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Archive for June, 2011

Meet the New Boss

America hoped. And Obama changed.

Never, perhaps, in the history of the Republic has a president so betrayed his campaign promises.

It is like this: Say McCain was elected. The first thing he does is withdraw all forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. Then he closes Guantanamo. Then he unilaterally dismantles America’s nuclear arsenal. He announces that all American military bases around the world will close, and that there will be massive cuts in the military budget.

Far-fetched? Perhaps, but no stranger than what the Peace Candidate wrought.

America hoped. And Obama changed.

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What’s Been Lost

There has been a tremendous loss of diversity in the food supply in the last century, thanks to the triumph of hybrid varieties, bred often for high yields and ease in shipping rather than disease or drought resistance.  This graph illustrates what has been lost:

A fine article from National Geographic on the subject: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/07/food-ark/siebert-text

These are folks who have been working since 1975 to preserve the ancient varieties of seed:

http://www.seedsavers.org/

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Icon by Mother Anastasia: http://www.iconsnunanastasia.com/index.html

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I wrote yesterday about urban farming in my birthplace, Flint, Michigan. Here is the website for The Flint River Farm: http://flintriverfarm.org/index.html

And this is their blog: http://flintriverfarmers.blogspot.com/

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I was born in Flint, Michigan, in St Joseph’s Hospital. I lived in Flint for the first nine years of my life, and nearby  for the next sixteen.

When I was a boy, Flint was a boomtown. People came from all over the world to work in the auto factories, most notably from the Ozarks and Appalachia, from the Deep South (mostly African Americans), and from northern Michigan, like my parents.

In those days a young man like my dad, with an eighth grade education but plenty of energy, could land a good -paying job, enabling him to provide a more than decent living for his family.

Those days are long gone. Michael Moore chronicled it a good while back, and believe me, it has only gotten worse. Recently Flint was honored with the title “Murder Capital of the USA”, though I hasten to add that it also has the best coney dogs anywhere, with the inimitable Keogel’s Vienna franks,whose natural casings pop when you bite them,  and the dry and slightly spicy topping that Macedonian immigrant entrepreneurs concocted.There are coney stands on virtually every  corner.

But coneys aside, the town is deeply depressed. Neighborhoods that in my childhood were prosperous middle class enclaves are now dangerous, and whole city blocks are now vacant and boarded.

So it gives me great hope to read that, like green sprouts rising in broken concrete, good things are stirring in Flint, of all places:


“What sat as empty lots within the city of Flint littered with trash and pieces of concrete just nine months ago are now blooming with crops and possibilities.”

Read more: http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2011/06/the_growth_of_the_urban_farmin.html

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At the time when St Francis was living in the city of Gubbio, a large wolf appeared in the neighbourhood, so terrible and so fierce, that he not only devoured other animals, but made a prey of men also; and since he often approached the town, all the people were in great alarm, and used to go about armed, as if going to battle. Notwithstanding these precautions, if any of the inhabitants ever met him alone, he was sure to be devoured, as all defence was useless: and, through fear of the wolf, they dared not go beyond the city walls.

St Francis, feeling great compassion for the people of Gubbio, resolved to go and meet the wolf, though all advised him not to do so. Making the sign of the holy cross, and putting all his confidence in God, he went forth from the city, taking his brethren with him; but these fearing to go any further, St Francis bent his steps alone toward the spot where the wolf was known to be, while many people followed at a distance, and witnessed the miracle.

The wolf, seeing all this multitude, ran towards St Francis with his jaws wide open. As he approached, the saint, making the sign of the cross, cried out: “Come hither, brother wolf; I command thee, in the name of Christ, neither to harm me nor anybody else.” Marvellous to tell, no sooner had St Francis made the sign of the cross, than the terrible wolf, closing his jaws, stopped running, and coming up to St Francis, lay down at his feet as meekly as a lamb.

