Saturday, June 28, 2008

Are Telephone Surveys Still Relevant?

Consumer Confidence (supposedly) At Multi-Year Low

Consumer confidence levels slipped again in June, hitting another nearly three-decade low.
The Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey for June saw the overall index move to a reading of 56.4, down from May’s 59.8. June’s reading was a 28-year low. Since 1952, only two surveys have had lower readings.
In April 1980, sentiment was at 52.7, and in May 1980, sentiment was at 51.7, the lowest reading in the survey’s history. June’s reading was significantly below the 85.3 that was recorded last June, and the peak of 96.9 hit in January of 2007.
Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had been expecting a sentiment reading of 56.5 for all of June. The mid-month reading had come in at 56.7. (source: Dow Jones News Service)

Blackberry Bold iPhone.jpg

Declining Value of Telephonic Surveys

Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Survey of Consumers, like the more famous Nielsen Household surveys will continue to lose value unless they come up with new ways to overcome the barriers imposed by changes in technology.

Telephone surveys are rapidly becoming obsolete, if they have not already achieved irrelevance. To begin with, they depend on the households that maintain a wall or desk telephone line. Each year hundreds of thousands of households disconnect their traditional phone line in favor of the more convenient cell or mobile phone services. Furthermore, surveys must have the participation of a significant cross-section of the population to have any real value to the decision-makers that depend on survey results.

Have You Switched To Only Using Cell-Phones?

Younger people are more likely to take the step to using cell phone service only than seniors however both groups are faced with rising prices and a tighter budget. According to the phone companies themselves, most people in the U.S. carry a portable phone these days. Solicitation via cell phone is a violation of existing telecommunications regulations or local laws. Therefore, traditional telephone-based surveys in this age are more likely to be reaching a very narrow slice of the population they seek to poll. That slice of the overall consumer pie will only get smaller in the future.

Unlisted Telephone?

The people who pay extra to have unlisted telephone numbers, typically higher average income households, are excluded from most formal surveys. If you can afford to pay for an unlisted phone number you can probably afford to go shopping more frequently.

Are You at Home?

People who work more than one job are far less likely to be sitting near the phone, awake, and willing to talk about how little they have left to spend after the bills are paid.

Who Really Likes Telephone Surveys?

Matters become more complicated when you consider who is likely to continue a telephone conversation once they realize a pollster has interrupted their privacy. The aversion to telephone pollsters is fairly common among the general public. Young and old may decide to participate inequal numbers but I suspect the latter group would be more likely to continue a survey telephone call. A parent at home with three demanding children might take the time to talk to an adult but, again, who knows?

Apple Annapolis 59431

Who Has Discretionary Disposable Income?

When one attempts to question the accuracy of a consumer survey disposable income becomes a key issue. Teenagers are often cited as the largest group with disposable income available for discretionary purchases. The people in that group are more likely to be at their local mall or sitting in a movie theater and available only through text-messaging or cell phone service.

What About the Internet?

Every year more people choose to buy and sell items using the Internet. Are consumer sentiment surveys such as the University of Michigan's properly assessing the impact of transactions conducted over the web? Do pollsters specifically attempt to ferret out the survey participant's activity on the web?


Many trends mentioned in this brief essay are widely known. If organizations that conduct major surveys are adapting to new technologies by including e-mail, text messaging, smartphones, or by placing younger pollsters at mall locations, perhaps their accuracy is not declining. The only thing I know for certain is that the only one person willing to admit they participate in telephone surveys in my social circle was my father. Teenagers I spoke to told me pollsters they see at shopping malls never want to talk with them. 90% of the others who responded to my inquiry no longer maintain a home phone, answer no e-mail surveys, and cannot remember the last time they continued a phone conversation with any unknown caller of any sort. This does not bode well for the accuracy of the Reuters/University of Michigan Survey of Consumers or the economists and investors that depend on thier accuracy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Speak Not Ill of the Dead nor Tim Russert

The following was posted in the "Comments" section provided after selected news articles at the Internet sites of most major city newspapers. These particular words came after some rude anonymous remarks attacking Tim Russert, just the day after he passed away. My own opinion of Tim Russert's work follows.

