Sunday, September 30, 2007

Archbishop of Rwanda commands US church to disinvite Rwandan refugee because of politics

Some disaffected US congregations have voted to disaffiliate with the US Episcopal Church, and come under the authority of foreign (so far, all African) archbishops. One particular church affiliated with Rwanda. They invited Paul Rusesabagina, who played a central role in rescuing refugees during the genocide. However, the corrupt Archbishop of Rwanda is in cahoots with the corrupt President of Rwanda, and ordered this church to disinvite Rusesabagina.

Rev Fleming Rutledge has some commentary on her blog about this incident. Rutledge's take is that freedom of speech, an American value, has a place in Christianity. I agree. This also highlights the fact that for some people, homosexuality is worse than genocide.

The Bishop of Rwanda weighs in

According to the Church Times (of England), the Archbishop of Rwanda, the Most Rev. Emmanuel Kolini, has commanded All Souls, Chicago (a schismatic parish now theoretically under his jurisdiction), to cancel its invitation to Paul Rusesabagina, central figure in the movie Hotel Rwanda and recipient of the American Presidential Medal of Honor.

Say what?

The post-movie career of Mr. Rusesabagina has been complicated. He had to flee Rwanda with his family after the genocide, because he had made so many enemies. There is bad blood between Rusesabagina and the president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame. Rusesabagina has accused Kagame of leaning toward the corrupt policies typical of so many African leaders. On the other hand, Rwanda today is being touted in the United States as an economic success story, with Kagame leading the way.

As a close watcher of Rusesabagina, insofar as I am able to be, and as an admirer of the wisdom found in his book An Ordinary Man (see earlier blogs on this subject), I am suspicious. Rusesabagina is not a perfect human being, and he may be hoping for a triumphal return to Rwanda himself, but is it not likely that, as he suggests, Kagame is playing under the table in order to promote economic investment in his country?

But that is not the main point. Imagine an American congregation being told by a Rwandan bishop that they must cancel an invited speaker because of possible strain between Church and State in Rwanda. Strain between church and state in Rwanda??? Can this be believed? If there had been at least a little "strain between church and state in Rwanda" when the genocide was gaining momentum, maybe some lives could have been saved.

Surely this is one of the most sinister bits of fallout from the schismatic Episcopal movement so far. Not to glorify American values unduly, but this is surely one of the most unAmerican of all possible eventualities. More, insofar as American freedom of speech is greatly to be cherished by Christians (try being a Christian in Iraq right now), it seems beyond preposterous for a Rwandan archbishop to be dictating to the American church in this way.

The Church Times identifies John Howe, the conservative-evangelical Bishop of Central Florida, as "resolutely antischismatic." For this courageous stance, our brother John needs our prayers and support.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Amnesty Int'l: ask the UN Security Council to do everything they can to avert bloodshed in Burma

"May we be free of torture, may there be peace in hearts and minds as our kindness spreads around the world."

Dear Weiwen ,

Protect the protesters

"May we be free of torture." This was the chant of pro-democracy protesters in Burma (Myanmar) this past week. Yesterday, security forces began a violent crackdown on the protests, led by 30,000 red-robed monks.

The military government's forces clubbed and tear-gassed protesters, fired shots into the air, and arrested dozens if not hundreds of monks. Several people were reportedly shot to death.

You can take action now to prevent more violence by the military government. Send a message today asking the UN Security Council to oppose this violent crackdown and do everything in their power to prevent further bloodshed.

When the people of Burma last staged mass pro-democracy protests back in 1988, the military junta murdered thousands. But history does not have to repeat itself.

Please take action today -- and ask your friends and family to do the same. Together we can act now in solidarity with the brave people of Burma.

If the Anglican Communion falls apart in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

For those of you who are interested, the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops has given assurances that it will conform to resolution B033 passed last year, where we will not give consent to the election of any bishops whose "manner of life" poses a challenge to the wider Communion. They clarified that this includes people living in same-sex relationships.

The general consensus among the more conservative Primates and leaders of Global South churches is that this is not enough. You can read this take posted on the website that falsely claims to speak for all Global South Anglicans. The general consensus among more liberal Episcopalians is that even if we had met the exact requests made at Dar es Salaam, it would not be enough for the conservatives. I believe that moderate Anglican conservatives are far more positive. This is not to say that they're overjoyed that we ordain LGBT people as priests, but they consider our actions to be sufficient.

As an aside, Tobias Haller reminds us that we should not assume that the Episcopal Church as a whole is liberal, or that Gene Robinson's election as bishop was a repudiation of previous, incorrect tradition. He believes that Gene was elected because of his excellent pastoral skills and in spite of his sexual orientation. He also wonders if LGBT people putting up with the church is a manifestation of the Stockholm effect...

And so, we have a problem. We have gone back on our acceptance of LGBT people. But we're still in with most of the Anglican Communion. As an aside, my priest has bet a $20 bottle of wine with a prominent Episcopal layperson (who is actually in seminary now) that Peter Akinola will split and go form his own Anglican-style church.

But back to the problem. I imagine my LGBT sisters and brothers are going through a lot of pain right now. To be honest, I do not like the actions of our HoB. If those most affected by these actions are willing to stay in the church, then I am willing to tolerate them. However, the Evangelical in me wishes we had told the wider Communion, you can't handle the truth, but here it is anyway.

As it is, our actions seem to be enough to placate a majority of provinces (although not Nigeria, by far the largest province). We will remain in conversation with them. But make no mistake, this situation is an injustice.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr

The rest of us might or might not find applicable this piece of advice from a pastor in a different denomination ("priest" would make her Anglican, "pastor" makes her any other Protestant). She speaks of a talk once where a pastor told a feminist theologian at a talk that if she (the pastor) said in the pulpit even a fraction of what the theologian had taught, she would be out in a heartbeat.

The theologian told her that, like the Christians who lied about the Jews hiding in their cellars, she should lie.

Consumer Price Index may be flawed

The Consumer Price Index tracks a basked of goods that is supposed to represent the purchases of an average American household. It is used as a gauge of inflation. The Federal Reserve will change monetary policy in response to changes in the CPI.

However, Barry Ritholtz, writing for Seekingalpha (an investing blog), argues that the CPI is "a lie." Many wage increases, and I believe Social Security payments, are linked to the CPI, but he feels it understates the effects of inflation.

For him, it's an investing issue, because he thinks that much of the stock market gains over the last few years were driven by the gap between actual and stated inflation. However, for me, it's a justice issue. Americans' health care costs are rising really fast, for example, but the people running the economy may not notice, because the CPI tells them everything is fine.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Starbucks, slavery and union-busting in my coffee, and some thoughts

I've previously maintained that Starbucks is NOT evil. Certainly, no corporation is completely good, but Starbucks is one of the better ones.

In fact, I recently became a shareholder. Coincidentally, it was after the Ethiopian coffee trademarking incident. I would probably hae bought the shares even if they had not ceased opposing the Ethiopian government's (now successful) attempt to trademark their coffee. I was pretty sure they would eventually come to some accommodation. Additionally, the shares had sold off on declining profits, same-store sales, and store growth in the US. However, the market was discounting Starbucks' significant potential for international expansion. It's true there's a Starbucks on every corner of every major US city, but there's room to run abroad.

The stock was a compelling value. If you want to retire, you have to put money away. Most people will need to invest it in financial instruments to have enough money to retire. Everyone is going to be invested in companies like Exxon Mobil and Petrochina, which fund opposition to climate change research and genocide respectively.

If you're rich enough that you don't need to invest to be able to retire comfortably, then take a second look at the ethics of your business.

So, Starbucks, flaws and all, is a pretty good company to invest in. But, do we want a Starbucks on every street corner in every major city on the face of the Earth? Do we want slavery and union-busting in our coffee? The way businesses are set up now, they will grow and grow until they are physically unable to.

I don't have an answer, frankly. For those of you who say Starbucks is the devil, what about Exxon Mobil? Petrochina?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Jim Wallis: What happened to you, President Bush?

Dear Mr. President,

When I first heard that you were vowing to veto a bipartisan bill to expand child health care, my immediate thought was more personal than political: What has happened to you?

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I vividly remember a call at the office, only one day after your election had been secured. It was an invitation to come to Austin to meet you and to discuss with a small group of religious leaders your vision for "faith-based initiatives" and your passion for doing something on poverty. I had not voted for you (which was no secret or surprise to your staff or to you), but you were reaching out to many of us in the faith community across the political spectrum who cared about poverty. I was impressed by that, and by the topic of the Austin meeting.

We all filed into a little Sunday school classroom at First Baptist, Austin. I had actually preached there before, and the pastor told me how puzzled he was that his "progressive" church was chosen for this meeting. You were reaching out. About 25 of us were sitting together chatting, not knowing what to expect, when you simply walked in without any great introduction. You sat down and told us you just wanted to listen to our concerns and ideas of how to really deal with poverty in America.

And you did listen, more than presidents often do. You asked us questions. One was, "How do I speak to the soul of America?" I remember answering that one by saying to focus on the children. Their plight is our shame and their promise is our future. Reach them and you reach our soul. You nodded in agreement. The conversation was rich and deep for an hour and a half.

