to have the tables turned as Russia finds its voice these days. The scrutiny might reduce some of the appearances of arrogance exuding at times from various Western democracies. Or maybe not. We will see.

An enlightened seed thought regarding nations concludes this blog today. We have to remind ourselves that what appears on the surface to be chaos is simply the growing pains of nations who are evolving just as we are evolving as individuals. It is predicted that
all nations will participate in the achievement noted below and specifically that the United States, Russia, Britain and France have a destiny to fulfill before these triumphant glory days arrive:
"An innate urge in man reaches out toward divinity; the individual then becomes a man of goodwill and also a spiritual aspirant and one who loves God (according to his own particular definition) and, therefore, loves his fellowmen. . .What is true of individual man is eternally true of nations and for them also the same hope of illumination and of future spiritual triumph and glory is predicted" (The Problems of Humanity, A.A. Bailey.)
Tomorrow we turn to a few enlightened topics concerning the the Middle East. Yes, I did find some, and they are stacking up actually. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sunday Confessions, Part II

Today CEO God will join us for an exclusive interview. His agent has assured me that I can ask anything although the responses may be paradoxical to our earth-bound minds. Thus, he recommends two things: 1) keeping an open mind and heart and 2) letting the answers pour in without undue opinion or emotion. He also warns that occasionally with other such interviews the participants have felt a sudden surge of energy either during or after the interview, which some have found not altogether pleasant. This is normal and should be ignored as much as possible. A hot-toddy, a hot-bath and a foot rub will all help if the symptom continues. With that as an introduction, I can hear Him coming now:

Susan: "Welcome, CEO God! It is a privilege and a pleasure to have you in my office today--although I am a bit surprised that your agent called me earlier in the week to say you'd be coming. With all you've got going on, I really couldn't figure out why you'd take the time to come to this week's Sunday Confessions. I'd appreciate if You would fill me in."

CEO God: "I believe YOU called Me, didn't you? Last week's Sunday Confessions were addressed to me, were they not?"

Susan: "Well, I guess you could say that. But You were really listening?"

CEO God: "Susan, Susan, Susan. You've been studying Me for many years and you don't know the answer to that by now? You are teasing me, I know. But, I am here now in answer to your call and my time is short. It is quite an effort even for Me to unfold from the higher dimensions in which I dwell to the third--and frankly uncomfortable. Plus, the noise here wants to constantly rearrange the illusion-body before you. So, don't let it frighten you if I fade in and out a bit."

Susan: "Well, OK, then let's get started--I will try to be brief and straight to the point as it's my impression that is what You'd like. So, CEO God, why do we have a dark and light side, anyway? I hope You don't think I'm being presumptuous, but wouldn't it have just been easier to create this world with only light, happiness and joy while leaving out the dark, evil part of the equation?"

CEO God: "It's a long story, Susan, and one that would take quite a while to tell. Much of My rich history you would find unbelievable or incomprehensible. But, since you confessed so candidly last week, I decided to do the same today as I obviously knew what was on your mind."

Susan: "I can not imagine that YOU would have a confession to make to ME."

CEO God: "Actually, it's not to you per say, but you are as good a spokeswoman as I have available in this time sector. Several more preeminent humans are busy--and your sincerity and the utter simplicity of your call last Sunday struck me as refreshing. Yes, it is now time that the truth be told as it has been distorted for personal and political reasons over the eons. The fact of the matter is that I am myself not a perfect God. Yes, it's true.
Because of my imperfection, the world as a reflection of Me, is imperfect as well. Light and Dark are realities on the planet because they are also my Realities. If fact, the imperfection goes all the way to the top. Your scientists have recently seen this for themselves as they look at the Big Bang and the imperfections in the microwave background of the universe. So, does all this surprise you? I can tell by your thoughts and the look on your face that it does."

Susan: "Wow, I just wasn't expecting it. You might have to give me a minute to get my brain around the thought of an imperfect God or Gods."

CEO God: "Well, while you are doing that, I'll go on. There's more. Even Gods like me evolve, all the while struggling with their own Light and Dark issues, just like you do. And here's another surprise,
My evolution has taken me through many cycles of being human. So, I feel your pain literally, even now. Mind you, My issues with Good and Evil are on a higher turn of the spiral than yours, but they definitely effect your world, and I am responsible for that aftermath. Fully responsible."

Susan: "I don't know what to say, CEO God. I thought I knew You, but then realize so much of what I've been told by the churches may be all wrong. Did the churches know the truth?"

CEO God: "There have always been some in each brand of church, specifically the esoteric branches, that knew the truth, but we asked that they keep silent on the matter. The Masons carry a seed of the truth as well. The reasons for this silence are complex, and I cannot fully disclose the answer. But, we decided it was time for a partial confession, if not yet time for the full shi-bang. Kind of like you did last Sunday: you partially confessed, but not fully. The time was not right, nor the audience ready. Is that not correct?"