Washington, D.C. from Arboretum 03008


Tim Russert may well have been a “presstitute”—I have no real opinion on that question.

However, I am shocked to see the degree of animosity expressed here and on the linked pages, especially the recourse to the vile words that are no less than symbolic profanation of his corpse.

I do NOT share the ancient adage "de mortuis nihil nisi bonum" (of the dead say nothing but good). There is certainly a place for a critical look at Russert's character and his career but not for post mortem hatemongering.

In 1625, Hugo Grotius, in his great work De Jure Belli ac Pacis (On the Law of War and Peace), writes about the respect that is due to dead enemies:
For, as Virgil (Aeneas xi:104) observes, all animosity against the vanquished and the dead must cease because they have suffered the last of evils that can be inflicted. ‘We have been at war,’ says Statius, but our hatred has fallen, and all our enmity is buried in the grave.’ And Optatus Milevitanus assigns the same reason for reconciliation. ‘If there have been struggles among the living, your hatred surely must be satisfied with the death of an adversary. For the tongue of strife is now silenced.’ Dio Chrysostom says, ‘For the hand of death, has destroyed all enmity towards the fallen'.
Condemn the man's words and actions if you will and celebrate his demise if you must, but at least accord him in death the dignity that befits every human being.

My Own Opinion

To begin with, any special emphasis, italics, bold, or enlarged text you see in this or any other document o' mine is my handwork and mine alone. I hate interrupting the reader with a note which states "italics mine" or "bold text not the authors." I do not interrupt people while they read my work or any other person's written text.

New York City 8670

I fully recognize that on some level Tim Russert was perhaps a corporate shill for General Electric (GE), NBC, Universal, and possibly other related entities. Mr. Russert collected a paycheck and was certainly expected to follow whatever guidelines, written or unwritten, he knew to be laid out before him.

But I know personally, from having awakened on so many Sunday mornings to see it myself, the host of Meet The Press upheld every responsibility bestowed upon the Fourth Estate by active citizens who depend upon the press to reveal the truth.

In the United States we enjoy a Freedom of Speech beyond that available in any other nation on Earth. Sure the French and English can march more freely in protest against any perceived wrongdoing. Certainly the Germans can shout sermons from a street corner longer than any small town U.S. cop will tolerate. But here in the United States of America we can write whatever the fuck we want in our books, pamphlets, blogs, e-mails, and on the backs of our matchbooks, with very little fear of any prosecution whatsoever.

Communist China has already warned the known activists in Shanghai. They will be jailed indefinitely if they speak out one word during the 2008 Summer Olympics. A special beating was meted out to Freedom Fighters in Tibet months ago for daring to speak freely. There is no freedom of speech in Communist China. The so-called "People's Republic of China" does not belong to the people. China belongs only to the rich leaders of the Communist Party and a few loyal servants.

In China and North Korea, in Zimbabwe and Communist West Bengal, in Belorussia and Singapore the wrong speech at the wrong time will earn you a beating, a lengthy jail sentence or execution. People are not free to speak their peace in those places.

In the U.S.A you can speak freely and I invite anyone in this country to do so.

Tim Russert Practiced Free Speech

Tim Russert asked the toughest questions to all the important leaders in the United States.

Tim Russert asked questions which made Presidents squirm.

Tim Russert asked those questions while keeping a sharp Irish eye on each Senator and he accepted no bullshit gracefully. He demanded straight answers from Democrats and Republicans and Independents. Tim Russert was one of only a few reporters I have ever witnessed to do such a thing.

Maybe because you had to get up by 9 AM on Sunday to witness the spectacle, many people rarely saw Mr. Russert in action. You also needed to know the real heart of an issue to understand how really tough Mr. Russert's questions were. That man, Mr. Tim Russert, was the last real, honest reporter for a major news network in the United States that I know about.