Then when we officially broke, you moved around the room and talked with us one-on-one or in small groups for another hour. I could see your staff was anxious to whisk you away (you were in the middle of making cabinet appointments that week and there were key departments yet to fill). Yet you lingered and kept asking questions. I remember you asking me, Jim, I don't understand poor people. I've never lived with poor people or been around poor people much. I don't understand what they think and feel about a lot of things. I'm just a white Republican guy who doesn't get it. How do I get it? I still recall the intense and sincere look on your face as you looked me right in the eyes and asked your heartfelt question. It was a moment of humility and candor that, frankly, we don't often see with presidents.

I responded by saying that you had to listen to poor people themselves and pay attention to those who do live and work with the poor. It was a simple answer, but again you were nodding your head. I told my wife, Joy, also a clergyperson, about our conversation. Weeks later, we listened to your first inaugural address. When you said,

"America, at its best, is compassionate. In the quiet of American conscience, we know that deep, persistent poverty is unworthy of our nation's promise. And whatever our views of its cause, we can agree that children at risk are not at fault ... many in our country do not know the pain of poverty, but we can listen to those who do,"

my wife poked me in the ribs and smiled. In fact, you talked more about poverty than any president had for a long time in his inaugural address—and I said so in a newspaper column afterward (much to the chagrin of Democratic friends). They also didn't like the fact that I started going to other meetings at the White House with you or your staff about how to best do a "faith-based initiative," or that some of my personal friends were appointed to lead and staff your new Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives at the White House. We brought many delegations of religious leaders, again from across the political spectrum, to meet with representatives of that office. Some of us hoped that something new might be in the air.

But that was a long time ago. We don't hear much about that office or initiative anymore. Most of my friends have long left. I don't hear about meetings now. And nobody speaks anymore about this new concept you named "compassionate conservatism." And now, you promise to veto a strongly bipartisan measure to expand health insurance for low-income children. Most of your expressed objections to the bill have been vigorously refuted by Republican senators who helped craft the bill and support it passionately. They vow to try and override your veto. During your first campaign, you chided conservative House Republicans for tax and spending cuts accomplished on the backs of the poor. Now Congressional Republicans are chiding you.

What happened to you, Mr. President? The money needed for expanding health care to poor children in America is far less than the money that has been lost and wasted on corruption in Iraq. How have your priorities stayed so far from those children, whom you once agreed were so central to the soul of the nation? What do they need to do to get your attention again? You will be literally barraged by the religious community across the political spectrum this week, imploring you not to veto children's health care. I would just ask you to take your mind back to a little meeting in a Baptist Sunday school classroom, not far away from where you grew up. Remember that day, what we all talked about, what was on your heart, and how much hope there was in the room. Mr. President, recall that day, take a breath, and say a prayer before you decide to turn away from the children who are so important to our nation's soul and to yours.

God bless you,

Jim Wallis

Go here to ask President Bush to pass the SCHIP legislation

Don't take slavery in my coffee! the lyrics


Who are these developers? Have you ever seen one live?
They gotta live in Westchester, not in Queens or Bed-Stuy.
When one of them knocks on your door, the Shopocalypse is here.
We’re gentrified. It’s getting weird.

Homogenizing in this big box.
Defend what’s left, save the small shops.
Chain stores give us migraines.
Where is Ginsberg? Where is Coltrane?

This town ain’t no super
This town ain’t no super
This town ain’t no supermall

Who are these politicos? Have you ever seen one live?
They gotta live uptown, somewhere where they can hide.
Who buys them all that TV time? He’s the one who broke your lease.
Officials slick their palms with grease.

Stop that Starbucks not another.
No your latte’s not my lover.
Don’t take slavery in my coffee.
We like Fair Trade - it’s so tasty.

This town ain’t no super
This town ain’t no super
This town ain’t no supermall

If you’re rich your view is scenic
If you’re poor you better dream it
Transnationals have their targets
The working, poor the artists.

This town ain’t no super
This town ain’t no super
This town ain’t no supermall

words: bill talen music: julio herrera

Changeallujah: The Reluctant Religion of Reverend Billy

By Brad Tytel, writing for The Revealer, Nov 28 2005

St. Mark’s is an Episcopal church; an impressive edifice of rough gray stone perched behind a black iron fence on 10th Street and Second Avenue. Today a crowd of 200 fills the nave, looking less Episcopal than pure East Village. This is hardly Reverend Billy’s first St. Marks sermon, but it is his first matinee. He and his Church of Stop Shopping, from which his Stop Shopping Gospel Choir takes its name, are scheduled for a three o’clock performance. But I use "performance" lightly. Whether this is theater or religion remains an open question. I have come to see a man expound a moral truth to a crowd of believers while his choir sings hymns from the dais behind him -- in a church no less. So how is that different from any religion? If the preacher is a fake, but he preaches his sermon sincerely to a crowd of authentic believers, is it an act or is it conviction?

Rev. Billy is not a real reverend, though he is certainly a preacher. Bill Talen, 53, is an activist and performance artist, and at heart, he and his choir are political theater. Talen assumes the role of an evangelical preacher, complete with large, bleach blond pompadour, a breathy intonation and a handkerchief to wipe his face when the spirit is too emotional. His choir is as enthusiastic and talented as any, but they sing praises to no specific god -- rather, they warn of the coming "shopocalypse," the death of man, brought on by his own consumer excess. Rev. Billy was born in 1997, when Talen was dually inspired by the mass-market makeover of Times Square and the old style street preachers who protested it. After gaining a reputation for fringe theater and activism, Talen formed his church, now a certified non-profit, and the choir. His wife and collaborator, Savitri Durkee, currently directs the performances.

These days Rev. Billy is a well-known protest figure, famed for his theatrical retail raids and crusades against chain stores. He is also no stranger to the press -- today’s service (he is at St. Mark’s Church every few months) is being filmed by a French camera crew as well as by Super Size Me’s Morgan Spurlock. But Rev. Billy’s frequent coverage tends to treat his act as creative progressive protest, and rarely sees his churchman motif as anything but playacting. But religion is no stranger to theatrics. Every sermon is a script; what matters is the belief behind the staging, and whether we judge the doctrine as legitimate enough to label it a distinct "tradition." Jonathan Dee, who profiled Rev. Billy in The New York Times Magazine, came closest to raising the spectre of sincerity in the Church of Stop Shopping. He wrote that the Reverend may "finally be less a character than a mode of expression." "The whole Reverend Billy experience,” he continued, “born in parody, was becoming less and less distinguishable from an actual church service -- a reaffirmation, in a ritualistic setting, of a common core of spiritual values."

But even Dee approached this revelation from a skeptical perspective, acknowledging his possible "sacrilege." He chose to judge the Rev. Billy experience on faith, rather than on ritual. "Act as if you have faith," he concluded, "and faith will be given to you." But faith is not at issue here -- the experience is. Of course this is theater, but Talen could not have invented Rev. Billy if he didn’t have faith in the message. He simply invented a new and culturally recognizable way of sharing that message. His costume and his retail exorcisms may be parody, but only in their medium, not in their message. And if the act is at its heart an expression of his faith in a new way of seeing, then the question is when does a belief become a religion? In espousing a way of looking at life while dressed up as a cleric, perhaps Rev. Billy inadvertently became one.


St. Mark’s is sparse and open, filled with plastic chairs beneath a high, arched ceiling. The four-piece band begins its overture, belting out a jazzy church tune, with a keyboard playing the role of organ. The organist wears a Mao cap, while the saxophone player has a pink feather boa. Then there are the angels -- women in slips and feathery wings, laughing as they hand out flyers for a protest at Victoria’s Secret. The music picks up, and a sound fills the room, that of hands clapping in rhythm.

The service begins with a double line of Stop Shopping Choir men and women dancing and stepping and clapping their way up the center aisle. Most are draped in glossy blue choral robes, while four soloists wear their own clothes. They sing "Stop Shopping!" and "Hallelujah!" When they reach the dais, a tall blond woman with pink false eyelashes leads them in song. Rev. Billy steps out a few minutes behind them, full in character, shouting "Stop shopping children!" and stopping himself, shaking hands with parishioners. He is wearing a tight tan suit with a black tunic and a white Protestant collar. When he arrives at the front he stands off stage left, dancing in place in a wildly enthusiastic half jog, raising his hands in praise. The song peaks and ends, though the service is rarely without some sort of background music. Billy calls out "Can I get a Changellujah here?" Then he starts sermonizing, telling us straight off that "we’re gonna leave here with something beyond entertainment." God is ever-present in a Rev. Billy service, but he is "fabulous," and "unknown." The Rev. asks his choir to acknowledge their gods, and one asks for "fair trade clothing" for a blessing. Another praises the god "of the first orgasm you have with your true love." This latter line is improvised, but Rev. Billy goes with it, and it becomes a running joke throughout the service. "I’d like to ask everyone in this room to remember your first orgasm with your true love," he declares, pausing for a moment. Later, he keeps referring back to "our orgasm god."

The Stop Shopping Choir is a mix of ages and races. They hum and dance and shout "Amen" with the spirit, but it shouldn’t be written off as pure performance. There is no professional glamour in activism theater; it requires its actors to believe in the message they are preaching. The choir raises its arms in praise as Rev. Billy preaches. He passes the microphone to a Forest Ethics representative, who decries the waste of Victoria’s Secret catalogs. A Guatemalan woman asks for donations for the victims of Hurricane Stan (the one "without a press agent") and the plate is passed for donations. The service is intermixed with original, anti-consumer gospel hymns. All the music is up-tempo, and most songs are choreographed. The service is full of laughter. The medium and the message are material and spiritual at the same time.

