Friday, March 31, 2006

Coming up...tomorrow...a post explaining permaculture

I have been asked, and I thought I had time to post it today but alas...too many things on the go. order to dispel the notion that being a permie means having a perm (very good thinking though..ha)...I will try to explain it as clearly as possible..

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Oprah's American Debt Diet series

International news that a lot of Americans are in debt? Should anyone else care? Well, yes and no. Sure, what do you, who doesn't live in North America care about another countries' spending? Well, if this were a question raised by participating bloggers from the round table (and rest assured, I will re-visit this topic once I have them all rounded up), I would challenge them to look into potential connections between their country and the U.S. Or to say it in a more important sounding fashion; the ramifications... .

You see, when I grew up in the Netherlands, it was for the most part a cash system only. Sure, people did have mortgages and must have had a way to pay monthly for cars..but... at the grocery store, clothing store , whatever was cash. In fact, when I visited in 1992, not many stores accepted Master card because, as the merchants reasoned, "why should we pay for your convenience in buying from us". My uncle used to say that he rather used cash so he knew what money he did or did not have. Basically, you can only buy what you can afford.

Back to this debt diet Oprah is trying to address. Make no mistake, it is a laudable attempt to enable people to live and stay debt-free. My only disagreement with this is that the focus is only healing the wound, but does not address the underlying cause. The way I see it is this;

# This is a consumer driven society. Almost everything is "brought to you by..". Sports casts, sports events, school fundraisers, donations to schools, television broadcasts (as some would say, commercials interrupted by shows), you get the picture.

# The "Don't pay now but pay later" facilitation of getting people to buy furniture or what have you that they can have for a year before starting to pay money on it.

# Credit cards. 0% percent interest for how ever long but naturally, there is always the fine print...fine print people! Credit cards target college students with little money and encourage spending by giving them a cash back limit of however much that they don't have in their account. That amount increases the longer they have the card and as long as they pay back a certain amount regularly.

# Credit ratings are considered all important because it shows your purchasing history and if you would have only been buying with cash, you'd have no history and literally, no credibility if you wanted to purchase say, a car with a large down payment.

# TV commercials abound on even kids channels starting them off to want everything they see because it looks so cool! Kid targeted advertising is the worst to me as it just puts them in line to become good little consumer droids.

# Many products to buy and compare from. A lot of products competing means driving down prices. Products hence end up being made abroad (yes, I am getting there) where clothes, plastic name it, is made for pittance and sometimes under bad conditions.

You get the picture.

Well, after you are done reading, just ponder these issues;
if people in the US would stop buying so (too) much, how would it affect the economies of those countries where the products are made?
What kind of sustainable economy could take its place instead?
If the reliance on consumer driven economy is lessened, what kind of global impact could you see coming from that? (I mean, what kind of global ramifications could it have??)
Did I mention the so-called corporate imperialism? Jobs at home and overseas?

Just think.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Saudi blogger Dr. Mohsen Al-Awaji arrested march 10, freed march 21st

The great attraction of blogging is reading blogs that could get the bloggers into trouble. Not because it is something that could get them in trouble. But because reading their materials, any blogger that's worth its salt can appreciate their courage in speaking up/out.

As I lived in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia for a few years post-Gulf war, I am still amazed how some Saudi bloggers can write some of their critique and still live another day to write about something else. Some post using only their first name, some are a bit more open. And it's not necessarily critique but frustration that leads them to write and receive plenty of commentary. Apparently, some people believe that blogs should come with the comment feature off, whereas others believe that the comments is what makes it interesting. When reading the commentaries by fellow compatriots, the frustrated Saudi blogger sometimes receives understanding and sometimes criticism for being too critical or 'unislamic'. What it is, is, a great way to engage in discussions without fear of repercussion in a society where one needs to be careful whom to share your frustration and criticisms with.

Dr. Mohsen Al-Awaji was arrested before during the 1990s, but got pardoned four years after his arrest. Now, with the advent and popularity of blogging, discontent has found a greater reach. He wrote an article on his blog in which he criticized a minister of labour and accused him of
leading a group that tries to change the identity of the Saudi society.

Even though his arrest was not openly publicized, his article got removed from certain sites. And as secretively, he was freed on March 21.

Dr. Al-Awaji was fortunate; many 'cyberdissidents' remain in custody and for those of you who are looking into blogging in an undemocratic country, check out the Handbook for bloggers and cyber dissidents. The internet might make you feel anonymous, but as some of us in the West even realize, Big Brother will always (try to) watch you. Be careful.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Apple computers and take-back recycling

It pays to being involved in politics and especially political activism. With all the information overload, how could one be expected to think of take back recycling of electronic waste?

A friendly young guy called Ty came through our neighbourhood last week asking for support, financial and otherwise, in getting Apple computers to voluntarily start a program that facilitates taking back computers from customers, and re-building their computers for continued sales. Texas campaign for the Environment is working on getting Apple to join the ranks of Dell computers who responded to an earlier campaign to responsibly recycle their electronics.

If you want to know what happens when electronic waste is being disposed off, please educate yourself in full if you can pay for it and are willing of course. Or, read this and check out the e-waste fact.

Countries that already take responsibility and recycle their electronic waste are Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the state of Maine and all of the European Union.

