Guest Blog – Sorry


Hello, all.  It’s The Sister, letting you know that our IdealisticRebel has a migraine today, and will be receiving a back treatment tomorrow, like she did in the summer, so it may be several more days before you hear from her again.

I know Barbara will appreciate your thoughts and prayers, and looks forward to writing for you all again, very soon

Namaste

American Paychecks


I  found this on BillMoyers.com, who found it on the blog of Robert Reich.  It does give an interesting perspective on why we need trade unions again.  My grandfather was a union organizer, and I have a lot of respect for unions and what they can do for workers.  It’s probably the root my activism gene, and I respect that a lot, too.

I hope it makes you think, the way it did for me.  As always, I invite all civil discussion on the matter, because until this is fixed — until our people have a true living wage — we cannot stop poverty.

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WorkersOnAssemblyline

Why Wages Won’t Rise

Robert Reich
TUESDAY, JANUARY 13, 2015

Jobs are coming back, but pay isn’t. The median wage is still below where it was before the Great Recession. Last month, average pay actually fell.

What’s going on? It used to be that as unemployment dropped, employers had to pay more to attract or keep the workers they needed. That’s what happened when I was labor secretary in the late 1990s.

It still could happen – but the unemployment rate would have to sink far lower than it is today, probably below 4 percent.

Yet there’s reason to believe the link between falling unemployment and rising wages has been severed.

For one thing, it’s easier than ever for American employers to get the workers they need at low cost by outsourcing jobs abroad rather than hiking wages at home. Outsourcing can now be done at the click of a computer keyboard.

Besides, many workers in developing nations now have access to both the education and the advanced technologies to be as productive as American workers. So CEOs ask, why pay more?

Meanwhile here at home, a whole new generation of smart technologies is taking over jobs that used to be done only by people.  Rather than pay higher wages, it’s cheaper for employers to install more robots.

Not even professional work is safe. The combination of advanced sensors, voice recognition, artificial intelligence, big data, text-mining, and pattern-recognition algorithms is even generating smart robots capable of quickly learning human actions.

In addition, millions of Americans who dropped out of the labor market in the Great Recession are still jobless. They’re not even counted as unemployment because they’ve stopped looking for work.

But they haven’t disappeared entirely. Employers know they can fill whatever job openings emerge with this “reserve army” of the hidden unemployed – again, without raising wages.

Add to this that today’s workers are less economically secure than workers have been since World War II. Nearly one out of every five is in a part-time job.

Insecure workers don’t demand higher wages when unemployment drops. They’re grateful simply to have a job.

To make things worse, a majority of Americans have no savings to draw upon if they lose their job. Two-thirds of all workers are living paycheck to paycheck. They won’t risk losing a job by asking for higher pay.

Insecurity is now baked into every aspect of the employment relationship. Workers can be fired for any reason, or no reason. And benefits are disappearing. The portion of workers with any pension connected to their job has fallen from over half in 1979 to under 35 percent in today.

Workers used to be represented by trade unions that utilized tight labor markets to bargain for higher pay. In the 1950s, more than a third of all private-sector workers belonged to a union. Today, though, fewer than 7 percent of private-sector workers are unionized.

None of these changes has been accidental. The growing use of outsourcing abroad and of labor-replacing technologies, the large reserve of hidden unemployed, the mounting economic insecurities, and the demise of labor unions have been actively pursued by corporations and encouraged by Wall Street. Payrolls are the single biggest cost of business. Lower payrolls mean higher profits.

The results have been touted as “efficient” because, at least in theory, they’ve allowed workers to be shifted to “higher and better uses.” But most haven’t been shifted. Instead, they’ve been shafted.

The human costs of this “efficiency” have been substantial. Ordinary workers have lost jobs and wages, and many communities have been abandoned.

Nor have the efficiency benefits been widely shared. As corporations have steadily weakened their workers’ bargaining power, the link between productivity and workers’ income has been severed.

Since 1979, the nation’s productivity has risen 65 percent, but workers’ median compensation has increased by just 8 percent. Almost all the gains from growth have gone to the top.