The "shopocalypse" is the sum of Rev. Billy’s fears. "It’s the death of the community," he says, "and the death of this earth." Rev. Billy doesn’t believe in the issues that divide the political left, arguing that it’s all one issue, "the issue of life. We’re taking our last breath and the shopocalypse is killing us. We have consumed too much for too long. The earth destroyed, our communities gone, and now we’re saying goodbye to our own life. But that last breath, all those issues, have just become one issue. So find each other tonight, now that the eight days of rain are over. We have a little bit of a break, from the earth shaking with waves and storms and tsunamis, and still everything around the world, the poor people that we have a little bit of a break. It feels like the sun is coming out again. It feels like maybe Browny and Bush are receding, the thugs have been found out. It feels a little bit like Wall Street is backing down, it feels like there’s a little bit of an opportunity for us. Let’s not turn on our computers and have 300 little issues. Let’s try and have one issue, our body of one issue -- the heart that we have deep inside ourselves. But one issue, thanks to god."

Rev. Billy preaches for a reinvention of values: anti-corporate, anti-consumerism, pro-community, pro-spirit. It’s not a new protest theme but Rev. Billy has ritualized through the intonation, and the metaphorical and physical motifs, of religious expression. And while the "Amens" I hear all come from the choir, there is plenty of applause. He is preaching to believers. Billy sings the praises of "Jesus the peasant revolutionary," of Gandhi, Dr. King and Cesar Chavez. The Choir concludes by singing "democracy is not for sale," and with a sung version of the first amendment. After an hour, Billy brings the house down with his final call to worship: "One issue -- stop shopping -- Changeallujah!" The Choir dances out, down the aisle.


There is a Western cultural distinction between theater and worship -- the latter is underlined by faith, while the former is underlined by fiction, or at best, imitation. Religious theater -- the passion play and the Christmas pageant -- is an expression of religious conviction that imitates theater, rather than a theatrical expression that imitates conviction. But this is not a necessary distinction, merely a modern one. Ancient Greek theater was a conscious synergy of creative expression and worship. Durkee, Rev. Billy’s director, wife and collaborator, prefers to think of their work as theater, but theater that belongs to an earlier tradition. "I think," she says, "that the way to consider it is to really abandon a modern notion of theater, go back to theater as ritual—ritual can transcend." This definition of theater would in turn allow the Church of Stop Shopping to transcend the line between performance, religion and politics: Dionysus instead of Shakespeare.

After the performance, Rev. Billy is shaking hands outside, out of character, but not completely. His speech remains peppered with euphemisms; he greets his friends and admirers as both Bill Talen, and as their preacher. When he answers questions, it is hard to tell how sincere he is, because he still seems half-immersed in his role. This might be Rev. Billy I am talking to, or it might be Bill Talen. He continues to employ rhetoric and metaphor, and resists more complicated questions. "We resist consumerism," he says, "and that includes resisting labels. We want the experience to come first, rather than the label...Back away from the product on the shelf. We’re getting back to god -- that fabulous unknown -- by backing out of the fabulous hypnosis of products."

Talen was raised by, in his own words, "Right-wing Christian assholes." Perhaps this is why he resists categorization. "The experience is yours," he says, and he admonishes me, telling me "don’t blur the lines, let go of the lines." We are interrupted a few times by passing well-wishers, and after one of them Rev. Billy just sort of wanders away.

Later, once he has changed out of his performance clothes, Rev. Billy, or rather Bill Talen, seems more down to earth. But he remains resistant, perhaps even tired of asking himself what it is exactly he is doing. "It’s definitely a church service," he says, "a political rally, it’s theater, it’s all three, it’s none of them." That’s not much, I admit, but at least we are getting somewhere.

Brad Tytel is a writer living in New York City.

Pray for Burma's saffron army

Monks command such respect in Burma because some 80-90% of the country's population is Buddhist, and even those who do not choose to become a "career monk" usually enter the orders for short periods of their lives, giving the monasteries a prominent role in society.

There is a monastery in every village, according to Myint Swe of the BBC Burmese service, and monks act as the spiritual leaders of that community.

They give religious guidance and perform important duties at weddings and funerals.

An elder Buddhist monk is escorted on the side of the street by a protester in a street in downtown Yangon, 26 September 2007
Burma's monks have a history of poliltical activism

In return for these duties, they are given donations by laymen. As they are forbidden from handling cash, they are completely reliant on these handouts. Each full moon day, they are also given donations such as robes.

If they refuse these handouts, they are denying the donor the potential to earn spiritual "credit" - "the strongest possible penalty that can be expected from a Buddhist", said Myint Swe.

That is why the announcement by the monks currently protesting in Burma that they would refuse all donations from the ruling military - most of whom would be Buddhist themselves - was so powerful, he said.

"The government wants the image that they are pious and helping the monks," he said.

Monastery 'holidays'

There are 400,000-500,000 professional monks in a country of about 50 million people, but many more laymen worship alongside the monks for a few weeks at a time throughout their lives in order to earn spiritual credit.

Myint Swe said he had himself entered the monasteries three times in his adult life, on each occasion for just a few weeks.

"Buddhism is very individualistic - you have to work for your own liberation," said Aung Kin, a Burmese historian.

A monastery not only provides spiritual guidance, but also fulfils a practical role in Burmese society.

Entering a monastery as a child - or novice - is a cheap way of gaining an education. Although education is free in Burma, extras such as uniforms may still prove a struggle for impoverished families.

And some parents choose to send their children during the school holidays, while they are out at work, Myint Swe said.

Those who choose to adopt Buddhism as a career often do so for financial reasons, Mr Aung Kin said, with donations collected by the monks shared with family members.

In return, however, prospective monks have to pass religious exams and agree to adhere to more than 220 restrictions.

Burmese monks not only play a spiritual role, but also have a history of political activism. They have been at the forefront of protest against unpopular authorities, from British colonial power in the 1930s to the last pro-democracy campaign in 1988.

A Young Buddhist monk looks on following devotional Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2006, at the Sayadaw Bhaddanta Kaveinda orphanage on the outskirts of Rangoon
Many children are sent to monasteries for a cheap education

Their political role stems from the days of the Burmese monarchy, which operated until the late 19th century, under which monks worked as intermediaries between the monarch and the public, and lobbied the king over unpopular moves such as heavy taxation, said Mr Aung Kin.

They became more confrontational during colonial times, in protest at the failure of foreigners to remove their shoes in pagodas, he said.

But the historian stressed that only about 10% of Burma's monks are politicised, and many of the monasteries may be unaware of the scale of the agitation currently under way in the country.

If fully mobilised, however, the monks would pose a major challenge to the military, and their moral position in society could embolden many more people to join the protests.

Buddhism is non-violent, non-dogmatic and meditative
Not centred on a god
Aimed at gaining insight into life's true nature
There are two schools. One of them, Theravada (S, SE Asia), focuses on freedom from craving and suffering
The other, Mahayana (NE Asia), emphasises helping others achieve that freedom
Burmese observe the Theravada school

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dear Starbucks: Go Fair Trade, and stop union-busting, or else...

This is 5 minutes long BUT IT IS WORTH WATCHING. Changeallujah!

UAW and GM sign contract

Breaking news from Marketwatch:

GM and the UAW have signed their contract.

As I understand it, the arrangement re healthcare is that GM will transfer a around $50 billion to a trust controlled by the UAW; this will be used to pay for retirees' healthcare and relieve GM of any obligation.

It relieves GM of a significant burden. However, now it will be the UAW rationing its members' healthcare, rather than GM doing it for them. UAW members will now be pissed off at their own union; I wonder if they'll go on strike?

GM and the UAW should have used this as a teachable moment to push for a national solution, whether a national healthcare system or a universal insurance coverage (Americans are capitalists, so the latter is probably more palatable). Unfortunately, the President and others would rather see workers and children go uninsured, and American productivity suffer, than have a national health system, or at least a national insurance system.

"That's what they're funded to do"

From Lawrence Wallack et al, News for a Change: An advocate's guide to working with the media

A while back, we received a phone call from a national organization interested in media campaigns that might reduce teen pregnancy; they wanted to create public service campaigns to tell teens to either abstain from sex or practice safer sex. We explained that such informational approaches, known as social marketing, had not been very effective in changing important health behaviors, and that trying to sell safe sex as if you were selling a product was unlikely to produce much in the way of positive results. We argued that, rather than merely giving teens a message about pregnancy, the organization should think about training groups of youth to work through the media to advocate policy changes such as school clinics, comprehensive sex education curricula, and other local policies that might have some impact on the conditions that contribute to the problem in the first place.

The caller listened politely and then explained that the focus we suggested made sense but that the people she worked with were funded to do informational media campaigns. Then, perhaps in an unguarded moment, she said that some groups were implementing mass media campaigns with an abstinence focus even though they believed such campaigns really did not work. We asked, "Why would they use an intervention that they didn't think was effective?" She responded, "Because that's what they're funded to do." When we asked why they would do something that they know won't work just because they have the money, she replied, "That's a good question."

Pray for the people of Burma as government forces crack down on protests

From the Canadian Press
YANGON, Myanmar - Security forces fired warning shots and tear gas canisters while beating Buddhist monks and hauling others away in trucks Wednesday as authorities tried to stop anti-government demonstrations, the first mass arrests since protests erupted last month.

