Universal Translator

Showing posts with label nonfiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nonfiction. Show all posts

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

The Most Difficult Thing For Mankind

Humans are capable of doing grand things. We build monumental feats of engineering. We crystallize our ideas and imaginations into books. We travel at breath-taking speeds. We even leave our own planet to explore the heavens above. However, we still view the world according to our own immediate environment. We see the world usually as our home, family, and friends...simply put, whatever is comforting and familiar to us. Of course, there are the explorers, the people who expand beyond the immediate; yet, still, for many of us humans going outside this, we feel fear, hate, intolerance, all those negative things. We are afraid of what we don’t understand and what is different. Religion helps many of us to make sense of all we don’t understand. Yet we even take religion and mold it into something familiar, comforting, routine.

God knows what we humans are like.

We have created a million ways to seek God and the ultimate truths. A million sacred texts to find the answers and the way. Once you take out all the man-made stuff—Bible interpretations, traditions, requirements, customs, doctrine, and all that generates fear and misgiving or that forces you to conform to a man-made idea of what religion should do or be --you are left with something simple. Something so simple we humans can’t seem to collectively grasp it.

That simple thing is for us to get along and love one another. It is not to fear what is strange and new. It is wanting us all to work together. It is treating others the way we wish to be treated. It is wanting us to really love one another and seek peace. You can see for the entirety of human history, we have fought this simple idea of true peace. Wars, terrorism, greed, slavery, genocide, hatred, mutilation, intolerance, the pains of humanity have been "business as usual" for the human race since it has existed. We even quote Bible verses to say there will always be war and rumors of wars. We kill other religions and ideas to push our own agendas. We blindly follow leaders who tell us to hate. We applaud greed as necessary. We say we speak for God when we want violence to comfort our fear.

Maybe what God only wants for us and from us is for us allevery person, every race, every nation, every faith, everyone— to simply get along and love each other...because He knew that that would ultimately be the most difficult thing we would ever have to do.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Can the Constitution Alone Save Us?

We put a lot of faith in a document which was written over 200 years ago; and yes, it is an amazing document.  But could it alone save America from a person or group that really wanted control of a world power and economic titan?

If you are a believer that the Constitution of the United States will completely prevent the United States from becoming a country of limited freedoms with a totalitarian government, then you need to know that even the constitutions of the Soviet Union declared certain political rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and a series of economic and social rights (and duties) for all its citizens. The single party that governed the Soviet Union didn't let the words on paper limit its powers - with enough rules, regulations, and legislation, you can slowly and completely disregard the written law of the land. You'd never actually know the Power behind the dismantling of freedoms until it has finally silenced every dissenting voice and doesn't need to hide any longer.

Belief in the power of the document is essential, but we must also be vigilant on the creation and implementation of minor laws and regulations which limit and remove freedoms for everyone.  Bureaucratic government and social programs don't necessarily herald a diminishing of freedoms, freedoms are curtailed when power becomes consolidated within a single entity or group and they seek to keep that power through any means necessary.  The Soviet Union was ruled by a single party, a single party that strove to keep its power in all branches of government - executive, legislative, and judicial.  And not even the constitution in place could not prevent freedoms from disappearing.

From the 1936 Constitution of the Soviet Union:


          ARTICLE 118. Citizens of the U.S.S.R. have the right to work, that is, are guaranteed the right to               employment and payment for their work in accordance With its quantity and quality.