Susan, smiling sheepishly: "Yes, CEO God, but then you knew that already."

CEO God: "I have to go now, Susan, other urgent matters call. I have read your blog, though, and want to thank you for your attempts at letting others know my true nature. You don't always get it right, but you try none-the-less. It is a real service to let the word out particularly to atheists, agnostics and others that I'm not some strange, distant God with little human contact. Nothing could be farther from the truth; though I do use agents more often than not. Face it, there is only one of Me and billions and billions of you, incarnate and discarnate. Universal law requires that I remain basically hands-off and let humans do their own thing--though in that last World War of yours we had to get a bit more involved than usual. Having said that, however, My contribution is for the most part the imparting of ideas from My mind to human minds vibrating at the same frequency--a speed that can cause some real damage if an individual is not prepared properly. Unfortunately, few are ready for that. That is why my agents have been preparing groups for the strenuous effort over the last 100 years. Thus, the grand scheme is evolution in unity. Onward and upward. Very simple really."

Susan: "I THINK what I'm hearing You say is good news for the planet, right? As You evolve, we evolve--like we are all in this together--and we each share some responsibility then in the outcome?"

CEO God: "Yes, you're getting it now. If you ponder on these matters, other revelations may come as well. Remember that I don't have to be sitting here for us to communicate. Look what happened last Sunday! So, I'm leaving your dimension now and may return from time to time. Adieu, and be sure to keep the light on!"

Where's She Coming From?

For new readers, just a reminder to read the first three blogs as an introduction. There is a theme of sorts running through these pages and the introduction might make what that is more clear. I really appreciate those who have given feedback and comments as well as contributed articles and pictures. You all have been most kind and encouraging. Thanks so much. . .and now on to Sunday Confessions, Part II.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Enlightenment in Many Flavors

Enlightened change from several years ago is finally coming home to roost. Remember Enron? That debacle will not soon be forgotten. This week, after a six year class action lawsuit, 1.5 million Enron shareholders found out how a $7.2 billion settlement would be split. The settlement fund was created when several large culpable banks, Enron directors and the former Arthur Anderson accounting firm anted up the huge pile of money The final payout will be about $6.79 a share on stock that originally cost anywhere from $1 to $90 depending on when it was purchased and more for preferred stock. Obviously, those who bought regular vanilla stock at under $6 are going to make out pretty well; others on the other end of the spectrum will go away grumbling. Who really made out in the class action law suit, of course, were the attorneys who will split $700 million in fees. I wonder what ever happened to the employees who lost their jobs and pensions and what they might think about this settlement? (WSJ, 1-17-08.)

Enlightened News You Can Use:

1.) If you are a chronic worrier, it may be in your genes. Researchers have shown there are indeed worry genes, but they don't have to incapacitate. An expert in worry, Dr. Robert Leahy, suggests two methods to stop the repetitive, troubling thoughts. First, reserve 20 minutes a day to it and then move on. This may give the worrier some measure of control over the beast. If that doesn't work, he then suggests a more dire strategy, "Practice saying or writing down whatever you fear most, such as 'this plane is going to crash' or 'I'm going to lose my job' and repeat it over and over again slowly, like a zombie, and [magically] the fear will begin to subside." Why? Because the mind just gets bored with it. Sounds too easy, doesn't it? But it would sure be worth a try, especially in the middle of the night when worry can really be a menacing companion. (WSJ, 1-15-08, p. D1.)

2.) Experts say the main way to keep from getting sick is to wash your hand three times a day with soap, and don't touch the mucous membranes. And forget the antibacterial variety--it enhances the microbe killing effects of soap zip. (SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, February 2008, p. 96.)

WSJ announced that the race to develop an electric car is heating up. Several auto makers are getting into the act including GM, Renault and Nissan, Chrysler, Toyota. . . and Fisker with its Karma. Huh? Is that a new religion? No, actually it's a new $80,000 battery-powered luxury car created by a start-up company based in California, which plans to begin delivering the model in 2009. That's next year, folks. Mr. Fisker says the Karma will use lithium-ion batteries and is a couple of years ahead of his competitors because it's already out of design and will soon be in production. Renault and Nissan say they too are near a mass-market solution to the lithium-ion battery problem most everyone has experienced. I'm sure the computers and cell-phones that have gone up in smoke have gotten their attention. Fisker would not say what kind of lithium-ion batteries would be used in the Karma, but he assured us that "safety concerns have all been resolved." Let's put this on our 2009 calendar to see if the Karma makes its debut, and if it does, we can say we have officially entered a new quieter age in transportation.

Electric cars are quiet. That is one thing that people like about them. However, blind people are requesting some noise be put back so that they can "see" approaching vehicles. SCIENTIFC AMERICAN this month emphasizes: "As electronics gets quieter, we are losing vital information that tells us about their performance and status. . .as we move toward solid-state devices with fewer moving parts, we are going to have to develop new diagnostic systems to cope with their impending failure. It's a little like the malodorous smell of natural gas--that smell isn't natural at all; it's been added by the gas company to guarantee that you know when theres a leak. What's the 21st century equivalent of that for cars?" (p.34) Leave it to the blind to remind we sighted people how much we rely on sound to navigate in our world.