And the saint thus addressed him: “Brother wolf, thou hast done much evil in this land, destroying and killing the creatures of God without his permission; yea, not animals only hast thou destroyed, but thou hast even dared to devour men, made after the image of God; for which thing thou art worthy of being hanged like a robber and a murderer. All men cry out against thee, the dogs pursue thee, and all the inhabitants of this city are thy enemies; but I will make peace between them and thee, O brother wolf, is so be thou no more offend them, and they shall forgive thee all thy past offences, and neither men nor dogs shall pursue thee any more.”

Having listened to these words, the wolf bowed his head, and, by the movements of his body, his tail, and his eyes, made signs that he agreed to what St Francis said. On this St Francis added: “As thou art willing to make this peace, I promise thee that thou shalt be fed every day by the inhabitants of this land so long as thou shalt live among them; thou shalt no longer suffer hunger, as it is hunger which has made thee do so much evil; but if I obtain all this for thee, thou must promise, on thy side, never again to attack any animal or any human being; dost thou make this promise?”

Then the wolf, bowing his head, made a sign that he consented. Said St Francis again: “Brother wolf, wilt thou pledge thy faith that I may trust to this thy promise?” and putting out his hand he received the pledge of the wolf; for the latter lifted up his paw and placed it familiarly in the hand of St Francis, giving him thereby the only pledge which was in his power. Then said St Francis, addressing him again: “Brother wolf, I command thee, in the name of Christ, to follow me immediately, without hesitation or doubting, that we may go together to ratify this peace which we have concluded in the name of God”; and the wolf, obeying him, walked by his side as meekly as a lamb, to the great astonishment of all the people.

Now, the news of this most wonderful miracle spreading quickly through the town, all the inhabitants, both men and women, small and great, young and old, flocked to the market-place to see St Francis and the wolf. All the people being assembled, the saint got up to preach, saying, amongst other things, how for our sins God permits such calamities, and how much greater and more dangerous are the flames of hell, which last for ever, than the rage of a wolf, which can kill the body only; and how much we ought to dread the jaws of hell, if the jaws of so small an animal as a wolf can make a whole city tremble through fear.

The sermon being ended, St Francis added these words: “Listen my brethren: the wolf who is here before you has promised and pledged his faith that he consents to make peace with you all, and no more to offend you in aught, and you must promise to give him each day his necessary food; to which, if you consent, I promise in his name that he will most faithfully observe the compact.”

Then all the people promised with one voice to feed the wolf to the end of his days; and St Francis, addressing the latter, said again: “And thou, brother wolf, dost thou promise to keep the compact, and never again to offend either man or beast, or any other creature?” And the wolf knelt down, bowing his head, and, by the motions of his tail and of his ears, endeavoured to show that he was willing, so far as was in his power, to hold to the compact. Then St Francis continued: “Brother wolf, as thou gavest me a pledge of this thy promise when we were outside the town, so now I will that thou renew it in the sight of all this people, and assure me that I have done well to promise in thy name”; and the wolf lifting up his paw placed it in the hand of St Francis.

Now this event caused great joy in all the people, and a great devotion towards St Francis, both because of the novelty of the miracle, and because of the peace which had been concluded with the wolf; and they lifted up their voices to heaven, praising and blessing God, who had sent them St Francis, through whose merits they had been delivered from such a savage beast.

The wolf lived two years at Gubbio; he went familiarly from door to door without harming anyone, and all the people received him courteously, feeding him with great pleasure, and no dog barked at him as he went about. At last, after two years, he died of old age, and the people of Gubbio mourned his loss greatly; for when they saw him going about so gently amongst them all, he reminded them of the virtue and sanctity of St Francis.

From The Little Flowers of  St Francis, by Brother Ugolino

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Reviving Detroit

Drawn by the city’s nascent automobile industry, Arabs first settled in the Detroit area in large numbers in the first decades of the 20th century. A steady stream of Arabs continued to arrive, but the most significant wave has occurred in recent decades. Since 1980, the Arab population of metropolitan Detroit has swelled. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 403,445 people in the area identified themselves as Arab or Arab-American, making it the largest concentration of Arabs and Arab-Americans in North America.