About 300 monks and activists were arrested across Yangon, according to an exile dissident group, and reporters saw a number of monks - who are highly revered in Myanmar - being dragged into trucks.

A Norway-based dissident radio station, the Democratic Voice of Burma, said that one monk was killed and several injured in clashes in downtown Yangon, the country's largest city. The death could not be confirmed by other sources.

"There have been lots of clashes in different places between the demonstrators and the riot police and the troops," said Aye Chan Naing, the station's editor, citing reports from his reporters in Yangon, who were trying to confirm reports of three other monks killed.

"The troops opened fire into the crowd, and they also used tear gas and some Buddhist monks have been beaten up," he said.

The junta had banned all public gatherings of more than five people and imposed a nighttime curfew following eight days of anti-government marches led by monks in Yangon and other areas of the country that have produced the biggest demonstrations in Myanmar in nearly two decades.

A march Wednesday toward the centre of Yangon followed the tense confrontation at the city's famed Shwedagon Pagoda between the protesters and riot police.

"It's scary here. They will kill us, monks and nuns. Maybe we should go back to normal life as before," said a teenage nun, her back pressed against a building near the scenes of chaos.

But a student at a roadside watching the arrival of the demonstrators said: "If they are brave, we must be brave. They risk their lives for us."

Both spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisals.

The latest developments could further alienate already isolated Myanmar from the international community and put pressure on China, Myanmar's top economic and diplomatic supporter, which is keen to burnish its international image before next year's Olympics in Beijing.

But if the junta backs down, it risks appearing weak and emboldening protesters, which could escalate the tension.

When faced with a similar crisis in 1988, the government harshly put down a student-led democracy uprising. Security forces fired into crowds of peaceful demonstrators, killing thousands.

On Wednesday, About 5,000 monks and 5,000 students along with members of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's pro-democracy party set off from Shwedagon to the Sule Pagoda in the heart of Yangon, but were blocked by military trucks along the route.

Other blocs of marchers fanned out into streets in the downtown area with armed security forces attempting to disperse them. There were reports of destruction of property but it was unclear whether this was carried out by the demonstrators or pro-junta thugs, who were seen among the troops and police.

About 100 monks stayed behind at the eastern gate of the Shwedagon, refusing to obey orders to disperse after riot police there failed to dislodge them with tear gas, batons and warning shots.

Witnesses said an angry mob at the pagoda burned two police motorcycles.

A branch of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy exiled in Thailand said 300 people had been arrested in Yangon, most of them in a western suburb of the city. The number could not be independently confirmed.

Soldiers with assault rifles had earlier blocked all four major entrances to the soaring pagoda, one of the most sacred in Myanmar, and sealed other flash points of anti-government protests.

In Myanmar's second-largest city of Mandalay, more than 100 soldiers armed with assault rifles deployed around the Mahamuni Paya Pagoda

"We are so afraid; the soldiers are ready to fire on civilians at any time," a man near the pagoda said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

The current protests began Aug. 19 after the government hiked fuel prices in one of Asia's poorest countries. But they are based in deep-rooted dissatisfaction with the repressive military rule that has gripped the country since 1962.

The protests were faltering when the monks took the lead last week, assuming the role of a moral conscience they played in previous struggles against British colonialism and military dictators.

The potential for a violent crackdown had already aroused international concern, with pleas from government and religious leaders worldwide for the junta to deal peacefully with the situation. They included the Dalai Lama and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, both Nobel Peace Prize laureates.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Wednesday called for an urgent UN Security Council meeting on Myanmar and urged the military regime there to be restrained in reacting to the protests.

"The whole world is now watching Burma and its illegitimate and repressive regime should know that the whole world is going to hold it to account," Brown said, referring to the country by its former name.

"The age of impunity in neglecting and overriding human rights is over."

US House of Representatives expands State Childrens' Health Insurance Plan; lame duck President threatens veto

From SFGate. The SCHIP program covers uninsured poor children. It is administered independently by each US state, which defines its own upper income limit.

President Bush's main objection to the program, that it is a step towards a government healthcare system, is incredible. This idiot would rather our children go uninsured and untreated.

(09-26) 04:00 PDT Washington --

The House on Tuesday approved an expansion of a health insurance program that would cover 10 million poor children at a cost of $35 billion, but fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto threatened by President Bush.

The vote was closely watched by the states, including California. The program, a federal-state partnership that now provides insurance for an estimated 6.6 million children, expires next week. If the program isn't extended, millions of children could - at least temporarily - lose their health insurance.

The battle over the children's health insurance has become a political showdown between the White House and the Democratic-led Congress. Bush warned that the expansion of the program - created a decade ago by the Republican-controlled Congress and Democratic President Bill Clinton - is a move toward a government-run health system. Democrats said Bush and his GOP allies want to deny health care to needy children.

"How does anyone of us decide, 'You will have health care and you will not,' in a country as great as ours when you are talking about children," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said Tuesday night in a speech on the House floor.

Before the vote, the White House issued a statement saying the bill would go "too far toward federalizing health care" and could push children out of private health insurance.

Some Republicans bucked the president on the vote, but not enough to overcome a veto. The House bill passed 265-159 with support from 45 Republicans. The Senate is expected to pass the measure later this week, and could approve it with a veto-proof margin.

If the House can't sustain a veto, lawmakers may have to craft a stopgap measure to keep the program going temporarily.

The bill approved by the House would raise the federal excise tax on cigarettes by 61 cents a pack to pay for the program, which now also covers 600,000 adults - mostly pregnant women. An expansion would allow states to enroll 4 million more children at a total cost of $35 billion over the next five years. The president had proposed a $5 billion increase.

In California, there are 1.1 million children who benefit from the program - 830,000 children enrolled in "Healthy Families" and 250,000 in Medi-Cal - as well as 8,000 pregnant mothers in the Access for Infants and Mothers program. The state received $791 million in federal money this year to pay for the coverage.

Lesley Cummings, who oversees the state's programs, said California has enough funding to continue to cover all children through mid-November if the program lapses. But a dozen other states warn that they will run out of money as soon as next week.

The fight in Washington "is creating a lot of turmoil," Cummings said. "I think people are suffering from amnesia. The origins of the program were bipartisan. It was passed by the (Republican) Newt Gingrich Congress."

Republicans, however, complained that Democrats were seeking to expand the program beyond the nation's poorest children and include children from middle-class families.

"It's an expansion of the welfare state," said Rep. David Dreier, R-San Dimas (Los Angeles County).

The bill was a product of an agreement between the House Democratic leadership and a bipartisan group in the Senate. It is backed by most medical groups - including the American Cancer Society, the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association - who see it as a first step to covering the estimated 9 million U.S. children who are uninsured.

"Let's not make America's children wait any longer for the health care they need," said Edward Langston, chairman of the board of the American Medical Association.

Some House Republicans urged their colleagues and the president to reconsider their opposition. Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., said, "It works. It gets kids the insurance they need."

The White House said the Democratic legislation could allow families that earn as much as $83,000 a year to be eligible for insurance - a figure Democrats called inflated.

Bush said, "Instead of expanding (the program) beyond its original purpose, we should return it to its original focus, and that is helping poor children, those who are most in need."

States decide eligibility levels and benefits, subject to certain federal minimums, as they seek to cover poor children and the kids of low-income working class families in their states who lack health insurance. In California, a child in a family of three that earns up to $42,500 a year may be eligible.

Bush accused the Democrats last week of trying to score political points by pushing the expansion - knowing he would veto it - just days before the children's health insurance program is set to expire Sunday. Pelosi and Democrats seem convinced they have public opinion on their side.

"It's a defining issue in the next election," Rep. Chris van Hollen, D-Md., who leads the Democrats' House re-election efforts.

Bush also faces opposition from 30 governors, including Republican California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who back the program and have complained that the administration has tightened the rules to limit the number of children enrolled.

"We cannot roll back the clock on a program that has helped to ensure children who need it the most have a healthy start in life," Schwarzenegger wrote in a letter to the administration earlier this month.

E-mail Zachary Coile at

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

UK Prime Minster calls for immediate action on Burma

Brown calls for immediate action on Burma

Deborah Summers and Hélène Mulholland
Tuesday September 25, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

Gordon Brown today called for "immediate international action" to stave off a threatened military crackdown on protesters in Burma.

The prime minister called on the ruling junta in Rangoon to "exercise restraint" in its response to demonstrations which have brought tens of thousands of monks on to the streets, demanding democracy.

The foreign secretary, David Miliband, also told delegates at the Labour party conference in Bournemouth that countries like Burma should play by "global rules".

Article continues
He spoke out amid fears of bloodshed after up to 100,000 demonstrators protesting against the Burmese regime flooded the streets of Rangoon in the biggest show of dissent in almost two decades.

In letters today to the current holder of the European Union presidency, the Portuguese prime minister, José Socrates, and the United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, Mr Brown today called for a warning to Rangoon of tougher sanctions if there is a crackdown.

He told Mr Socrates: "I would strongly support a presidency initiative to warn the Burmese government that we are watching their behaviour and that the EU will impose tougher EU sanctions if they make the wrong choices."

And in his letter to Mr Ban, Mr Brown said: "We need concerted international action, including the UN, to discourage violence. We need to stand together."

Mr Brown said he would support an urgent visit to Burma by UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, as well as discussions at the UN security council.

Mr Brown acted after the Burmese government threatened to "take action" against the Buddhist monks who have led the biggest protests in the south-east Asian dictatorship for almost two decades.