This is not a winning corporate strategy over the long term because higher returns ultimately depend on more sales, which requires a large and growing middle class with enough purchasing power to buy what can be produced.

But from the limited viewpoint of the CEO of a single large firm, or of an investment banker or fund manager on Wall Street, it’s worked out just fine – so far.

Low unemployment won’t lead to higher pay for most Americans because the key strategy of the nation’s large corporations and financial sector has been to prevent wages from rising.

And, if you hadn’t noticed, the big corporations and Wall Street are calling the shots.

 

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Olympic Fever


Boston’s Unconstitutional Olympic Gag Order

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From Daily Beast – by Christophe Stuck-Girard

Boston’s Mayor signed an agreement disallowing any city employee from speaking ill of the IOC in public. It’s unenforceable, of course, but that’s the least of it.
In the city that kicked off the country’s founding protest movement, activists are scrambling to block a strengthening juggernaut that could land the 2024 Summer Olympics without a public vote.The brains behind Boston 2024, a supergroup of political and business leaders boosting the bid, have been at it for two years. They’ve raised $11 million, wooed a who’s who of regional power players, and hired what The Boston Globe calls “a virtual alumni club of [outgoing Democratic Governor]Deval Patrick’s administration”—all while keeping bid plans under wraps.Boston 2024’s well-connected outreach team has neutralized political opposition, but the group can’t defuse some political land mines.On Wednesday, news broke that Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh had signed an agreement with the United States Olympic Committee banning city workers from criticizing Boston’s bid for the games. The backlash came strong and swift.

Walsh first downplayed the legally binding agreement as “boilerplate,” but the wording sounds downright despotic—and definitively unconstitutional.

“The City, including its employees, officers and representatives shall not make, publish or communicate to any Person, or communicate in any public forum, any comments or statements (written or oral) that reflect unfavorably upon, denigrate or disparage, or are detrimental to the reputation or statute of, the IOC, the IPC, the USOC, the IOC Bid, the Bid Committee or the Olympic or Paralympic movement,” the agreement states.

Luckily, the First Amendment ensures government employees’ the right to “speak out as citizens as long as it doesn’t disrupt their work,” so courts will not enforce the gag order, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Sarah Wunsch said in an interview.

Walsh later promised he “will not—and will never—limit your right to free speech.”

Wunsch believes the effects of Walsh’s brush with restricting speech will linger.

“The chilling effect on free expression doesn’t just go away,” she said. “People know exactly what the mayor wants. They’re not going to want to do anything that will put them in bad spot with their managers, who have many ways of disfavoring certain employees.”

While Massachusetts law provides private-sector workers the right to associate with political causes, they enjoy fewer protections than their public-sector peers, Wunsch said. So employees of Massachusetts firms that could benefit from an Olympics construction boom should be careful.

Designated “National Special Security Events” like the Olympics expand the footprint of security personnel and surveillance infrastructure and would raise additional free speech concerns, Wunsch said. For example, Boston’s hosting of the 2004 Democratic National Convention featured walled-off “free speech zones” for protesters.

“The IOC likes to have docile cities that offer overwhelming, unconditional support. We can show them that they aren’t going to get that.”

The gag order episode captures the anxiety of Olympics opponents: they believe the wants and needs of the Olympics cartel are not those of an average Bostonian. For all we know, Boston 2024 will give away the store.

The opposition is not frugal Republicans, who support the bid more than Democrats, according to a recent WBUR poll. It’s not Bostonians, who support the bid as much as folks in nearby suburbs. And it’s not racial/ethnic minorities, who support the games more strongly than whites.

The opposition, it seems, is a loose lot of grassroots activists, good-government types, and generally skeptical locals scrambling to keep pace with Boston 2024’s marketing blitz.

The leading opposition group, No Boston Olympics, is an all-volunteer effort with no paid staff, humble funding, and few prominent supporters.