What does a field of fake grass have in common with used tires? Well, the University of Idaho put the two together to save water, fertilizer, spraying for weeds and about $50,000 annually in field maintenance. The school says there is no more mud so the fields can be used year round, and the rubber granules used as infill provide an environmentally friendly way of recycling tires. This enlightened conversion received a 2007 merit award from the American Society of Landscape Architects. Kudos to the Vandals for such creativity and innovation. Will other outdoor athletic fields follow? Will we miss the grass stains as a sign of athletic achievement and manhood, or womanhood as the case may be?

And if we were wondering about the hypocrisy of Al Gore taking private jets hither and thither, we might reconsider our own vacation and business transportation. Apparently, many people have in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint by cutting back on vacations and staying home. One reformed vacation addict stated unapologetically to the WSJ (1-17-08): "Buying carbon offsets isn't a license to pollute. Plus, it's not exactly punishment to cut back on air travel with all the security issues." Not to mention snotty TSA officials, long over-due flights and over-worked stewardesses.

And finally, Harper's Magazine (WSJ, 1-15-08, p. B12) asks whether alternative-energy expansion is the next economic bubble. Some theorize that "when prices collapse back to their true value, financiers make up their losses by puring capital into another sector and creating another bubble." The global warming scare has made alternative energy the next best investment guess and money is pouring into wind and solar power installations as well as water desalinization plants. In a not to distant past, NIMBY (not in my backyard) described these projects. But with the price of oil having topped $100, even if only for a few days, barriers are being lowered and development is rushing into the void.

We know this train is moving down the track when the likes of Scientific American will sponsor a conference called "Investing in Renewables: Bottom Line for the Planet" to be held in Chicago May 28th. According to the full-page ad, this conference will address how business, science and policy impact global markets. Topics will include: future energy consumption, alternative fuels: solar, hydrogen and ethanol, plus waste management innovations. Conferences are all well and good for the money-guys, but where are the innovative scientists who create the alternative energy options?

Saudi Arabia would seem like unlikely place to launch such a technologically advanced world-class research university, but that is exactly what is happening on the shores of the Red Sea. King Abdullah himself is pouring $10 billion dollars into the gigantic educational venture in an effort to bring a flourishing scientific community back to the Middle East. Long before America was re-discovered, the Arabs were leaders in scientific and mathematical exploration, but this all came to an end with the invasion of the Mongols in the 13th century. At the October 2007 groundbreaking, the King said it was time for science to come back to the desert.

Of note to those who would think this might not be a mentally stimulating environment for, let's say, women, future students and academics were assured that all will be welcome. What's more, the government will keep out of campus business, which will also be off-limits to the religious police. Many believe that this educational venture could have a huge impact locally and globally and could be a nation-changing enterprise. King Abdullah himself said he wanted to transform Saudi Arabia from a kingdom based on oil to a more knowledge-based society. If successful, other countries in the Arab and Muslim world might follow suit.
(SCIAM, February 2008, p. 18.) This is not a far-fetched notion and one that might ultimately meet with success, particularly since it sprang from the Arab culture itself.

Not far from the remote Amazon region, the Brazilians are trying their own cultural educational experiment by creating top-quality scientific institutes in an effort to leverage economic and social transformation across the country. Miguel Nicolelis, the neuroscientist who started the program with a $25 million donation, is targeting the young, however,and making science a "driving force for social change, [and] to demonstrate that, with opportunity, talent anywhere will have a shot." This enlightened doctor envisions a time when Brazil will be alive with talented scientists because they will have been raised from childhood with the critical thinking skills necessary to make this dream a reality (SCIAM, February 2008, p. 80.)

Both of these innovative efforts show enlightened educational leadership from unexpected sources. We will watch as these and other such global enterprises unfold and see how they begin to change the human fabric of their own regions and then the world.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

He's Still Looking Down

One thing I know about the world right now--there is a lot of information swirling around and around, especially on the internet. A person could conceivably stay day and night connected to the World Wide Web and not begin to scratch the surface of the what is happening. Seems to me that's another reason to consider the interconnectivity of all humanity and its subsequent corollaries: what one learns, we all learn; what one assimilates, we all assimilate; and as one grows, we all grow. Gives a new meaning to responsibility and redemption.

Martin Luther King's birthday came and went this week with little fanfare and a little dust-up between Hillary's and Barack's ideas about the history of the civil rights movement. The people involved in the squabble obviously had not learned the lessons of the King who said as he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality." This prescient royal epitomized the saint who had a dream, could talk his dream, and then knew how to pull people together to accomplish it. This was an extraordinary feat at a time when segregation was still a part of the collective consciousness of America--in fact, a part of the organism. In a few short years, this fated man helped move backward thinking into forward and in so doing changed the course of history.