This does not mean freedom of the press or free political speech died with Mr. Russert.

Still, he stands tall among even the most daring press figures worldwide. I'm talking about Robert Fisk, Amy Goodman, Dahr Jamail, and a few others. Mr. Russert stands among those people because he asked tough questions and demanded tough answers.

I have no doubt that he could walk into the office of the President of NBC Universal and speak his peace. I also have no doubt he did not allow that same boss to dictate a single political restriction to Tim Russert the news man.

Russert asked questions that would get people fired at other networks. Those other reporters would not be afraid to ask because of freedom of speech but because corporations buy advertising or not. Russert always appeared unconcerned about any financial repercussions of his questions. And that is what places him alongside Amy Goodman, Robert Fisk, Juan Gonzalez, Mike Wallace, Dahr Jamail, or Ed Bradley.

Even the great ABC news reporter Peter Jennings rarely stepped over the lines Tim Russert stepped over most Sunday mornings on Meet the Press. I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Jennings reporting style and learned volumes from him, but Tim Russert let me see exactly who I might be voting for in the next election.

Always Vote, In Every Election

I always vote and I always carefully research the person I give my vote to. Meet The Press was only one source of information I used to decide how I might vote. I get my news from many sources, domestic and foreign. I write out my thoughts just like I am doing now. I vote for the person that I think will do the best job for the people where I live, not the best job for my pocket, not the best job for my employer, but the best job for everyone in my town, my district, my county, my state, and my country.

White House

Tim Russert helped me and millions of other Americans determine who might be the best person to lead the United States. I am not lost without his tough questions during the current Presidential campaign. I only wish he could have somehow left us a seasoned protegé before his heart failed him so unexpectedly.

I offer my deepest condolences to Tim Russert's family, friends, co-workers, especially Brian Williams, from the point of view of a mere viewer of Meet The Press. Raise a toast to the man and go see a baseball game if you will, but do not count him among any but the best news reporters to have ever practiced the craft.

Now you may speak your peace as you wish because this is after all, The United States of America. 

Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Fall of the House of Usher

La propriété, c'est le vol. (Property is theft.) - Proudhon

Mariani, Haiti 00007

A Brit currently living in Australia has decided to put his entire life up for auction. Ian Usher is selling his house, car, job and even his friendships to the highest bidder on eBay.

Wow! There are so many angles to that decision it is difficult to know where to begin.

Buddha taught, Empty the boat of your life, O man; when empty it will swiftly sail...

Mr. Usher appears to be driven to this drastic step in order to forget about his ex-wife. Someone needs to tell him that memories are not that easy to purge.

The current bid of $285,000 might buy him a wonderful new life, but only in a 3rd world country. The publicity is likely to be worth even more than that. He should consider doing the talk show circuit in the U.S. and England.

Government leaders might want to consider looking for some unusual way of charging him with a crime. There is a chance he could start a trend, there could be a hundred thousand people in India or China in the market for prepackaged lives of people in countries like Australia, Germany, or the United States.

Pundag, Purulia District 00025

I actually sold most of my possessions twice in my life, keeping only what would fit in a satchel on my shoulder. Admittedly I did not have the collection of things Mr. Usher owns. My truck bought my plane ticket, my possessions provided several years of living expenses, in India that is. Each time I was sucked back into the rather cluttered existence I now lead.

I did learn that possessions are fleeting at best and things do not define a woman or man. I also learned that few people want to be the partner of someone who owns nothing. The people that did want to associate with someone who owned nothing tended to own even less than I did.

All in all I remember those days when I had nothing to lose as among the happiest, most carefree days in my life. I suspect my memories are rather selective, my tourist visa eventually ran out and there was deep snow on the ground when I returned to Philadelphia.

Snow 18806


A Life 4 Sale
CNN article
eBay Listing

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Recession or just Paranoid Corporations?