The right to work is ensured by the socialist organization of the national economy, the steady growth of the productive forces of Soviet society, the elimination of the possibility of economic crises, and the abolition of unemployment.
ARTICLE 119. Citizens of the U.S.S.R. have the right to rest and leisure. The right to rest and leisure is ensured by the reduction of the working day to seven hours for the overwhelming majority of the workers, the institution of annual vacations with full pay for workers and employees and the provision of a wide network of sanatoria, rest homes and clubs for the accommodation of the working people.
ARTICLE 120. Citizens of the U.S.S.R. have the right to maintenance in old age and also in case of sickness or loss of capacity to work. This right is ensured by the extensive development of social insurance of workers and employees at state expense, free medical service for the working people and the provision of a wide network of health resorts for the use of the working people.
ARTICLE 121. Citizens of the U.S.S.R. have the right to education. This right is ensured by universal, compulsory elementary education; by education, including higher education, being free of charge; by the system of state stipends for the overwhelming majority of students in the universities and colleges; by instruction in schools being conducted in the native Ianguage, and by the organization in the factories, state farms, machine and tractor stations and collective farms of free vocational, technical and agronomic training for the working people.
ARTICLE 122. Women in the U.S.S.R. are accorded equal rights with men in all spheres of economic, state, cultural, social and political life. The possibility of exercising these rights is ensured to women by granting them an equal right with men to work, payment for work, rest and leisure, social insurance and education, and by state protection of the interests of mother and child, prematernity and maternity leave with full pay, and the provision of a wide network of maternity homes, nurseries and kindergartens.
ARTICLE 123. Equality of rights of citizens of the U.S.S.R., irrespective of their nationality or race, in all spheres of economic, state, cultural, social and political life, is an indefeasible law. Any direct or indirect restriction of the rights of, or, conversely, any establishment of direct or indirect privileges for, citizens on account of their race or nationality, as well as any advocacy of racial or national exclusiveness or hatred and contempt, is punishable by law.
ARTICLE 124. In order to ensure to citizens freedom of conscience, the church in the U.S.S.R. is separated from the state, and the school from the church. Freedom of religious worship and freedom of anti-religious propaganda is recognized for all citizens.
ARTICLE 125. In conformity with the interests of the working people, and in order to strengthen the socialist system, the citizens of the U.S.S.R. are guaranteed by law:
  1. freedom of speech;
  2. freedom of the press;
  3. freedom of assembly, including the holding of mass meetings;
  4. freedom of street processions and demonstrations.
These civil rights are ensured by placing at the disposal of the working people and their organizations printing presses, stocks of paper, public buildings, the streets, communications facilities and other material requisites for the exercise of these rights.
ARTICLE 126. In conformity with the interests of the working people, and in order to develop the organizational initiative and political activity of the masses of the people, citizens of the U.S.S.R. are ensured the right to unite in public organizations--trade unions, cooperative associations, youth organizations,' sport and defense organizations, cultural, technical and scientific societies; and the most active and politically most conscious citizens in the ranks of the working class and other sections of the working people unite in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks), which is the vanguard of the working people in their struggle to strengthen and develop the socialist system and is the leading core of all organizations of the working people, both public and state.
ARTICLE 127. Citizens of the U.S.S.R. are guaranteed inviolability of the person. No person may be placed under arrest except by decision of a court or with the sanction of a procurator.
ARTICLE 128. The inviolability of the homes of citizens and privacy of correspondence are protected by law.
ARTICLE 129. The U.S.S.R. affords the right of asylum to foreign citizens persecuted for defending the interests of the working people, or for their scientific activities, or for their struggle for national liberation.
ARTICLE 130. It is the duty of every citizen of the U.S.S.R. to abide by the Constitution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, to observe the laws, to maintain labor discipline, honestly to perform public duties, and to respect the rules of socialist intercourse.
ARTICLE 131. It is the duty of every citizen of the U.S.S.R. to safeguard and strengthen public, socialist property as the sacred and inviolable foundation of the Soviet system, as the source of the wealth and might of the country, as the source of the prosperous and cultured life of all the working people.
Persons committing offenses against public, socialist property are enemies of the people.
ARTICLE 132. Universal military service is law. Military service in the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army is an honorable duty of the citizens of the U.S.S.R.
ARTICLE 133. To defend the fatherland is the sacred duty of every citizen of the U.S.S.R. Treason to the country--violation of the oath of allegiance, desertion to the enemy, impairing the military power of the state, espionage is punishable with all the severity of the law as the most heinous of crimes..."

To read the entire 1936 Constitution of the USSR, click here.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The Olive Branch Petition: The American Colonies Seek Peace with Great Britian