Being able to re-use materials and make a profit instead of burning polutants putting them into the air and our bodies? What a great incentive!
And no more sending that junk to other countries!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Defense Strategy Review 2006

In my previous post I mentioned (or confessed) to having preconceived notions. Well, depending on one's preconceived notion re. the US's foreign policies, you can either be concerned, or heartened and agreeable to this updated
strategy review.

For those who are concerned about visiting any government website for fear of being catalogued; well, sorry..I can't copy and paste the whole dang thing!
Instead, read today's (thursday march 16/2006) Wall Street Journal, page 1;
"White House puts Iran at top of list of threats to US".
There is a whole lot more to it than the story on Iran,
but it's an alternative.

What a great topic for discussion this would be..well, I am not giving up!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

"My name is Rachel Corrie", New York censorship?

Who was Rachel Corrie? you ask. The name sounds familiar. Well, three years ago this week, 23 year old American Rachel Corrie was killed in the Gaza strip. An Israeli bulldozer bulldozered right over her and her death has been attributed to either having been deliberate or accidental. Mostly deliberate and hence, she was considered a hero by a lot of people.

In 2005, the Royal Court Theater in London commissioned Katherine Viner and yes, Alan Rickman to write a play regarding Rachel's life. It became "My name is Rachel Corrie".
Here is whatKatherine Viner wrote for the Guardian in April, 2005.

Interestingly enough, there are times when I have seen an image or read a news item which provokes an immediate (negative or positive) reaction based on my preconceived notions of how I think a situation to be. For instance, I am not necessarily pro Palestinian (because that would be considered to be an anti-something else) as much as I am for Palestinian self determination. I am mostly (self confessed) anti-Israeli politics (pertaining to the Palestinians) but I do not exactly advocate the destruction of the state of Israel either. It's not always black and white and when you are against certain policies, it does not mean you advocate an extreme 'anti'-whatever it is. For instance, the killing of other people, or the taking away of ones' statehood. (ok, we could go around a circle on that one because it could lead us to the palestinians but work with me here)

So, when this whole Rachel Corrie brouhaha happened, meaning, the reaction to her death and the belief as to how and why she died, I was more apt to believe that her death was deliberate. However, there are always many sides to a story (maybe even 6 ) and considering the idea behind this blog, I would be remiss not to mention another side.

In terms of this blog, I would say that her death is one of those perfect examples of how each side (let's forget the number 6 for now), based on their own notions and also their own sources, can see one situation in a completely opposite way. So it is quite a self discipline to sit back and suspend your disbelief and investigate a bit further.

Back to "My name is Rachel Corrie". A shame, the play was supposed to be shown in New York city, but for some reason,

And based on your own notions, or suspicions, you can imagine as to the why's and how's of that! Deliberate or circumstantial? Who knows really...

Monday, March 13, 2006

Corporate control and biopiracy

There are quite a few issues I'd like to discuss in the future and I will leave you with a few links pertaining two of them. This will be a short post. It's March break, the 'kiddies' are home, my mom is visiting and my (organic seeds and seedslings) plants need to be watered so here goes.

First, the notion of biopiracy in Africa. Here is the pertaining link .

Another big issue is genetically altered crops and GMO's, genettically modified organics. Who knew that altering seeds can effect people's self determination? If companies such as Monsanto for instance, start controlling seed production by either genetically altering them (so that
they would be bug resistent) or 'terminating' them so that they would become sterile seeds. I.e. seeds that would grow into say a bell pepper but you could not save the seeds from that bell pepper as those seeds would not grow into anything.
check this out;

Just some things I'd like to discuss in depth later on with others.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Do the conservative Muslims have an 'Amish' type somewhere?

Ok, bad title. I couldn't think of a better one because part of me feels I need to make spaghetti sauce, the other part says; common, it's been too long, start writing already!

So, the essence of what I was wondering 'up there' is that I was reading about the Amish in the newspaper a little over a week ago. Knowing how the Amish have seperated themselves from 'modern', i.e. technological society while pursuing their life as they feel God intended, I all of the sudden had this thought; could those conservative Muslims who fight modernity, and who are afraid that many things modern/technological would pervert the Muslim mind, could they adjust themselves and just focus on themselves leading the life as they believe God intended? As in, seclude themselves from that part of society and set up shop as a little village, working the land, dedicating their daily chores to God?

I don't even know if in the Muslim world there are any groups that have sequestered themselves in pursuit of the godly life (and for those who'd know, please fill me in), but the point I am trying to make is that there could be a peaceful coexistence between those who want to keep things as they are and those who are considered too liberal and who want to include things such as women's full access to politics, the workforce etc. Men and women co-mingling. Granted, not all countries where Islam is the main religion are women prevented from participating, but there are different levels of taboo or areas where the religion seems to be at odds with modernity. (truth be told, I cannot imagine any conservative group just deciding to give up their fight and retreating in that fashion because I think they seem to think it a means to an end to fight those Muslims with their 'perverted' thinking)

I also realize I am writing in general terms and I apologize for that. I am thinking about all the info I acquired when I studied political science more than 10 yrs ago, but I will say I am still looking for bloggers around the world to start up my own 'group of 8'..I would love to discuss this in depth. And to be fair, as much as there is a pre-occupation with international politics and Islam and 'terrorism', radicalism etc... there are many more topics worthwhile discussing that pertain to the 'forgotten' places such as Africa or South America..
Don't worry, once it comes about, it'll be a veritable smorgasbord of discussions...Any takers??