Yesterday, the prime minister used his keynote address to conference to highlight the tensions in Burma, insisting: "Human rights are universal and no injustice can last forever."

In today's letters, he wrote: "We have all been watching with concern the unfolding human tragedy in Burma, which requires immediate international action.

"The widespread and growing popular demonstrations, led by Buddhist monks, are unprecedented. They illustrate the failure of the Burmese regime to promote a genuine process of political reconciliation.

"It is vital that the Burmese authorities exercise restraint in the face of the demonstrators and seize the opportunity to launch a process of real political reform.

"It is disturbing that they are now threatening to use force against the demonstrators.

"Violent suppression of the demonstrations would be a tragedy and another missed opportunity for Burma.

"All those with influence on the Burmese government should now use it to deter violence and encourage reconciliation." Mr Brown called for the UN to encourage key regional neighbours of Burma to urge the authorities in Rangoon to pursue reconciliation.

Mr Miliband said he "looked forward" to the day that Aung San Suu Kyi took over as its elected leader.

"While I'm at it," he said. "Wasn't it brilliant to see Aung San Suu Kyi alive and well outside her house last week? I think it will be a hundred times better when she takes her rightful place as the elected leader of a free and democratic Burma."

The last great pro-democracy uprising in 1988 led to a military crackdown on demonstrators which resulted in an estimated killing of 3,000 students and some monks.

God willing, a tipping point for Burma

From Channel 4 News, UK
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2007
By: Nick Paton Walsh, Jonathan Rugman

Burma's military junta imposes a curfew in the country's main cities amid warnings that a severe repression could follow.

A dawn to dusk curfew has been imposed in Burma's main city, Rangoon, as well as in the second city of Mandalay.

It follows another day of defiant protests by thousands of people on the streets of Rangoon.

The military junta has poured hundreds of troops and armed riot police into the city centre, warning they will take action if the protests continue.

President Bush urged the Burmese people to reclaim their freedom, telling the UN general assembly that Americans were outraged and would tighten economic sanctions against the regime.

Britain has joined the international outcry against any attempt by Burma to impose a military crackdown. Foreign Secretary David Miliband said it was right to give "political backing" to Burma's opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and encourage the country "in the right direction".

But a stark warning came from the UN's human rights investigator for Burma, who said he feared a "very severe repression" and urged leading powers to intervene.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Smartmoney Small Business profiles a Native American healthcare business

Smartmoney Small Business profiles a Native American hospice run by two sisters that the authors say "transforms" healthcare. I'm not going to post the whole article here, you can read it if interested.

But the synopsis is that Bobbie Jacobs-Ghaffar and Lesa Jacobs run a nonprofit hospice that relies on their cultural competency as Native Americans to serve other underserved Native Americans needing end of life care. They had a negative experience with an aunt who was treated in a hospital for lung cancer, and whose treatment caused a lot of suffering. They take mainly Medicaid, the US government-run healthcare program for the poor. They also take Medicare, which is the program for those over 65, and other state and local government payments and private insurance (if you haven't noticed, the US doesn't have universal health coverage, and the administrative overhead created by multiple insurers is quite large).

Jacobs-Ghaffar has in fact attracted interest from private equity companies and other interested buyers, but she intends to remain true to the original mission. And certainly, lack culturally competence is a global barrier to accessing and making full use of health care services.

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane to retire

From iAfrica. Archbishop Ndungane is the Primate (Anglican-speak for most senior bishop) of South Africa. He has, like his predecessor Desmond Tutu, been a voice for moderation in the Anglican church's current dispute, unique voice among Global South Primates (although there are other outspoken moderates and liberals among GS bishops, priests, and laity). His theology, and that of his predecessor, is shaped by the experience of persecution in apartheid South Africa.

Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane will retire in January 2008, he confirmed in a statement on Wednesday.

Ndungane, who succeeded Archbishop Desmond Tutu as Archbishop of Cape Town in 1996, said he would step down on January 31, 2008.

"It has been a great privilege and distinctive joy to head this great church," said Ndungane.

An elective assembly to choose a successor would take place in September next year. Ndungane said he would preside over the synod of bishops and provincial standing committee meetings which preceded the assembly.

He would go on sabbatical thereafter until his official retirement date, he said.

After retirement, Ndungane plans to continue his involvement in African development and in an initiative to restore historic church schools.

GM workers go on strike, but healthcare negotiations seem to be complete

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama on Monday issued a statement supporting striking United Auto Workers union members and urged General Motors Corp. (GM: 34.76, -0.18, -0.5%) to return to the bargaining table. "The demands the union is fighting for -- job security, the health benefits they were promised -- are things that all workers should expect and that UAW members deserve," the Illinois senator said. UAW members walked off the job at GM factories Monday morning after talks failed to produce a contract agreement by an 11 a.m. deadline.

Stop a purge of religious books in US prison libraries

From Sojourners:

Imagine walking into your local library, planning to read a theologian such as Reinhold Niebuhr or Karl Barth – or even a best-seller by Jim Wallis or James Dobson.

But instead of finding such important and popular titles, you discover that the religion section had been decimated – stripped of any book that did not appear on a government-approved list.

That's exactly what's happening right now to inmates in federal prisons under a Bush administration policy. As The New York Times put it, "chaplains have been quietly carrying out a systematic purge of religious books and materials that were once available to prisoners in chapel libraries."

I've just sent a message to the Federal Bureau of Prisons protesting this absurd policy. Will you join me?

Just click here:

Go here to participate in the campaign.

Starbucks: union-busting in Grand Rapids, Michigan?

From Kiro TV. Like I said, perhaps the CEO needs to start writing on the chalkboard.

The labor troubles brewing for Starbucks in New York are spreading to another state, putting the company's worker-friendly image on trial.

On Sept. 20, the National Labor Relations Board accused the coffee chain of unlawful anti-union activity at a store in Grand Rapids, Mich., the second time in recent months that the government organization has leveled such charges against Starbucks (SBUX). The company meanwhile continues a months-long trial in New York, facing charges that it unfairly suppressed organizing efforts by the Industrial Workers of the World [IWW].

The union claims Starbucks' tactics in Michigan have been similar to those in New York, where the company faces 32 counts of unlawfully stifling organizing activity. The IWW says that at a Starbucks located on Wealthy Street in Grand Rapids, Starbucks threatened to terminate a worker for union activity and denied union members access to the store bulletin board.

"The Labor Board investigation has confirmed what baristas here already knew," says Cole Dorsey, 26, an IWW member and Starbucks barista in Grand Rapids, who says he was unfairly threatened with termination. "When Starbucks employees organize to have their contribution to the company recognized, corporate responds with an ugly union-busting campaign."

Company Spokesman Denies Charges

Starbucks says the union's charges are without foundation. "Starbucks respects the free choice of our partners and strictly complies with the laws and guidelines associated with labor organizing activities," wrote Starbucks spokesman Brandon Borrman in an e-mail message. "Starbucks is recognized as a best place to work because we have made treating our partners with respect and dignity our number one guiding principle."

"It is unfortunate that a small group of individuals calling itself the Starbucks Workers Union continues to misrepresent itself as an advocate for our more than 140,000 partners worldwide by filing unwarranted charges," Borrman added. Starbucks has until Sept. 28 to decide whether to settle the Michigan case or proceed to a Labor Board trial before an administrative judge, similar to the ongoing hearing in New York.

"We have advised the employer that there is enough evidence to establish a violation," says Stephen Glasser, director of the NLRB in Region 7, which includes Detroit and surrounding areas. "We are seeing if they are willing to settle the matter before a formal complaint is issued." Glasser declined to discuss the details of the charges before Starbucks' official response.

Unfavorable Comparisons with Wal-Mart

While the union tries to gain members store by store, its overall mission is much broader. Organizers are raising questions about Starbucks' reputation as a pro-employee company and arguing that it's another example of a low-wage service sector employer with inadequate benefits. The union points out that only 42% of Starbucks "partners," or employees, are covered by the company's health insurance, a figure the company confirms, even less than the 47% at Wal-Mart Stores (WMT). "This trial is putting corporate social responsibility itself on trial," says Daniel Gross, a former barista involved in the New York NLRB case. "If it's fake at Starbucks, it's very likely fake in general."

The IWW launched a national organizing campaign [, 8/1/07] at Starbucks in 2004. The union says it has members in four states but will not disclose the number of Starbucks workers who are members.

More Legal Trouble

It's been a tough week for Starbucks on the legal front. The day after the NLRB's findings in Michigan, a federal court decided to deny Starbucks' motion to defeat a class action by managers seeking overtime [BusinessWeek, 10/1/07]. In the suit, 900 Starbucks store managers argue they perform similar tasks to baristas and should be eligible for overtime. A ruling in the managers' favor could cost Starbucks tens of millions of dollars in unpaid overtime wages, damages, and attorney fees.

In addition to the federal court decision involving managers and the Sept. 20 NLRB decision, NLRB Region 7 is continuing to investigate whether Starbucks violated its 2006 settlement obligations involving other anti-union conduct in Grand Rapids. The IWW alleges the company failed to change its employee handbooks to indicate workers are free to wear union buttons and distribute union literature on the job.

UAW sets a strike deadline of 11am

DETROIT (Reuters) - The United Auto Workers union set a firm Monday morning deadline to reach a contract deal with General Motors Corp and threatened to send 73,000 GM factory workers on strike if no deal is reached.