“It is troubling to see questions about the details waved away as the bid moves forward,” said Chris Dempsey, a No Boston Olympics co-chair. “The [United States Olympic Committee] and International Olympic Committee] have different values and different incentives than the city. They want to have a good Games with strong marketing and revenue outcomes. The Boston area should keep focus on improving our communities.”

No Boston Olympics, Dempsey said, wants to project a feeling of civic pride—and pull from Boston’s bottomless well of swagger. In its presentations, the group has played up its fandom of the Pats, Sox, and Bruins and stressed the importance of not coming off as naysayers.

“We want to be perceived as reasonable and rational,” said Dempsey, who is no radical. A consultant for Bain & Company by day, Dempsey formerly served as a Congressional policy director and as a state assistant secretary of transportation.

No Boston Olympics has three co-chairs. One is an attorney and two have MBAs.

Another opposition group, No Boston 2024, is an even smaller David to Boston 2024’s Goliath. The all-volunteer group speaks the left-leaning language of its neighborhood of origin (Jamaica Plain) and is not fundraising. So far, they’ve hosted a community meeting and a protest, according to group co-founder Jonathan Cohn.

“The city and the state’s time, attention, and resources will be diverted away from the issues we should be addressing,” Cohn wrote by email. “The dearth of affordable housing, the acceleration of climate change, the rise of health care costs, the plague of mass incarceration, insufficient funding and inequitable funding for education and infrastructure, and the unconscionable number of people in our city that go to bed each night without enough food to eat.

“You can’t eat a stadium, and you can’t live in a velodrome.”

If this were a boxing match, the groups wouldn’t stand a chance. So they’re hoping it’s more like a beauty contest where the IOC chooses the city most willing to meet its extensive demands.

“We can make it very clear to the IOC that Boston will not be friendly to the Olympics,” Cohn said. “The IOC likes to have docile cities that offer overwhelming, unconditional support. We can show them that they aren’t going to get that.”

In true Massachusetts fashion, it could all come down to election day.

On Thursday, businessman Evan Falchuk, who ran unsuccessfully for governor last year, launched an effort to put the 2024 games to a statewide vote. The referendum would limit the government’s ability to put tax dollars toward a Games that are being set up behind closed doors, Falchuk said.

“[Leading Boston 2024 booster and construction magnate John Fish] is saying these Games can be a planning exercise to set up the next 30 years in Massachusetts,” Falchuk said in an interview. “We just had elections for that! And we didn’t elect these people.”

It’s pretty tough to get a referendum on the ballot in Massachusetts (you need to submit about 65,000 verified signatures). But a few causes are able to clear the hurdles each election cycle, and Falchuck can tap political bonds forged during his run for office.

If Falchuk’s team can manage, the WBUR poll of eastern Massachusetts residents foreshadows success. About 40 percent of the region says any Games plan that uses tax dollars would make them less likely to support it. Add that to some of the 33 percent of residents who oppose the bid—and to the growing chorus of local media calling for a public vote—and you have a strong base.

There is direct precedent: A 1972 vote in Colorado blocked plans for a winter Olympics there, and several referenda have blocked Olympic bids abroad. If activists need a historical rallying cry, about 250 years ago, the colonists dumped a cargo load of tea into the harbor to protest “taxation without representation.” You probably remember that one.

As the organizing committee fills in the blanks, activists will sharpen talking points, and NIMBY backlash should grow.

Here’s an example: the city council in Cambridge, where Boston 2024 is slated to build several competition venues,voted to block the city from using resources for Olympic planning.

And one more: despite claiming that spending for big-ticket Olympics-related transit improvements is “already in the pipeline,” two projects in the Dorchester neighborhood alone have not been designated a dollar.

When questions like this put Boston 2024 on the spot, they tend to remind us that it’s “early,” which is an effective yadda-yadda dodge.

There’s a lack of transparency and opportunity for public comment? It’s early in the process.

Boston 2024’s insurance for cost overruns is pitifully meager?It’s so early.

Dorchester landowners don’t want to cede their land to the Olympic village as Boston 2024’s proposal calls for? It’s early!