50-years later a new generation cannot even imagine what it was like to be segregated and would find the thought of separation by race repugnant. But separation is all Martin Luther King knew. Thus, when he began gathering folks together to march in non-violent protests and delivering his eloquent speeches, the ideas he espoused were gathered from another consciousness, that of light--a consciousness that is available at all times, but only tapped when humanity's collective invocation reaches such a pitch, the request cannot be ignored. In his humility, King declared: "I'm just happy that God has allowed me to live in this period, to see what is unfolding." I would add that rather than just "seeing" what was unfolding, he was the lighted catalyst precipitating the change with other like-minded souls.

King did not live for long, as we all know, and was killed before his message could be completely delivered. But during his life shortened by violence, others took up the banner and the words "I had a dream" continued to carry the non-violent message of equality and freedom for all. Few may remember that violence was espoused by many as the only way to gain this god-given freedom, but King refused to rally to this call and, instead, cautioned that non-violence was the winning way over time:
"I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that one day humankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive goodwill will proclaim the rule of the land."
Violence is still with us and will be until a lighted altering of the collective consciousness takes place. If we look hard, we will see that these changes have been occurring although incrementally since the end of World War II. Forerunners like Martin Luther King are the guarantee that non-violence will replace violence as part of the collective consciousness of humanity when the goodwill he speaks of is the rule rather than the exception. On that momentous day, mankind will know equality, liberty and brotherhood as fact rather than hope, and the King will look down from above with a nod and a smile.

I would like to thank a conscientious contributor who sent the photo above taken on her iphone and this piece written by John Dear, S.J. about Martin Luther King. She reports that Fr. Dear is a Jesuit priest as well as an antiwar protester and writes for the National Catholic Reporter.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Exciting News!

CEO God contacted me through his agent and said He was so impressed with my level of confessing last Sunday, He's granting me an exclusive interview this coming Sunday. CEO God revealed that He was quite unimpressed, though a wee bit amused, with that last O'Reilly interview as reported on my blog a few week's back and wants to set the record straight on a few matters. The agent said if all goes well, CEO God may come back a time or two as His duties permit. Humanity is keeping Him pretty busy these days, and He has little time to spare for interviews.

I am SO excited about this new development. Be sure to join me on Sunday. This should be interesting, enlightening and altogether refreshing because what I know about CEO God, he is always full of surprises!

Monday, January 14, 2008


The nuns in grade school would be proud that I have finally mastered the dictionary. As a matter of fact, the word missal has become a part of me, like an appendage, and I troll it whenever a new word pops up. Sometimes even an old word is dissected and information is gleaned about its origins. Three years of Latin in high school certainly has given me a leg up on tracking down the core meaning of words. . .and Jim's Latin dictionary doesn't hurt either. Yes, Jim owns a Latin Dictionary and a couple of German ones, too. You could say we are both word junkies.

Because of my passion for words and creating new words when the right one isn't available, it has become necessary to create a whole new dictionary. After all, there's no reason that
Webster should continue to have a corner on the market. Thus, Susan's Brand New Word Dictionary is being created right now, right here on this blog. Here's the first entry:

ponderings (n.) (1) seemingly random seed ideas or thoughts that may or may not be ultimately true or useful and may spur action, or not as the case may be; (2) the waves created when a rock is thrown into a pool of water.

Used in a sentence (the nuns would insist): Saturday night I hunkered down with two WSJ's and a TIME in anticipation of uncovering those ponderings that have not been elevated to trends, but are worth watching, none-the-less. Ponderings are more fun, in a sense, because the reader can consider the matter with as many brain cells as available at the moment. There is no push to think too deeply--but, that is OK too, if desired. The freedom of contemplating, or not contemplating, ponderings opens the brain and let's the sun shine in.

Pondering One: A new word is emerging that is an offshoot of the green movement--biomimicry, literally "imitating life." What it means practically is taking those great fractal shapes--you know the ones from whirling sunflower seeds, sea urchins, serrated owl's wings--and creating household items that are appealing to the eye and, in fact, many times improve the performance of an already existing product. A good example is a new building in Zimbabwe that looks like a termite mound in order to vent heat better. Other newly emerging words are biomorphism (resembling a living organism, a tooth stool that resembles a molar,) biophila (love of living things, a wall made of plants) and biotechnology (technology based on biology, biodegradable plastic based on bacteria.) Someone with a better sense of humor than I could most likely make up other pithy words along these lines. Feel free to send me those for posting in the New Word Dictionary. In a year or two's time, we could have quite a collection.