The strike deadline raised the stakes in the closely watched labor talks after a weekend of bargaining had apparently brought the two sides close to a historic cost-cutting deal for the automaker.

A prolonged strike would be a major setback for the car manufacturer's recovery efforts and risk disappointing investors who have sent GM shares higher in the hope of a ground-breaking labor deal.

In a statement posted on its Web site, the UAW said "due to the failure of General Motors to address job security and other mandatory issues of bargaining, the union has set a firm strike deadline" 11 a.m. (1500 GMT) on Monday. The union said it was willing to negotiate continuously up to the deadline.

Chris "Tiny" Sherwood, president of UAW Local 652 in Lansing, Michigan, said the union's leadership had told him to be prepared to meet that deadline.

"They told me to walk them at 11 a.m. unless I hear otherwise," said Sherwood, whose local represents more than 1,500 GM workers who make three Cadillac models.

Both sides continued to talk in Detroit as of early Monday morning, extending a bargaining session that began on Sunday morning. Talks have continued for 21 straight days.

"We are fully committed to working with the UAW to develop solutions together," GM spokesman Dan Flores said. "We will continue focusing our efforts to reach an agreement as soon as possible."

Harley Shaiken, a labor expert at the University of California-Berkeley, said the union had increased the pressure for a quick settlement with GM.

"This is not an idle threat," he said. "A strike deadline is not meant for show. But it is possible that this will be a long night with a handshake at the end of it."

Shaiken said if an agreement is not reached by the Monday morning deadline, the UAW could either extend the strike deadline to try to finish the final details of an agreement or make good on its threat to strike.


GM and UAW negotiators had agreed during the weekend to the broad terms of a deal that would reduce GM's nearly $5 billion annual health-care bill, people briefed on the talks said.

Under that plan, widely considered the central issue in the complex talks, GM would shift responsibility for retiree health care to a new UAW-aligned trust fund.

Wall Street analysts have said such a step could cut GM's annual costs by $3 billion in exchange for a one-off payment expected to top $30 billion.

Other key issues in the talks include GM's desire to hire new workers at a lower wage rate and the union's request that the automaker commit to maintaining production in the United States over the duration of the coming contract.

The outcome of the contract talks is seen as crucial to efforts by the three Detroit-based automakers -- GM, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler LLC -- to recover from combined losses of $15 billion last year and sales difficulties that have driven their share of the U.S. market below 50 percent.

GM, Ford and Chrysler are seeking concessions from the UAW to close a labor cost gap with Toyota Motor Corp and other Japanese automakers operating in the United States that they say amounts to more than $30 per hour for the average factory worker.

Most analysts have seen a strike as a remote risk because of the weakened position of GM, which has cut 34,000 blue-collar workers from its payrolls and announced plans to shutter a dozen factories by next year.

The union's previous contract expired September 14. The last UAW strike against GM was in 1998. That walkout at two GM parts plants in Flint, Michigan shut down GM production and caused its sales to plummet.

GM's market share never recovered and the automaker responded to the work stoppage by overhauling its labor relations department. GM's U.S. market share had been 31 percent before the strike, but fell to 24 percent last year.

Copyright 2007 Reuters

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Abortion in Malaysia

From The Star, a Malaysian newspaper. Malaysia is a Muslim country. Note the difference between their definition of abortion and the way the Roman Catholic Church might do so - Malaysia forbids any abortions after the third trimester. I believe that Islam has no opinion on abortion before the quickening, or the fetus' first movement. Singapore allows abortion on demand before 24 weeks, or any time the life of the mother is threatened.

Thursday, April 17, 2003
The process of elimination

ABORTION is defined as the expulsion of the conceptus – the product of conception at any point between fertilisation and birth – before the 24th week or the loss of a foetus weighing 500gm or less.

While abortion is traditionally seen as being induced, it can also be spontaneous. When a mother suffers a miscarriage, her situation is medically termed as an abortion but when dealing with patients, obstetricians and gynaecologists refer to it as a miscarriage.

Malaysia’s Abortion Act 1967 makes abortion or termination of pregnancy illegal. However, there are circumstances in which it is permissible. According to Pantai Medical Centre consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist (OBGYN) Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar, a pregnancy may be terminated if two registered medical practitioners are of the opinion, formed in good faith, that continuation of pregnancy will endanger the mother’s life.

“For instance, if she has breast cancer, cancer of the womb or renal failure. The mother’s safety and well-being is always priority because we have to take into consideration her family and existing children whom she has to care for. If the pregnancy were to continue, it would deprive them of a mother,” she says.

Termination of pregnancy is also advised to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical and mental health of the mother.

“Victims of rape or incest who become impregnated as a result are permitted to abort their child as long as there is a mental assessment from a psychiatrist that shows if the girl were to continue with her pregnancy, it would affect her psychologically, maybe causing her to lose her mind.

“Also, if the foetus is diagnosed with gross physical or mental abnormalities, like severe anencephaly where the baby is without a brain or skull, or part of it is missing, an abortion is advised. Because when the baby is born, it may only live for a few hours,” she adds.

Various techniques are employed in an abortion procedure, all of which depends on the stage of gestation. They can be grouped as either medical or surgical termination.

Medical termination is for pregnancies less than nine weeks old. This can be done with a Mifepristone tablet (a hormone tablet that blocks production of progesterone produced by the mother’s body to maintain early pregnancy). It causes bleeding, pain and expulsion of the conceptus within 24 to 48 hours. The tablet is not available in Malaysia.

“With oral medication, the abortion can be incomplete and has to be supplemented with a surgical technique like curettage. Again depending on the period of gestation, if it was between five to six weeks, it may come out with the menses. Between eight to nine weeks, the abortion may be incomplete and a surgical termination like D&C (dilatation and curettage) is needed.”

Under surgical termination, pregnancies less than 12 weeks old can be aborted via a suction curettage or D&C.

Beyond 12 weeks, the procedure for termination of pregnancy is more complex, where it’s almost like an induction of labour. All surgical termination procedures are done under general anaesthesia because the patient is relaxed, making the cervix easier to dilate.

Only doctors who have undergone obstetrics and gynaecology training/posting and have been taught or have performed these procedures, as part of their training supervised by the consultant OBGYN is capable of performing an abortion surgery safely.

Although abortion appears to be a minor operation – if done correctly, it takes only 10 to 15 minutes – Dr Nor Ashikin says that complications can and do occur anytime, anywhere.

“A life is at stake, particularly if you are talking about teenagers. It might affect them and their future pregnancies. The worse case scenario is death because if it is a forceful rather than gradual dilatation of the cervix, the girl can go into shock. Bear in mind that the cervix for those who have not delivered before is the size of a pinhole and you are trying to dilate it to about six to seven millimetres in diameter. If it is forceful dilatation or performed by someone untrained, it can tear the cervix where the immediate effect of which is haemorrhage. Uncontrolled and if the clinic is not properly equipped with blood supply for instance, the girl can die.”

Dr Nor Ashikin adds that in the long term, the muscles of the cervix will become weak or damaged.

“She must be prepared for the reality that she might not be able to conceive when she wants to because when there is tear or perforation resulting in continuous bleeding or severe infection, sometimes the uterus has to be removed. Should she get pregnant, she’ll find that she is likely to have recurrent spontaneous miscarriages or go into pre-term labour.”

An incomplete abortion without supplementation can lead to prolong bleeding, causing infection and damage to the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus and eventually resulting in infertility.

Uterine perforation can also take place because the uterus is usually anteverted (tilted forward) and instruments like the curette are stiff. As it is inserted, it might perforate the cervix or the wall of the uterus, which can result in a haemorrhage; perforate the bladder, which can cause urine leakage; or puncture any of the intestines, as they are located behind the uterus.

Between a D&C and suction curettage, the latter is safer because it uses a plastic tube, which is softer and thus able to follow the curve of the uterus. The degree of complication also depends on period of gestation with complications less likely to occur if the pregnancy is still in its early stages. And an abortion conducted legally in a hospital will have a smaller percentage of complications.

“These are the risks girls have to know they are taking and whether it’s worth taking them. Many think it’s an easy way out, as contraception. But I don’t think they actually realise what they are in for. They are desperate people who try to solve the problem with desperate measures,” says Dr Nor Ashikin.

“Youth must be more responsible, in the sense if they feel they are sexually active, they should understand the consequences and be prepared to take the risk, although I don’t think that is the right attitude. Abortion is not the answer and this is where sex education is important for teenagers.

“It’s hard making these comments but as a parent, I feel that moral and religious guidance are very important to guide our teenagers because of exposure to the media and Westernisation.

“Any girl who finds herself pregnant, should first go to her parents and discuss it with them. I know as teens, they’re at that rebellious stage where they think their parents are their worst enemy. But your parents are your best friends who always have your best interest at heart. If not, talk to counsellors who can understand and help you,” she advises.

General Motors and United Auto Workers close to agreement on healthcare

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Negotiators for General Motors Corp. and the United Auto Workers were close to agreeing on a deal to transfer the automaker's retiree health care costs to a trust managed by the union, according to news reports Saturday.

GM and the labor union held their seventh session of talks Friday and planned to meet Saturday, the Associated Press reported.

Details of the health care plan haven't yet been worked out, AP said, citing comments from a person who was briefed on the talks.