With a gag order that’s more of a threat than a promise and without a vote, Boston 2024 could flip the switch from “Early” to “Done Deal” and pop the champagne.

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Poverty


A few days ago, I wrote about the 1% of the world’s richest people having one half of the world’s money. Definitely doesn’t seem fair. There are a lot of middle class people in the world and they really work hard to be in this niche. Most are poor and/or extremely poor. They live through hopelessness and despair. Some are destroyed by these emotions.

 

What is poverty anyway? It is more than not being able to buy your child an ice cream cone in June. It is putting cardboard in the bottom of their too small shoes. It is wondering how you will feed your family through the end of the paycheck, and wondering if you can afford needed medication.

 

What is abject poverty? It is not having clean water so that you gamble with each drop not to get Cholera. It is dressing children in rags the rich wouldn’t use to dust their houses. Abject poverty is a mother that is so malnourished she can’t suckle her babies. Babies die from hunger. Is is neglect? It is horrifying to see a baby die from dehydration and malnutrition. The mother still has to go on to do what she can for the rest of her children.

 

Abject poverty is having no education, so you cannot have hope. Hope is what kept the prisoners in the concentration camps alive…at least until their number was up. Hope is what you wear when your country is at war, or there is a civil war. Can you take your family and run? No, not really. Many tried during WWII and were executed. In the nineties, the Baltic War robbed citizens of food, water, and even lives.

 

What happens usually is that people see the homeless and the hungry and many look away. They decide that what they saw wasn’t real. The homeless and the hungry people are lazy and are taking advantage of other people, people will say.

Many years ago I discovered this: people don’t want reality, they want pretty. I decided to begin random acts of kindness. Just doing something kind for someone who doesn’t ask, but it is needed. I have been questioned often, by by-standers.

 

I have heard, “don’t give your money away, they probably have more than you do”. I answer that that would not matter. What matters is the kindness and gentleness you show.

 

We as a species are getting a little smarter. We always used to send food. Now we send seeds and volunteers who will show villages how to plant, cultivate and harvest those seeds. Instead of sending money, there are organizations where for a donation of $15-$20, a family receives a cow, sheep or goat. The milk will feed the children and they will go to bed at night with full bellies. Just like we do every night.

 

The next time you see a person or a family who is obviously poor, meet their eyes. Look into their souls and see a brother or sister, a fellow human being. Just like we are, except we have more money than they do. Does it cost us to care about the poor? No. It makes us better people. People who walk their talk. It also gives us peace and a sense of well-being.

 

Neuroscientists say that the brain is changed by the traumas and horrors it survives. The brain rewires around the damaged areas. This is oversimplified, but tragedy makes us turn into different people. Love, caring, assistance changes people too and brings them a sense of inner peace.

 

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The poor suffer in ways we can’t even imagine. They can’t even get medical care when they need it. So the next time you see a poor person, or a person on a fixed income, try a random act of kindness and watch how their eyes light up. It has nothing to do with religion or faith, kindness and compassion are part of a human’s basic character.

Namaste

 

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Botanical Gardens Photographed and copyrighted by Barbara Mattio 2013

Botanical Gardens
Photographed and copyrighted by Barbara Mattio 2013

 

 

 Texas butterflies. Photographed and copyrighted by Barbara Mattio 2007

Texas butterflies. Photographed and copyrighted by Barbara Mattio 2007

 

 

No place for anger within us.

No place for anger within us.

 

Rumi’s Legacy


Rumi Followers Fight To Keep Turkey From Cashing In On Mystic’s Legacy

Posted: 01/20/2015 8:40 am EST Updated: 5 hours ago
RNS-RUMI-RECLAIM a

ISTANBUL (RNS) Each Sunday, visitors line up outside of the old Sufi lodge, now a museum, in Turkey’s tourist-filled Galata district, informational pamphlets, cameras and $20 tickets in hand.

The site is but one of the many places tourists flock for performances by the country’s famed white-robed whirling dervishes.

Cafes, hotels and former Sufi lodges reinvented as tourist attractions, like the one in Galata, have all cashed in on the ritual’s popularity.