Pondering Two: The latest best pick-up spot is the Home Depot. Why? The Home Depot has introduced a "Do It Herself" class to teach woman how to do such things as using a stud finder. Men have figured this out and dally in the isles following the classes. (Beats meeting in the bars, don't you think?) The WSJ further reports that the Girl Scouts now offer a Ms. Fix-It Badge for "members eager to learn how to wire a lamp or fix a leaky toilet." I think the real reason is that these young women have been conversing with the older gals in the "Do It Herself" classes and want to get a head start. It's never too early to learn the skill of using power tools wisely, wouldn't you agree?

Pondering Three: The Swedes are the kings of pirated technology. I thought that crown went to the Chinese, but no, it's those smart Scandinavians who have too much time on their hands during those long, cold winters. However, at the insistence of the US, Swedish authorities recently raided the offices of the greatest perpetrator, an outfit called The Pirate Bay, and are hauling them into court. The pirates are not worried. They believe that pirating cannot be legally stopped because it's so widespread, but have taken measures to move their servers out of Sweden, just in case. A majority of Swedes believe that pirating is fair game and an inevitable outcome of the World Wide Web.
So, will the current rule of law prevail, or will a new rule emerge that includes sharing without cost?

Pondering Four: Scientists have figured out a way to create stem-cell lines without killing an embryo. How do they do that? These smarties take out one cell of an embryo's first eight to create the stem-cells, which can be theoretically remanufactured into any kind of cell imaginable. However, the scientists don't know if this extraction process damages the remaining seven-celled embryo in any way. Seems to me
that they ought to settle that question before announcing this as a big breakthrough, or we'll be right back to where we started. Or am I missing something?

Pondering Five: Poachers may be out of the abalone business because they have taken most of the catch. These criminals are pretty smart guys; the more they take, the higher the price goes, and the more they take. Humans are pretty wiley animals themselves, however, and have devised methods to subvert the subverters. In the case of abalone, the tasty crustaceans are now being farm raised all over the world--and are more tender and taste better than their poached counterparts. Thus, the price of abalone has dropped precipitously, leaving the poachers holding the bag. The abalone may now get a chance to regenerate in the wild without the criminal pilfering. Could this model be extrapolated to other criminal activities, such as diamond trafficking or drug dealing? Maybe the lighted use of the mind--coupled with good old fashioned capitalist ingenuity--could prevail over activities meant to hoard wealth into the coffers of a chosen few in ways that circumvent the law.

Pondering Six: Kofi Annan, the past Secretary General of the UN, will be the next mediator to try his hand at fixing the Kenyan election mess. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who I mentioned on this blog last week, has had little luck in the matter. Nor has Barack Obama, who is half Kenyan and was called in by Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice to intervene. Nor has anyone else even though the political pressure to do so has been great. Maybe they will all fail in this round. Turns out, that although the current President espoused democracy and was supposedly a shining African example of such, economic inequality ran deep and cut along tribal lines (42 tribes = 42 lines.) Therefore, a allegedly stolen election exploded the democracy myth and the country went up in flames with it. What is the answer for Kenya and the rest of Africa? Jeffrey Sacks thinks he has some ideas, and they rest on accountability and real economic improvement for the masses. When I read his book, it didn't seem like rocket science. Only thing is, the ins will have to give up on their insatiable greed and share the fruits of the labor with the outs. Just makes sense to me, how about you? To read more about Sacks' ideas, turn to his book The End of Poverty: The Economic Possibilities of Our Time. If that doesn't sate your appetite, try The Mystery Of Capital by Hernando DeSoto or Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen, a Nobel Laureate in Economics. That should seed your own ponderings for a long time to come--at least on this subject.

Pondering Seven: You might think I have a thing for Barack, and I do in a way. He is undoubtedly the most interesting politician we have had to look at in some time, probably in my lifetime of 50+ years. Mind you, my observations will not necessarily translate into a vote, but looking at the changes his popularity creates is fodder for all sort of ponderings. This current one, number seven, reflects some pundit's comments that
go like this: with the ascendancy of Barack to his place in history--even if it is just giving Hillary a run for her money, folks like the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton will no longer be able to capitalize on their proxy victim roles. Although that may speak truthfully about a purely American phenomenon, I would add that Barack's example could give hope to blacks worldwide. This thought came to me after seeing an interview of Barack's uncle from his humble home in Kenya. The reporter asked the uncle how Barack's presidential race made him feel. The man used the words "pride" and "honor to the family" but his beaming face said it all. How many times have we had a Presidential race when foreign-born relatives are watching the outcome with as much expectancy as the rest of us? How many times have these relatives been black? Thus, Barack, whether he wins the Democratic nomination or not, has changed our grandkid's history books for good. They will now read that America went from segregation to a run for the Presidency without using the race card in the short span of fifty years. What is fact now could not even have been imagined a year ago and that speaks volumes about the evolution of the United States.