GM's drive to transfer about $50 billion of long-term retiree health-care costs to a trust managed by the union has been seen as critical to a positive outcome.
Such a move, if agreed, would save GM about $3 billion a year.

While union bosses accept the concept, pioneered in a labor agreement struck last year between Goodyear and its United Steel Worker employees, progress has been slow to non-existent on how it would work at GM.

Media reports as of Friday, citing anonymous sources privy to the closed-door talks, say GM is only willing to take on about $30 billion of the $50 billion accounting liability the health-care plan carries.

"The union is understandably skeptical to this," David Healy, analyst at Burnham Securities said Friday. Like many on Wall Street, he is also increasingly skeptical that the talks can produce an agreement without resolving the health-care issue.
"The longer this goes on without a settlement, the more likely there will be a strike, though it is my impression it would be a short one," he said.

GM's share price reflects this growing concern. It jumped from $31.74 on Sept. 13, the day before the talks began, to a session-high of $36 on Wednesday, fueled in part by a big rally following the Federal Reserve's rate cut but also on views that GM would manage to hammer out a deal with the union.

That optimism is waning and the stock has since flattened out at around $35 a share, despite further gains Friday by the Dow Jones Industrials Average, which includes GM.
GM shares closed Friday at $34.94, up 47 cents for the day.

Meanwhile, more than 70,000 GM employees are working day-by-day without a contract, poised to strike at any time if their representatives declare the talks deadlocked.
The entire automotive industry is closely watching the talks. Whatever deal is eventually reached between GM, the world's biggest car maker, and the UAW will serve as the blueprint for contracts between Ford Motor Co. , Chrysler, and their workers. It will also shape the contracts of thousands of workers in the U.S. automotive parts industry.

Negotiators on both sides of the table are painfully aware of the high stakes.
GM, fighting to defend a market share under siege from foreign carmakers, insists it needs to get out from under crushing pension and health-care costs that, for key competitors such as Toyota, are often borne by national welfare programs.
Auto workers are also reluctant to resort to a strike, keenly aware that a prolonged labor action could accelerate the decade-long offshoring of their jobs to far cheaper labor markets.

Jim Jelter is Industrials Editor for MarketWatch in San Francisco.
Myra P. Saefong is MarketWatch's assistant markets editor, based in San Francisco.

Starbucks: founder sees lots of room to grow, but will it pay managers fairly?

A New York Times article has an interview with Howard Schultz, chairman and founder. He believes the company has lots of room to grow (mainly outside the US), even though there's already a Starbucks on every corner in major US cities (and in Singapore too).

Schultz also talks a bit about sourcing coffee, and the need to reform health care.

Q. What about ensuring sourcing as you grow? I was in coffee-growing regions of Chiapas in April and Starbucks there is working with a middleman because the demand is so large. Starbucks itself seemed to be very distant to the farmers, even though you emphasize those relationships.

A. Let me try to go from 30,000 feet down as it relates to supply and the issue of arabica and what’s going on around the world. First off, I think pricing over the near term will be fairly stable unless there’s some weather catastrophe or something unprecedented.

We have traveled on average about 300 days a year in the last five years for the sole purpose of ensuring sustainability and long-term relationships with existing suppliers, and then doing the kind of work that would uncover new sources of high-quality arabica in existing and new markets.

I believe that we have established a competitive advantage in the marketplace that is not only sustainable but will differentiate us because there won’t be enough of that high-quality coffee to go around.

Q. And that advantage is your relationship with the growers?

A. One of the things that I’ve learned over the years is that everyone is willing to pay a high price for high-quality coffee when the market is high. Very few if any — other than us — are willing to pay a premium when the market goes down.

Q. You have been on the record about the need to reform health care. What role do you want to play between now and the November elections?

A. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been back and forth to Washington, more times than I would like to remember, sometimes alone and often with other C.E.O.’s. The primary hope was to get health care reform on the Congressional agenda. It’s still not on the Congressional agenda. We’re spending $1.5 billion or so on the Iraq war and we can’t solve the health care problem in America.

Given that people are willing to pay a premium for premium coffee, Christians should hope that coffee growers will get premium prices, which will improve their standard of living. After all, Deuteronomy 24:14 says "You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers." And trust me, coffee growers are poor. If the Bible wasn't enough, Article 23 part 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says:

(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

Now, speaking of favorable (the UN text is written in British English, btw) remuneration, several Starbucks managers are engaged in a class action suit that has just been certified in Florida against Starbucks. As managers, they cannot be paid overtime by US law; that particular law is a big point of controversy. The Starbucks managers allege that their duties are substantially identical to the workers they supervise, that they end up working overtime, and that they forego compensation for that overtime. A competitor, Caribou Coffee, is facing a similar class action lawsuit in Minnesota. Perhaps US law, more than Starbucks, is to blame in this particular case.

However, perhaps Howard Schultz should be made to write 100 times on the blackboard, "I will not engage in union busting, and I will pay fair wages to all employees."

Friday, September 21, 2007

Petition President Bush to end violence in Darfur

Take action in this Amnesty International campaign to ask President Bush to:

* Set a timeline and benchmarks for the deployment of the African Union/UN peacekeeping force in Darfur;
* Protect displaced civilians in neighboring eastern Chad and support a UN presence there;
* Ensure sufficient support for African Union and UN peacekeepers to protect civilians and stabilize the region.

The global petition will be delivered to his office on October 24, which is United Nations Day.

MBAs are the biggest cheaters

This article is old, but the gist is that MBAs admit to cheating at higher rates (56%!) than people in any other grad degree, and this has implications for the way business (at least in America) is conducted.

That said, others aren't that far behind. 54% of graduate engineering students, 50% of students in the physical sciences, 49% of medical and other health-care students, 45% of law students, 43% of graduate students in the arts and 39% of graduate students in the social sciences and humanities admit to cheating. Yikes.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Racial injustice in Louisiana

Lydia Bean, writing on her Beliefnet blog, tells us about a shocking incident in the US that is just coming to light: a school in Jena, Louisiana allowed a hate crime against Black students and persecuted them for organizing against that crime; then the criminal justice system got involved, and intends to imprison them. Lydia's article gets right to the heart of why I blog.

The Hebrew prophets warn us that when we don't hold our laws to God's standard of peace and justice, powerful people will use the law as a weapon to crush the poor and advance their own interests. I work with a faith-based organization called Friends of Justice, which organizes in poor communities across Texas and Louisiana to hold our criminal justice system accountable to our nation's highest values. This week, we brought international media attention to a dramatic trial in Jena, Louisiana, to show what happens when our criminal justice system becomes a weapon in the hands of the powerful.

It all started in Jena, Louisiana when white students hung three nooses in a tree at the high school courtyard, to warn black students that only white kids got to sit under the shade of that tree. The nooses appeared after several black students asked a school administrator if they could sit underneath that tree, and the administrator had given them the only answer he could legally give: that they could sit wherever they wanted. But it became obvious where the school administration's sympathies lay. They dismissed the noose incident as an innocent prank and a discipline committee meted out a few days of in-school suspension to the young white men who had taken credit.

The following day, black students staged a spontaneous protest rally under the tree where the nooses had been discovered. Six black male athletes took the lead in this protest. Immediately, the school held an emergency school assembly to address their problem…no, their problem wasn't the hate crime, it was black students protesting the hate crime. With a dozen fully uniformed police officers in the auditorium, the town's District Attorney Reed Walters warned protest organizers that with a stroke of his pen he could take their lives away. After the demonstration under the tree, white teachers branded these six leaders of the protest as "troublemakers": Robert Bailey, Carwin Jones, Mychal Bell, Theodore Shaw, Jesse Beard and Bryant Ray Purvis. Over the next few months, white teachers looked for any reason to crack down on them and brand them as bad kids.

At the end of November, the central academic wing of Jena High School was destroyed by fire (the smoke damage is evident in the picture above). Over the weekend, a stream of white-initiated racial violence swept over the tiny community, adding to the trauma and tension. The following Monday, a white student was punched and kicked following a lunch-hour taunting match. Six black athletes were arrested and charged with conspiracy to attempt second-degree murder—for a schoolyard fight in which no one was seriously injured. After Friends of Justice attracted international media attention to the "Jena 6," the district attorney was forced to lower the charges, but not by much. D.A. Walters was confident that he could get an all-white jury to convict these young men, no matter what the evidence.

He was right. Last Thursday, June 28, 2007, Mychal Bell was convicted of aggravated second degree assault and conspiracy to commit secondary degree aggravated assault. The alleged assault was "aggravated" because a dangerous weapon was used—namely tennis shoes. Mychal is a strong student who planned to go to college, but he could be 40 before he gets out of prison.

Mychal's defense attorney didn't even try to mount a defense. He could have called reliable witnesses to the stand to testify that Mychal didn't throw a punch in this fight. Most of the prosecution's witnesses who fingered Mychal as a "ring leader" in this fight had changed their stories in recent weeks: When they were first interviewed, none of them could even remember if Mychal had even been present at the fight. They only remembered that a bunch of "black kids" were there. But after the town's white community identified Mychal as a "troublemaker" for protesting the hate crime, these witnesses "remembered" that Mychal was the instigator in the fight. Psychologists tell us that memory is notoriously unreliable, and that social pressure motivates people to "remember" what suits them.

All over our country, young black males have been so demonized by our culture that it is almost impossible for them to get a fair trial. We know that our criminal justice system defies God's purposes when young black men are prosecuted for attempted murder for a school fight while their town stands behind the perpetrators of a hate crime. In Jena—as in Iraq—our nation is learning the hard way that true peace only flows from justice.