I tried to buy replacement razor blades for my Gillette razor today but Rite Aid would not let me. They have locked the razor blades to the shelves. The tiny little tag told me to ask for service but the pharmacist would not come out from behind her glass walls and the cashier has no idea what I was asking about. So I went to a different retailer but strangely enough encountered the same situation. My razor blades are locked to the display case and the poorly-trained clerks have no idea how to provide actual customer service.

I guess I'll have to grow a beard instead.

Proctor & Gamble will blame the slow sales of their Gillette products on the recession no doubt.

New York City 18662

A few weeks ago I explained how Visa and Citigroup refused to allow me to use my credit card to buy a new inkjet printer. They even called my home phone to tell me I was using my own credit card fraudulently. When I called Citigroup to correct this situation they refused to speak to me. They said my credit card was being handled by their Fraud department. When I called the Fraud desk, as directed, they told me they could not help me, I needed to know some mysterious password which I have never placed on the account, to my knowledge. No, the PIN code or my web site password was not good enough. I had to know some special password which I never even created in the first place. My Social Security number, birthday, home address, nor any other personal information would suffice. They promptly hung up on me because I did not know some secret password that I have never known.

Another major credit card firm that never declines my purchases did let me buy the inkjet printer.

Visa did let me buy a tank of gasoline on the card they declared to be a "Fraud," the very next day. Please understand I was not even close to my credit limit on any credit card then or ever. In fact, I stopped using that Visa card after that last tank of gas, I will pay it off like I always do each month and use a different firm's card instead from now on.

For years my insurance company, one of the largest, has not let me use their web site for any purpose whatsoever. Their site is too secure against Internet hackers to allow actual customers to use it. I am directed to call their 800 number and wait on hold for 30 or 40 minutes to speak to a Texan about my policies. I do not wait on hold that long for any business so I did not buy a new policy the other day from them. An actual human insurance agent, from another company in my home town, got the policy business instead.

My old bank refused to let me link my bank account to a very large brokerage. They even told me they did not trust that stock broker. That broker has over 350 offices across the United States. That same bank refused to open a new account for my growing business. Fifteen years of handling my finances with no overdrafts, no missed payments and weekly electronic deposits was insufficient. My flawless credit report was worthless to them as well. My old financial institution was the largest credit union in the world. Still, they are my old banker now, my new banker set up the new accounts in 30 minutes, including the link to the same stock broker.

Some firms just refuse to grow and learn about their customers.

I am sure the executives at these organizations are blaming the slowdown in business on the economy, the recession, and market turmoil. The plain and simple fact is that so many businesses are locked down so tight to prevent "fraud" that their regular customers are forced to take their business to other "friendlier" places. I realize the business executives at Citigroup, Visa, Rite Aid, my old bank, and my insurance company do not care about the business they lost this month. They will still get their 6 or 7-figure salaries no matter how many real potential customers they turned away and accused of being "frauds" or "hackers."

There are two important points those corporations are missing:

#1 When you insult a legitimate customer that customer remembers the insult.

#2 A customer that had a negative experience tends to tell their friends, family, and maybe even a larger audience, for example, people on the Internet.

Some day soon there may not even be enough profits to pay those 7-figure salaries of executives that lock down their products so securely that actual customers cannot make a purchase. I strongly suspect I am not the only customer turned away by these new policies.

No doubt they will also blame the loss of their jobs on the economy.


Washington Post article

Friday, June 20, 2008

Protectionism Only Protects Politicians

It is hard to understand why Western nations seem so reluctant to let the money they spend in foreign nations flow back into their countries. These efforts are foolish and short-sighted at best. At worst they could increase the already massive economic meltdown and exodus of major business operations in so-called rich nations.

One must only wonder what the hidden reasons are for this new wave of protectionism.

Stodgy German politicians are once again worried about foreigners meddling in Germany's business activity. Maybe this is because many years ago Germany decided to sell the government agency that prints their money, passports, and identification cards. That agency was known as the Bundesdruckerei.