And finally, Pondering Eight: Diapers-Go-Green was an announcement in this week's TIME magazine (1-21-08, p. 57.) My two kids were raised on clothe diapers, the ones that had to be swished in the toilet, so I read this with interest. Certainly, modern moms would not go back to that obnoxious toilet routine, I thought. Well, I was right and wrong. Modern moms may give up the 27.4 billion disposable diapers that get transported annually to landfills, but they will now be serviced by diaper companies or new improved clothe diapers. These new contrivances have pockets for disposable pads and elastic bands around the legs to keep in the wet and goo, just like the environmentally unfriendly models. My question, what will be next? Tampons, after all women used to use clothe, or toilet paper? Cloth, anyone?

This line of speculation could head straight to the toilet fast, so we will say, "Good evening, and it will be on to more enlightened topics when we return."

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sunday Confessions

Many people don't know what to make of me. It's been that way since I was little. While my grandpa called my siblings Peanut and Princess, his moniker for me was Porky-pig. The translation of that name was "overweight" and "a handful." Admittedly, each was a fact.

As I grew older, some called me a devil; others call me an angel. If the truth be told, I was a little of each. At times, the dark side had the upper hand--and some of those activities made me hang my head in shame. Other times, the light prevailed--and some of those actions I hoped gave God a reason not to slam the pearly gates in my face.

As I grew even older, I realized that all of us had that dark and light side with qualities, traits and attitudes we found repugnant in ourselves and others of which we were proud. Said the renowned Buddhist Sogyal Rinpoche: "Two people have been living in you all your life. One is the ego, garrulous, demanding, hysterical, calculating; the other is the hidden spiritual being, whose still voice of wisdom you have only rarely heard or attended to."

As I grow wiser, I'm beginning to understand that this hidden, loving soul is waiting patiently for release. And in its release will come our freedom from these haunting dark and light sides. What a glorious day that will be, and it is our guarantee that no closed doors await us. Rather, a big welcome with a "Glad you could make it to the party! But--oh, by the way, don't get too settled because you'll be going back soon to help the others down there figure this out."

Dinner calls, so Sunday Confessions will be continued a week from today. . .


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Connecting the Dots. . .

  • Blog 12-30-07

It would appear that more than BASF Chemical Company has an interest in plastic bags. According to the United Press International (January 9, 2008,) China will ban the use of plastic bags in stores effective June 1, 2008! Now this is eye-popping news coming from the world's most populated country:

"The State Council announced the ban on their Web site, citing the problem of litter and of the oil used to produce the bags. 'Our country consumes huge amounts of plastic bags every year. While providing convenience to consumers, they have also caused serious pollution, a waste of energy and resources, because of the excess use and inadequate recycling.' "

Chinese shoppers will return to cloth bags, most likely similar to the ones being sold in US stores now.
It strikes me that it isn't like China to be the world leader on such a thorny issue,especially the year that they are hosting the Olympics. However, there are certain times when central communist rule has its advantages, and this may be one of them.
  • Blog 12-16-07
Yale was publicly influenced (also known as shamed) into increasing the output from its endowment fund by a whopping 37%. With that money, it intends to increase financial aid, scientific research and other educational initiatives as well as increase enrollment from 5,300 to 6,000. On 12-16-07 this blog reported that Harvard had bitten the bullet and decided to expand its endowment output by increasing aid to middle class families, an unprecedented move for that stalwart institution, and one we hoped was trend setting. Obviously it was. What's more, after Yale's announcement, Harvard, whose tuition now stands at $45,620, upped the ante even further by increasing its endowment spending to 5% from 4.3%. WSJ reports that:

"The moves will each add hundreds of millions of dollars to the Ivy League rivals' budgets. They come at a time of pressure from Congress and other quarters for wealthy schools to make tuition more affordable as they stockpile billions of donations and investment gains."

Other Ivy League universities are stepping up to the plate as well.
Princeton was the leader of the pack in 2001 when it dropped loans from financial aid packages and other higher educational institutions having been scurrying to catch up ever since. Some ask why Congress has an interest in these matters and may believe that the government should keep its nose out of the Ivy Leaguer's business. However, the Senate Finance Committee felt differently:

"[The Senate] has been pushing to require schools to spend a minimum amount of their endowment each year. Foundations are required to spend 5%, while many universities fall below that threshold. [Senator Charles] Grassley praised Yale's move, calling it 'a day for parents and students.' He noted that Yale's and Harvard's announcements came after a hearing in September that focused on the size of college endowments. It's a big deal that the two wealthiest colleges are making tuition affordable. They set an example for all other well-funded schools to do the same."

The WSJ noted that 62 colleges have endowments over $1 billion and most are opposed to Congress mandating a minimum payout (1-8-08, p. D3.) It is a crying shame that such wealth is held by non-profits unwilling to give back, and this is one time when our government in its oversight role has stepped up and said enough is enough.