Middle Eastern immigrants are transforming and reviving Detroit: http://www.cnewa.org/default.aspx?ID=3441&pagetypeID=4&sitecode=HQ&pageno=1

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The whole story always sounded like BS to me, and no, that does not stand for “Black Sheepdog”. To cite only one of his more outlandish claims, Mr Corapi says that after he was injured during Special Forces training and relegated to a desk job, the rest of his class shipped out to Vietnam, where they were all killed in combat. Think about that for a moment. An entire Green Beret class killed in combat, and this is the only place we have heard of it. Don’t you think that would have made headlines? That the Special Forces class of 1967 would have become a symbol of courage and sacrifice?  That here would have been a movie, “None Came Back”, perhaps, starring Tom Hanks?

And that is only one of Corapi’s tales. What of his other claims?

Inquiring minds want to know, and Mark Shea is asking questions: http://markshea.blogspot.com/2011/06/gaping-hole-in-fr-corapis-story.html

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Drone Wars

Some time ago a friend on Facebook wrote something on the feast of St Francis about peace. One of her friends then said “But I love war”. He said that he was in the military, and on active duty.

This puzzled me. My father was a World War II veteran, and he would never speak of his experiences. Indeed, my grandmother told me that when he first came back from the war he would walk out of the house and not come back for days if one of his younger brothers pestered him for war stories. It was not until after he died that I learned that the Bronze Star he had in the closet meant anything. “Oh they gave those to everyone” was what he told us. And it was not until my brother looked into his military records that we learned he had been awarded a Purple Heart. We never saw it because he didn’t keep it. Knowing my dad, we can only surmise that his wounds were minor and he was embarrassed, as he no doubt knew men who lost limbs or otherwise were badly wounded.

And I have known other veterans; to a man they were haunted by their experiences.

The one exception to this was in 1970, when I heard a young man, just back from Vietnam, brag about shooting speed and picking off peasants for fun. In other words, the one exception was a war criminal.

So I asked my friend about the war-loving warrior on her FB page. She said that he was in the Air Force, was not a pilot, and in fact operated drones from somewhere in Nevada. After a day of onscreen killing he clocked out and went home to his family.

Meet the new war criminal, trained by years of video gaming, picking off targets on a screen.

And meet the war of the future, waged with no danger to the warriors. At least in traditional warfare courage, selflessness and other virtues were required.

And drone warfare has really taken off under the Peace Candidate, the Nobel laureate:

The U.S. Army said it went past the one million unmanned-hour mark in April of 2010. At the time theDefenseTalk.com site noted the growth in the use of Army drones was staggering — the Army inventory jumped from a handful of systems in 2001 to roughly 1,000 aircraft by 2010 and is now logging up to 25,000 of UAV flight hours per month in support of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Read the rest:

http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/air-force-unmanned-aircraft-hit-1-million-com

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36 Reasons Why You Should Thank a Union

  1. Weekends
  2. All Breaks at Work, including your Lunch Breaks
  3. Paid Vacation
  4. FMLA
  5. Sick Leave
  6. Social Security
  7. Minimum Wage
  8. Civil Rights Act/Title VII (Prohibits Employer Discrimination)
  9. 8-Hour Work Day
  10. Overtime Pay
  11. Child Labor Laws
  12. Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
  13. 40 Hour Work Week
  14. Worker’s Compensation (Worker’s Comp)
  15. Unemployment Insurance
  16. Pensions
  17. Workplace Safety Standards and Regulations
  18. Employer Health Care Insurance
  19. Collective Bargaining Rights for Employees
  20. Wrongful Termination Laws
  21. Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
  22. Whistleblower Protection Laws
  23. Employee Polygraph Protect Act (Prohibits Employer from using a lie detector test on an employee)
  24. Veteran’s Employment and Training Services (VETS)
  25. Compensation increases and Evaluations (Raises)
  26. Sexual Harassment Laws
  27. Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
  28. Holiday Pay
  29. Employer Dental, Life, and Vision Insurance
  30. Privacy Rights
  31. Pregnancy and Parental Leave
  32. Military Leave
  33. The Right to Strike
  34. Public Education for Children
  35. Equal Pay Acts of 1963 & 2011 (Requires employers pay men and women equally for the same amount of work)
  36. Laws Ending Sweatshops in the United States

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