Not long after that sale, the new German money printers went bankrupt. That would be the equivalent of the U.S. government selling the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and then watching the new dollar printers go bankrupt. Considering the outrageous amount of U.S. debt carried by individuals, federal, and state governments, this too shall probably come to pass.

U.S. Capitol 19914

U.S. Congress blocked the purchase of U.S. ports by Dubai Ports World in 2006. However they recently looked the other way when Middle Eastern funds came to the rescue of Citigroup earlier this year. Australian investors bought the rights to operate the Pennsylvania Turnpike just a month ago.

Politicians must have other motives than national security for blocking foreign takeovers.

For more than a decade politicians seemed unconcerned about who owned any organization, anywhere. Years ago the U.S. government sold the U.S. Enrichment Agency to Lockheed Corporation. U.S. Enrichment Corp. controls the flow of plutonium to nuclear reactors all over the world. So far that sale seems to have turned out OK. God knows what a mistake there would cause.

Maybe the U.S. government should privatize the security and transport of U.S. nuclear weapons. The Air Force and Pentagon appear unable to safely do that or any other important job. The nose cones of some weapons ended up in Taiwan while the actual warheads themselves ended up getting flown around the country by mistake. Military officials recently admitted they really have no idea where many critical nuclear weapons parts are or where they may have been.

WalMart does a better job of keeping track of the toilet paper it sells.

In the end governments all over the world will discover they cannot function without the knowledge and money of private firms worldwide. Private prisons, schools, roads, and airports represent just the beginning of this activity. Private armies like Blackwater already replace the functions of government troops in many strategic places.

The Jolly Flatboatmen 19774

Politicians in Germany, the U.S., and other places should take a step back and look at the bigger picture. They must allow money that has left their citizen's pockets and flowed into Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWF) in China, the Middle East, Norway, and other places to wash back onto their shores. There simply are few other sources of wealth that large available to patch up the mistakes of corrupt politicians and their cronies everywhere. Politicians are probably more worried about who will be left to buy them lunch or provide their campaigns with money in exchange for votes.


Financial Times article
Washington Post article
U.S. Enrichment Corp.
WalMart Logistics

Note: The author currently holds no investments in any of the publicly-traded firms mentioned in this article.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Five dollar per gallon gas saves teenage lives.

Car crashes are the most common way teenagers die, in the United States. More drivers under the age of 20 die while driving than from any other causes.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have both published studies that confirm this gruesome fact.

Wrecked Jeep

One big problem with this unfortunate situation is that nobody seems to want to do anything concrete about the causes of teenage driving deaths. In fact, most organizations that are in a position to do something to prevent teenage driving deaths are doing nothing at all.

Sure, laws against drinking or using cell phones while driving have been passed in some states. But these laws are hardly enforced in most places.

Cops Cannot Be Bothered With This Issue

Stand outside any high school at the time of day school lets out. There is often even a cop there directing traffic in those places. These policeman see kids talking on their cell phones all the time, yet they do nothing about it.

If you ask the police why they do nothing about teenagers driving and talking on cell phones they provide many answers. One common response cops give is that they really can't do anything. The laws are written in such a way that police must have another reason, besides cell phone use, to stop a teenage driver.

The same rule applies to seat belt use. Drivers must break a different law to get ticketed for driving while using cell phones or not using seat belts.

So teens continue to die while talking or texting and driving.

In some states the police can pull over and ticket teenagers just for driving while talking on the phone. The police in those places will tell you how difficult it is to determine if the driver is actually a teenager.

In a few places the police can pull over any person driving and talking on the cell phone. They almost never do that, they just do not have the manpower, plus the cases end up getting thrown out of court most of the time.

So teens keep dying needlessly behind the wheel, while talking.

Parents are Too Busy

School and police officials will tell you that parents need to be the enforcers. Parents of teenagers will tell you that they do order their kids not to talk on the phone while driving. The kids still talk on the phone and attempt to drive anyway.