  • Blog 12-25-07
Apparently, some scientists have come to agree with my view that what they are accomplishing is uncovery rather than discovery. In a recent article entitled "CFS Gene Study Targets Serotonin Function" at , it was reported that three markers were uncovered that appear to be associated with CFS [Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.] While the uncovery itself was interesting to someone with this devastating disease like myself, the word usage was even more impressive. We will watch to see if others pickup on this enlightened trend.
  • Blogs 12-29-07; 12-31-07; and 1-5-08
Remember my blog about climate change and earth's magnetic patterns? If you missed that one, you might want to read it and uncover a new thought as to how the climate as well as man are influenced by the earth's magnetic field. Well, it would appear that something else out of the ordinary line of thinking might be influenced in unusual ways. The WSJ recently reported what the New Scientist magazine revealed this month:

Epileptic fits exhibit some of the same patterns as seismic shocks, . . .raising doubts about the longstanding belief that seizures occur randomly. The research led by neurologist Ivan Osorio of the University of Kansas, found patterns of 'waiting times' between epileptic fits that are similar to earthquake occurrences. Also, just as earthquakes are preceded by tiny tremors imperceptible to humans, epileptic fits are preceded by neural spikes detected only on brain scans. The analysis. . .compared 16,000 epileptic seizures with seismological data from 300,000 earthquakes. The researchers say these and other patterns might hold the key to predicting and possibly preventing epileptic fits" (WSJ, 1-10-08, p. B6.)

These findings might not be surprising if one believed in the literal interconnectedness of all beings as well as resonance with earth's electro-magnetic field. Lynne McTaggart's book The Intention Experiment previously reviewed here goes into great detail about the phenomenon. I would predict that within 20 years her theories will be accepted as the norm. Until then, many uncoveries of the kind noted above will likely surface. As I see these revelations, I will bring them to your attention as a way to shed light on a new reality that may stun us in its simplicity.
  • Blog 12-27-07
Propaganda is a powerful force as we all know, particularly as it relates to negative matters. TIME magazine (January 14, 2008) showed how the view of the war in Iraq might have been influenced by its press coverage. It disclosed a Pew Research Center study that illustrated 46.9% of press coverage of Iraq dealt with acts of violence, whereas only 4.6% of coverage dealt with optimistic themes in 2007. Some might say that this is justified because it faithfully represents what is happening on the ground. However, we know from other sources that many "optimistic themes" occur daily in Iraq and are not covered or covered sporatically.

The journalistic axiom "If it bleeds, it leads" could not be more true than in the case of Iraqi war coverage. Thus, this negative trend in war coverage may have more to do with psychology than politics. In defense of the broadcasting and print news corporations, they give their readers/viewers what is demanded. If not, these companies would be out of business. So, although many fingers point to biased corporations for their negative reporting, the reader/viewer is equally responsible as the ultimate consumer of these products. If more light was desired, more light would be had. This unenlightened trend is due for a change, wouldn't you say?

NOTE: "Connecting the Dots. . ." is a new feature and will be brought to you from time to time as trends unfold on the pages of this watch for change blog.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

ABCs of CFLs

Environmental change continues its trek toward recognition by humanity at a breakneck speed. Just like sturdy yarn, information is streaming in from points all over the globe that is being woven into a colorful fabric with an unmistakable pattern stamped with a decidedly human touch. What that pattern will be, we have yet to find out. But, what we do know is that we have the opportunity to make changes to the unfolding pattern as we go, and maybe, just maybe, we will end up with a servicable garment of lasting beauty.

In a literal way, a mass movement of lighted change has been instigated by the passage of the recent Energy Bill, and its requirement that fluorescent light bulbs replace incandescent light bulbs by 2012. The United States alone has billions of sockets to refill with Compact Fluorescent Lights aka CFLs and various utility companies are helping with that by subsidizing the purchase of the new bulbs. I
recently got mine for $1 at a local hardware store, subsidized by the electric company. In California the CFLs are going for a mere 50 cents, subsidized by PG&E, the utility company made famous in the Erin Brockavitch movie. On its front page Wednesday edition , WSJ reports:

"To cut energy costs and help reduce the emissions that cause global warming, utilities such as PG&E are facing an unusual imperative. They need to convince consumers to use less of their product. PG&E is staking its success on getting consumers to junk conventional incandescent bulbs in favor of energy efficient CFLs--corkscrew or egg-shaped bulbs that use about a quarter as much electricity as regular bulbs and last several times longer."

Why would utilities want to cut their own production? Well, last year the State of California mandated that its three largest energy companies reduce energy use by the equivalent of three power plants to earn big bonuses, and that incentive got their collective attention. So much so, that last fall, one of them gave away a million CFLs free! The state is grousing that the utilities should be looking at other options besides light bulbs, but the companies have no incentive to look past the easiest one--getting CFLs into the hands of consumers ASAP.