But politicians will never stand up for poor black teenagers like Mychal Bell unless people of faith embarrass them into doing the right thing. The church must witness to God's purposes for the criminal justice system. Our God is a God of justice, who holds judges and rulers to account when they crush people who are made in God's image. If we want to be the people of God, we must defend equal justice for the poor. If Christians hold out this prophetic vision, we will inspire Americans from all traditions to hold our government to a higher standard.

Lydia Bean is a founding member of Friends of Justice and a doctoral candidate in sociology at Harvard University. To get involved, you can visit the Friends of Justice blog, make a donation, and sign up for Action Updates. Hear a song about Jena, "Sitting on the Wall," performed by Alan and Lydia Bean at the Pentecost 2007 conference. (Refresh your browser if the song doesn't load correctly.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Amnesty International faces ban in Ireland's Catholic schools

From Madpriest
Henry McDonald
Tuesday September 18, 2007
The Guardian

The Catholic church in Northern Ireland has started to instruct schools to disband Amnesty International support groups because of the human rights organisation's pro-abortion stance.

A spokesman for the church in Ireland confirmed that one of its grammar schools in Greater Belfast had been advised to wind up its Amnesty group. He also revealed that the Irish bishops will meet next month to discuss the presence of Amnesty in all Catholic schools.

Amnesty's policy that rape and incest victims should be entitled to abortions has led to calls from senior members of the Catholic church in Britain and Rome for a withdrawal of support from the organisation.

In relation to the banning of school Amnesty groups, a church spokesman told the Guardian: "An inquiry did come from a school principal, on behalf of the teacher who is in charge of the school Amnesty group, asking for guidance on the future of the Amnesty group in the school. The advice to the school is that it would be inappropriate for the school branch to continue in existence in the context of Amnesty International's new position regarding abortion."

Asked if the policy in Down and Connor, which includes all of Greater Belfast, would be extended, the spokesman said: "The sacredness and protection of all human life will be discussed at the next general meeting of the Irish Bishops' Conference."

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty's Northern Ireland programme director, said he was still "hopeful" that the Amnesty school groups would not be affected by the row with the church hierarchy. "Amnesty International and the Catholic church have more in common than that which divides us, namely the issue of sexual and reproductive rights."

Across the Catholic world, relations between the human rights organisation and the church hierarchy have been severely strained over Amnesty's new pro-choice policy. One English cleric, the Catholic Bishop of East Anglia, Michael Evans, resigned from Amnesty after it took up a pro-abortion position. Bishop Evans, who was a founding member of Amnesty, said he regretted leaving it but had no choice as a Catholic.

Other Catholic bishops in Britain were more forthright in their condemnation of Amnesty's decision. The Scottish Catholic archbishop, Keith O'Brien, whose diocese is Edinburgh and St Andrews, said that in the light of the decision no Catholic should remain a member of Amnesty International.

Amnesty has said the issue of abortion arose over the mass rape of women in war zones such as Darfur and Congo.

The Vatican denounced the pro-choice policy, claiming Amnesty "has betrayed its mission". Globally, the Catholic church has withdrawn funding for Amnesty.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sr Joan Chittister: We (Catholics) all need the Anglicans right now

Sr Joan "Should be Pope" Chittister comes at the Anglican controversy from a very Catholic angle, emphasizing from a liberal angle the need for continuity with church tradition, and continuity of the institutional church itself. Being of Evangelical origin, with much less tradition and almost no emphasis on the church as an institution, I typically do not consider this angle. In any case, Sr. Joan is well worth reading. I found this article linked on Thinking Anglicans.

Blaise Pascal wrote once, "The multitude which is not brought to act as a unity is confusion." But in the same place he wrote immediately thereafter, "That unity which has not its origin in the multitude is tyranny." Translation: The multitude needs unity but unity, to be real, requires the assent of the multitude.

Understanding the conjunction of those two ideas -- confusion in the face of uncertainty and tyranny as the substitute for consensus -- may have never been more important than it is right now. If a country, if a religious body, cannot develop a common vision, the chances that they will survive, let alone be effective, are at best low.

That possibility is about to be sorely tested in worldwide Anglicanism. And no one of us need take any comfort in seeing it happen to someone else rather than to us. Yet.

Riven by the internal tension arising over the question of clerical homosexuality among the national churches of the denomination around the world, the delicately structured Anglican Communion, many say, is threatened by schism.

Some would say, "If you don't like it, get out." This "We-are-the-church-crowd" put themselves up as norms of the faith. Those who do not agree with them, who dare to question anything, who open issues deemed by some to be closed for all time, they label "evil" or "dissident" or "unfaithful." Catholics who accepted the notion of separation of church and state, for instance, labored under a shadow of suspicion for years. The loss of the theocratic state after the Protestant Reformation struck a blow at the very theology of power and authority. Not until Vatican II, did the church really accept as theologically acceptable the whole idea of sectarian -- that is, non-theologically aligned -- governments.

The debate over sectarianism may seem almost laughable now, but it was not funny when John F. Kennedy was running for president. The major political question of the time was whether or not a Catholic president could really be trusted to lead a government for the good of all the people, Catholic or not, or be expected to take orders from the pope -- as did the medieval kings before him.

Theology and government are clearly not parallel institutions. They are interactive ones. What affects one will surely affect the other. Which is where Pascal's second insight is the other side of the coin. "Unity that does not have its origin in the multitude is tyranny," he says. Groups themselves, in other words, must have a part in the making of law if the group is to be unified rather than simply repressed.

So the question the Anglican communion is facing for us all right now is a clear one: What happens to a group, to a church, that stands poised to choose either confusion or tyranny, either anarchy or authoritarianism, either unity or uniformity? Are there really only two choices possible at such a moment? Is there nowhere in-between?

The struggle going on inside the Anglican Communion about the episcopal ordination of homosexual priests and the recognition of the homosexual lifestyle as a natural state is not peculiar to Anglicanism. The issue is in the air we breathe. The Anglicans simply got there earlier than most. And so they may well become a model to the rest of us of how to handle such questions. If the rate and kinds of social, biological, scientific and global change continue at the present pace, every religious group may well find itself at the breakpoint between "tradition" and "science" sooner rather than later.

Theological questions driven by new scientific findings, new social realities, new technological possibilities abound. How moral is it to take cells from one person for the treatment of another if all human cells are potentially life generating? Is that the destruction of life? If homosexuality is "natural," meaning biologically configured at birth, why is it immoral for homosexuals to live in homosexual unions -- even if they are bishops? After all, isn't that what we said -- in fact, did -- when we argued "scientifically" that blacks were not fit for ordination because blacks weren't quite as human as whites? And so we kept them out of our seminaries and called ourselves "Christian" for doing it. Without even the grace to blush.

It is not so much how moral we think we are that is the test of a church. Perhaps the measure of our own morality is how certain we have been of our immoral morality across the ages. That should give us caution. We said, at one time, that it was gravely immoral to charge interest on loans, that it was mortally sinful to miss Mass on Sunday, that people could not read books on the Index, that the divorced could not remarry. And we brooked no question on any of these things. People were either in or out, good or bad, religious or not, depending on whether they stood at one end or another of those spectrums.

Clearly, the problem is not that definitions of morality can shift in the light of new information or social reality. The problem is that we don't seem to know how to deal with the questions that precede the new insights. We seem to think that we have only two possible choices: the authoritarianism model, which requires intellectual uniformity and calls it "community" or a kind of intellectual anarchism, which eats away at the very cloth of tradition in a changing world.

The problem is that threatened by change we are more inclined to suppress the prophetic question than we are to find the kind of structures that can release the Spirit, that can lead us beyond unthinking submission while honoring the tradition and testing the spirits.

It's not an easy task. And we have had schisms aplenty to prove it. Catholicism, interestingly enough, has done better at preserving theological differences than we may give it credit for doing. We called the differences "ancient traditions" or ethnic "rites," or "custom," or "the private arena." The church recognized that there were instances or cultures for whom some ideals simply were not true. But those things functioned in a sea of sameness, in cultures essentially monochromatic and in countries basically one-dimensional in language and history.

But now we live in an avalanche of awareness, of cultural interaction, of scientific-technological possibilities. To take too certain a position too quickly can shred groups to pieces now. Churches everywhere are polarized. In a study of churchgoers done in Minnesota in 1983, conservative Catholics and conservative Lutherans had more in common than conservative Catholics and liberal Catholics. But in a social climate like that, how do we maintain the best of the old and admit the best of the new?

Absolutism and judgementalism, insult and downright slander, have poisoned the atmosphere, are making unholy the search, have stifled conversation.

Conservatives, devoted to what they consider unchanging truth, adopt a mantle of fidelity to the past. Liberals, devoted to exploring the moral dimensions of new questions, see themselves as faithful to the future envisioned by Vatican II. But truth is commitment to what's under the changes and renewal is what's devoted to developing a tradition as well as reshaping it. They are not opposites. They are two faces of the same thing and, if we are all to survive together, we must learn to respect one another until the dawn comes and the light shines.
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From where I stand, we need those who can develop a model of faith in times of uncertainty in which the tradition is revered and the prophetic is honored. Unless we want to see ourselves go into either tyranny or anarchy, we better pray for the Anglicans so that they can show us how to do that.