Teen drivers keep dying in huge numbers no matter what anyone says or does about it.

Phone Companies Don't Care

The cell phone and automobile companies fight most efforts to restrict cell phone use or teen driving. They desperately need the revenue from all those phone minutes, text messages, and car parts.

The dead teenagers are probably just considered collateral damage, like civilians killed in war.

There is a huge outcry every time three or more teenagers die in a car accident. Police and insurance investigators can sometimes determine if the unfortunate victims were talking or texting when they got in the wreck. Once they pry the phone records away from very protective cell phone companies. There is not much the police can do about this issue after the accident happens.

The phone companies send phone bills to parents of teenagers every month. It would not take more than a few minutes for parents to find a few cases where their teenagers were driving and talking, just by examining those phone bills. If the parents knew the statistics maybe they would do this, but probably not.

We have the Technology to Stop It Now

There are technical ways to make cell phones inoperable in moving cars. There is already a device that prevents cell phones from working in a specific place. Some restaurants and certain Broadway theaters have been known to use these devices. Sneaky people riding trains into New York City also use cell phone blockers from time to time. These devices are illegal but you can still order them, put the batteries in, and use them anytime. Why not hide one in your teenager's car? It could keep them from serious injury or death. If they need to use the cell phone anyway they could park the car, step outside, and use the phone.

The phone companies do not want to stop teenagers from dying while using their products behind the wheel of an automobile.

Most parents just cannot be bothered to really check to see if their kids are using cell phone while driving.

The automobile makers are just trying to stay in business, surely they want nothing to do with issue of cell phone use and driving.

Insurance Providers and Local Leaders Do Care

Insurance companies and government agencies do care about teen driving deaths. But there is not much they can do about it other than include little pamphlets in with the insurance bills or publish statistics. There is not much money available for effective driver's education programs these days. That money was all spent on wars overseas.

So teenagers will continue to die behind the wheel of cars more than any other way. What a terrible and yet preventable loss of life.

Maybe $5 per gallon is not such a bad thing, from the point of view of driving safety. High gas prices may just force teenagers to drive less, and therefore talk on the phone less while driving.

Monday, June 09, 2008 and Starvation in Haiti

People often ask me to share some of my experiences while working overseas. Predictably I usually offer up the times I found adventure or thrills in some exotic location.

Mariani 00007

I seldom discuss my times in the slums of Kolkata or especially what I saw while living in Haiti. The memories are disturbing but still educational so there are times when I can bring myself to offer at least a glimpse.

Recently I was directed to a blog called This blog provides many insightful articles on the topic of all the food that goes to waste in the U.S. and other developed nations. Occasionally the author addresses the subject of hunger.

The following is a small excerpt copied from the daily journals I kept while working on relief projects all over the world.

Hunger in Haiti

In Haiti, the majority of the urban adult population only consumes a full meal every other day. The children do eat a meal every day. People chew on clay during days they do not eat. The women get by eating any spoiled fruit and vegetables they are unable to sell for a pittance.

This is a fact, I lived there for two years and witnessed the situation myself. I am in-touch with aid workers in Haiti now and the situation has gotten worse.

You cannot imagine starvation at these levels. A worker that cannot find any day labor for a week typically loses one child to starvation. Families must make weekly decisions as to who lives (a family member that can work) and who dies (a family member that suffers from an illness curable in the U.S.).

Compassion is lost in these situations. Life becomes a daily struggle for survival. Hungry people are like hungry wild animals sometimes, fighting over scraps thrown on a waste pile. Humanity is reduced to basic animal survival instincts.

Fresh Water Well

Mariani Haiti 00002

Near the clinic where I worked a 5-year old child took care of her infant brother Monday through Friday. This child could start a fire, prepare US AID rations and collect water from the well behind the clinic. The mother could only return to the cracker-tin shack on weekends. Her job was prostitution.