In the company's defense, this lighted change is easy for consumers as well and no more costly with the subsidies than ordinary bulbs. My first CFL was installed last week with 11 more to go.
The light is soothing and the energy savings could be substantial when the whole house is converted. However, as is usual with any change of this national magnitude, a group of consumers may be hurt, and they are letting their voices be heard. On a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome list-serve this morning was the following entry, by a Margaret Holt Baird, in which she requested information from physicians, patients and support groups. Obviously, from her remarks, some will suffer mightily if the ban completely eliminates incandescents or greatly increases their price:

"I have been asked by Congressman Howard Coble's office to send a paper outlining all of our medical conditions impacted adversely by the Energy Act's incandescent light ban of 2012. They requested that my paper contain input from the disability community, including persons with photosensitive epilepsy, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, lupus, migraines as well as CFS, MCS and related complex partial non-clonic seizures I have after about 4 - 5 minutes in the [fluorescent] lighting."

Thus, we will watch as this CFL movement unfolds over the next 4 years and see how incandescents fare in the exchange.

Speaking of energy and electricity, another causal candidate has emerged as a future contributing agent to global warming. This time the villain is the trillion tons of methane gas trapped in the Arctic permafrost. As reported in DISCOVER magazine (February 2008, p. 14) when the permafrost melts, this methane gas in all its abundance will be released to the atmosphere. A researcher at the University of Alaska says that the "gas release could re-create climate conditions that prevailed during a 2,500 warming spell that began 14,000 years ago." The enlightened part, however, is that several companies, including BMW, want to harness this smelly gas to produce energy. The methane conversion technologies are not new and have been used in landfills for years. What is groundbreaking is the newly uncovered source and the unexpected tonnage which has gotten many companies salivating.

On another environmental note, a recent surge in food production in Africa is making headlines as reported by the WSJ
(1-9-08, p. B7) from The Wilson Quarterly's Winter edition:

"There is an agricultural revival taking place in sub-Saharan Africa that defies the typical dire images of life on the continent that most Westerners see, . . .the boom has been brought about by rising global prices for farm products and low labor and land costs. Exports of vegetables, fruits and flowers exceed $2 billion a year, up from virtually zero 25 years ago"

This, if true, is good news. Another way poor African farmers might be helped is a reduction in world-wide farm subsidies and tariffs. The recent World Goodwill newsletter spent its entire current issue on the challenges facing farming around the globe. It reported that negotiations continue at the World Trade Organization Headquarters in Geneva to focus efforts in achieving these needed reductions. However, the newsletter emphasized that consumers too were responsible for decisions about food and should not always look to governments to fix the problem: "Consumers also generate food miles. . .shopping by car. Consideration of food miles must also include disposal of food and packaging to landfill or recycling. Another way to minimize environmental impact is for people to grow their own food in gardens and allotments. " Though, I have to admit, this might be a challenge for city folks. The informative newsletter goes on to say that new farming modalities are emerging that show great promise:

"Yet, despite there being challenges in agriculture, there are signs of new life on the horizon, for example biodynamic agriculture, permaculture and the increasing demand for organic food sourcing; and in the developing world La Via Campesina [is one organization that promotes] a model of peasant or family farm agriculture based on sustainable production with local resources and in harmony with local culture and traditions."

To learn more about this enlightened group, visit

And moving on to animals, conservationists have figured out a way to revive the dwindling vicuna (think llama or alpaca) population that had been eradicated by poachers and competition with cattle in Peru. Once numbering several million, by the 1960s only 10,000 of the fated animals survived. Why the greater international community cared was an interest in creating an economic engine to alleviate local poverty
because Vicuna wool is highly prized worldwide and commands a steep price while at the same time saving an endangered species. The solution was brilliant and a win-win for all parties, except the hapless poachers, of course. The Zoogoer, a Smithsonian magazine publication, stated in its January/February 2008 edition as quoted in the WSJ:

"Conservation efforts have restored the population to several hundred thousand, . . .In Peru, villagers round up and shear the vicuna every two or three years to let the fur regrow. This way the locals get the economic benefit of the fur while the shorn vicunas have little appeal to poachers."

And finally, as somewhat of a futurist, I spied the following quote in WSJ yesterday concerning the world-wide web. It is hard for me to picture the scenario, but I have no doubt that Nicholas Carr, author of The Big Switch is correct in his prognostications as reported by journalist L. Gordon Crovitz :

"We take so much of this network effect for granted that we don't really think about it anymore. When we use a toaster, we don't speak of 'going onto the electrical grid.' Soon,. . .we may no longer think of ourselves as 'going onto the internet.' The Web's services will be as ubiquitous, networked and shared as electricity now is. [Carr] predicts that that we'll get into the habit of entering a 'cloud' of computing, accessing services provided by Google, Facebook, and innovators yet to come, no longer tethered to whatever software may be loaded onto our computer. Just as Edison's model failed, Mr. Carr argues, so will Bill Gates's. . ."

But in the meantime, the Gates's foundation is giving its fortune to eradicate disease in Africa and other developing nations in a business-like way never before attempted with previously inconceivable amounts of money. These facts cannot be ignored by the world-wide community and, thus, we come full circle, as usually happens, when viewing the world as Observers.