The “sema” ceremonies, as they’re called, promise attendees a peek into a 750-year-old practice that is as graceful as it is spiritual.

Yet as more ceremonies spring up, excitement has been met by skepticism by descendants of the very 13th-century mystic who first popularized it.

“It’s becoming like a show,” said Faruk Hemdem Celebi, a 22nd-generation descendant of the famous poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian and Sufi, Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273). “There are people doing this now to make money and attract tourists.”

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Faruk Hemdem Celebi is a 22nd-generation descendant of Rumi and president of the International Mevlana Foundation. Behind him hangs a picture of his father and predecessor as the alleged hereditary leader of the Mevlevi order. Religion News Service photo by Michael Kaplan

Rumi was a highly revered Persian mystic who preached inclusivity and respect for all. His poetry and writings on divine unity and love have attracted a global following.

Celebi, who leads the International Mevlana Foundation, believes that Rumi’s practices have been wrongly appropriated for profit.

Last month, he announced the launch of a campaign to reclaim Rumi’s practices.

Through familial lineage, Celebi claims to be the heir of the Mevlevi (meaning “My Master”) order, which was founded by Rumi’s followers after his death and includes a collection of disciples who follow Rumi’s teachings.

Celebi is working to bring Rumi’s name under his foundation’s control. He has trademarked 10 terms related to the Sufi saint. But that has, so far, failed to stop its appropriation.

Celebi said he has meetings coming up with some high-ranking government officials, including Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, to discuss how the foundation can have more say in decisions related to Mevlana traditions, and particularly sema.

Istanbul’s Galata district is not the only site for Rumi’s practices.

Thousands of people gather in a sports arena in Konya — the site of Rumi’s shrine, about 450 miles southeast of Istanbul — each December to commemorate the saint’s death through a week of dancing and whirling. (Rumi died in Konya in 1273.)

Legend has it that Rumi, a devout Muslim, was walking through Konya’s gold district when, upon hearing the rhythmic hammering of goldsmiths and their chanting of God’s name, the religious scholar broke out into ecstasy. His body slipped into a trancelike state as his hands raised toward the sky, his body whirling until he reached oneness with the divine.

The whirling has grown into an iconic form of “dhikrullah” or “remembrance of God” — practiced primarily by Rumi’s followers. With each turn, practitioners repeat God’s name.

“It’s a very powerful, meditative experience,” said Ismail Fenter, an American dervish who belongs to the Mevlevi order. “To turn it into dance or into public exhibition … it just cheapens it,” he said.

Today’s Mevlevi leaders grew up at a time when Sufi orders were illegal under Turkey’s strict secular code. Sufi dens were shut down and religious whirling was outlawed in 1925, but reintroduced to the country in the 1950s, strictly for tourism.

It was then that religious whirling turned from a private form of meditative remembrance of God into a public and profitable national artistic display.

The length of sema ceremonies has been truncated to cater toward tourists, and some of the traditional requirements — such as studying for years in Konya to become a dervish — have been dropped.

The Mevlevi order has been trying to rein in the group ever since. While Mevlevi leaders welcome the admiration for Rumi, some are skeptical of the way his message has been interpreted.

“People in America find emotional highs, and Rumi becomes an emotional high,” Fenter said. “But they don’t all understand the part about Islam … and it doesn’t completely make sense without that.”

Many people, however, believe that the popularity of Rumi’s teachings and traditions has outgrown the control of any single family, even if the family claims to be rightful heirs of the saint.

“Rumi has inspired a lot of people and has given comfort and wisdom,” said Margaret Rose, an American expatriate living in Istanbul who has attended a number of whirling ceremonies. “It doesn’t seem offensive; it seems to be done in a respectful way.”

Rose said she would be sorry to see restrictions put on the ceremonies, which she considers a cultural treasure.

“It’s very spiritual and I felt like you could get a glimpse of this ceremony that might have otherwise been private,” she said. “I felt lucky that I got to see it.”

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Gun violence in America


5-year-old boy finds gun, shoots baby brother in head