The daily scenes of starvation, illness and death are too disgusting to relate here. Picture Europe during the times of the Black Plague perhaps.

Of course this is not the whole picture of this complex island nation. The Haitians that decide to remain in mountain villages usually do get enough to eat but they get very little other public services like education, health care, or farming assistance.

Ossanite, Haiti 00002

At least living away from urban areas reduces the chances they will catch certain communicable diseases or become crime victims. The United Nation's forces have brought some civility back to the Haiti that exists outside greater Port au Prince.

There are also millionaires on Haiti, living in the heights about in places like Petionville and Kenscoff. For the most part they are concerned only with with increasing and guarding their wealth. Some do help the less fortunate yet very little food or medicine trickles down to the masses living exactly as I described at the beginning of this article.

Foreign aid workers and agencies do their best to alleviate some of the suffering in Haiti. Unfortunately the public health situation makes it difficult for aid workers from developed nations to remain healthy for long when working among the poorest populations. Haiti is not a popular destination for most overseas aid workers.

I received initial disaster project management and personal hygiene training in Kolkata, India, prior to working in Haiti. A Filipino man provided me with additional training after I arrived on the island of Hispaniola. I was able to remain healthy in Haiti for long periods of time because I closely adhered to my initial training. I often witnessed aid workers from church organizations or NGOs* arrive healthy and soon leave Haiti in haste, with dire symptoms.

The Haitian projects of Dr. Paul Farmer and Partners In Health should be commended along with Doctors Without Borders, AMURT, and many other NGOs. It seems to be a work without end and that is a shame. The problems in Haiti could be solved if world governments and great minds would only spend a tiny faction of the time and money spent on warfare, greed, and wasted food.

Daily life in Haiti is also not a popular topic for major newspaper and television audiences in other countries. Eating contests, crime shows, and dog competitions tend to score much higher television ratings.

Government corruption, the drug trade, and other organizations have certain vested interests in Port au Prince. These activities make it more profitable for them to maintain the status quo in Haiti. The situation inside the country is unlikely to change soon.

Haiti is not alone on the list of starving nations. Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea, and Somalia are three more places that immediately come to mind. There are many others.

Simple changes by millions of people around the world can make a difference. Finish the plate of food you are served. Take only the food you need when serving yourself. Question why so much food is being trashed or destroyed when you see this happening. Educate yourself about the problems faced by the poor in other nations. Read what is written at Write a term paper or book report on this subject. These actions and all knowledge of the true situation are important in the fight against starvation.

Other Posts on Haiti:

Lessons of Hate
The Unbearable Pain of Injustice
When Governments Fail
Reaching the Millennium Development Goals

Partners In Health
Doctors Without Borders

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Is Fundamentalism Worth Destroying Earth?

Fundamentalists all over the world are still making their presence known by being louder. There is not really more of them or anything. It's a squeaky wheel thing that is costing many nations trillions in any and all currency. Lives are be taken and I am not sure the reasons for these losses are very legitimate.

It is not even so much about the money though that is such a huge waste. It is really all about the human lives and so-called collateral damage everywhere you look. Ruined cities, closed countries, and too many wounded people in hospitals everywhere. Cameras and government spies and torture chambers all make you wonder where the humanity went. Money spent on things we blow up rather than useful text books or fire trucks.

Bombs For Jesus Sake?

Are we stuck at a point where aerial bombardment is our only viable choice?

Nuclear Blast 1945

Do we really all really need so many thermonuclear weapons in bunkers worldwide or lost somewhere out West? If it comes down to global annihilation what's the big stink about sharing one weapon rather than paying so much to stock so many different bombs?

Edinburgh 00023

Extreme beliefs are so in our face we find them almost fascinating to read about. That is a problem as well. Wouldn't it be better to be reading Curious George to your kids right now?

Not the Majority

Don't be fooled into thinking these fundamentalist beliefs dominate the mainstream. People believe so many things I even see extra cars parked outside the Buddhist temples these days. And many local people arrived at group meditation by public transportation back when I lived on 16th Street.

Monk, Bihar, India 002

We mix yoga with temple or attend a Taoist retreat and learn Reiki. It's all about expressing what we want to, the way we want to, when we can. It can be part of a community or a very personal expression or nothing at all.


Extreme Fringes

Meanwhile, Waziristan and many more regions of Pakistan have gone totally fundamentalist, no matter how moderate the original populations in some regions once were. I would move somewhere else too if they blew up my church or even my moderate mosque. Pakistanis are forced to do this more often than the international community cares to admit.

Extreme religions are settling in Texas, Toledo, and Tucson. Tehran, Tel Aviv, Gaza, and Riyadh are home to some rather hard-line sects. People are sort of trying to get along, don't get me wrong now, but I am concerned about the overall lack of real progress. Everywhere on Earth.

Peace in Some Places

People of many religions do still live peacefully in some places, without squashing their neighbors like bugs on a windshield. But all over the planet but there are still many people who really have to lay low, in so many places. Catholics finally got the right to go to church in China. Tibetans, I don't know. Christian Serbians and Muslim Kosovars, not really. There's progress, I suppose, but peace is coming at very lethargic pace.

Fundamentalist Islam is all the rage these days in several key regions around the world and no doubt in locations where government's least suspect. Their leaders thought it would be cool to take out a few skyscrapers in Manhattan, the Tube in London, Madrid at rush hour, the surf shops on Bali. A very religious way indeed to deal with your spiritual issues. Did Allah really suggest that course of action somewhere down the line?

Everyones Got A Jihad To Pick

Fundamentalism in general also seems be a bastion for certain Hindus, Jews, and Christians in the new Millennia.

The Right-wing Christian Right movement in the U.S. appears to function more like a massive corporation these days than any town church I ever saw growing up. Some churches have grown to the size of WalMart no less. Other congregations are into using welfare polygamy moms as breeders or protesting at funerals for dead soldiers.

Where is the church or temple teaching in that? Where's it say Jesus, Mary, or Joseph advocated that nonsense?

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Moses would not have approved of cluster bombs.

Zionists in the Occupied Territories use all kinds of methods to run off local Palestinians, including dropping used baby diapers in drinking wells. Hamas guys take only one Tel Aviv bus ride, but loaded for bear. Israel lobs cluster bombs where kids will play one day. It all adds up to a mountain of misery and nothing much gained.

I understand these folks disagree but com'on now. Surely those desperate acts are way, way out of line, even for extremists, right?

Right-wing Hindus found it spiritual to conduct a pogrom in a Muslim part of one town in India. Of course there was some retaliation, I would not sit back and take that from anyone of any faith. Instant Karma was around long before John Lennon penned the song.

I know it is a mess to try and draw the line between radical beliefs and one man's choice of religion. Wishing for Armageddon or The Rapture has to be out there on the lunatic fringe. Right alongside packing your Toyota with explosives and taking one last joy ride though Baghdad.

Ignoring the true history of the Grand Canyon or age of most fossils, petrified wood, and mountain ranges, still ranks real low on most people's list of core spiritual beliefs.

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And The Root Causes Are...

There are many other conflicts, hiding behind the thin veil of many religions, that I have not mentioned here. Examined closely they look more like land grabs, hoarding wealth from resources, misogyny, and downright murder than any belief system I have studied over the years.

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Luckily the masses are content with loving thy neighbor and doing unto others. Perhaps temple, mosque or church on Friday or Saturday or Sunday. We have to work the rest of the week just have to enough extra to put in the the donation box or gas tank. Which ever comes first.

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Give Peace A Chance

Isn't it about time the entire world started real peace talks, maybe some place isolated and indifferent to the issues like Malta? Or the International Space Station? Or maybe Vegas? Who cares if the talks take decades, any progress would be better than the bloody mess everyone is making in the name of religion now.


Washington Post