Olive Branch Petition
       In May 1775, when the Second Continental Congress convened, most of the delegates followed John Dickinson in trying to peacefully reconcile with King George III and Great Britain.  However a smaller group of delegates led by John Adams thought that an armed conflict was inevitable; yet they chose to remain quiet and wait for the time to rally people to their side.  This gave Dickinson and the Congress the chance to pursue the peace. Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the petition, but Dickinson thought his words were too offensive.  Dickinson edited and rewrote parts of the document.  Dickinson wrote that the colonies did not want independence but merely sought to negotiate trade and tax regulations with Great Britain. Dickinson wanted an agreement that would settle trade disputes and suggested that the colonists be given either free trade and taxes equal to those placed on the people in Great Britain, or alternately, no taxes and strict trade regulations. The letter was approved on July 5, then signed by members of the Congress. It was sent to London on July 8, 1775 in the care of Richard Penn and Arthur Lee. Dickinson had hoped that news of the bloodshed at Lexington and Concord combined with the "Humble Petition" would inspire King George to at least negotiate with the colonists. It reached London on August 14, 1775; and was presented to Lord Dartmouth, the Colonial Secretary, on August 21st. However, a letter written by John Adams had been intercepted in which Adams expressed discontentment with the Petition and wrote that war was inevitable. Adams also wrote that the Colonies should have already raised a navy and captured British officials. The letter arrived in London at the same time as the Olive Branch Petition. Due to the letter by Adams, British officials thought the petition insincere and King George even refused to receive or read it. The king himself considered the petition to have come from what he considered an illegal and illegitimate assembly of rebels. The king  issued the Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition  on August 23rd, declaring the North American colonies in a state of rebellion and ordering "all Our officers ... and all Our obedient and loyal subjects, to use their utmost endeavours to withstand and suppress such rebellion." So the rejection of the Olive Branch Petition by King George III gave Adams and his followers the opportunity to push for independence, resulting in a full-on armed conflict -the American Revolutionary War
A 1775 printing of King George III's A Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition

Below is the text of the Olive Branch Petition:

To the King's Most Excellent Majesty.
Most Gracious Sovereign: We, your Majesty's faithful subjects of the Colonies of New-Hampthire, Massachusetts-Bay, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, the Counties of Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex, on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, in behalf of ourselves and the inhabitants of these Colonies, who have deputed us to represent them in General Congress, entreat your Majesty's gracious attention to this our humble petition.
The union between our Mother Country and these Colonies, and the energy of mild and just Government, produced benefits so remarkably important, and afforded such an assurance of their permanency and increase, that the wonder and envy of other nations were excited, while they beheld Great Britain rising to a power the most extraordinary the world had ever known.
Her rivals, observing that there was no probability of this happy connexion being broken by civil dissensions, and apprehending its future effects if left any longer undisturbed, resolved to prevent her receiving such continual and formidable accessions of wealth and strength, by checking the growth of those settlements from which they were to be derived.
In the prosecution of this attempt, events so unfavourable to the design took place, that every friend to the interest of Great Britain and these Colonies, entertained pleasing and reasonable expectations of seeing an additional force and exertion immediately given to the operations of the union hitherto experienced, by an enlargement of the dominions of the Crown, and the removal of ancient and warlike enemies to a greater distance.
At the conclusion, therefore, of the late war, the most glorious and advantageous that ever had been carried on by British arms, your loyal Colonists having contributed to its success by such repeated and strenuous exertions as frequently procured them the distinguished approbation of your Majesty, of the late King, and of Parliament, doubted not but that they should be permitted, with the rest of the Empire, to share in the blessings of peace, and the emoluments of victory and conquest.
While these recent and honourable acknowledgments of their merits remained on record in the Journals and acts of that august Legislature, the Parliament, undefaced by the imputation or even the suspicion of any offence, they were alarmed by a new system of statutes and regulations adopted for the administration of the Colonies, that filled their minds with the most painful fears and jealousies; and, to their inexpressible astonishment, perceived the danger of a foreign quarrel quickly succeeded by domestick danger, in their judgment of a more dreadful kind.
Nor were these anxieties alleviated by any tendency in this system to promote the welfare of their Mother Country. For though its effects were more immediately felt by them, yet its influence appeared to be injurious to the commerce and prosperity of Great Britain.
We shall decline the ungrateful task of describing the irksome variety of artifices practised by many of your Majesty's Ministers, the delusive pretences, fruitless terrours, and unavailing severities, that have, from time to time, been dealt out by them, in their attempts to execute this impolitick plan, or of tracing through a series of years past the progress of the unhappy differences between Great Britain and these Colonies, that have flowed from this fatal source.
Your Majesty's Ministers, persevering in their measures, and proceeding to open hostilities for enforcing them, have compelled us to arm in our own defence, and have engaged us in a controversy so peculiarly abhorrent to the affections of your still faithful Colonists, that when we consider whom we must oppose in this contest, and if it continues, what may be the consequences, our own particular misfortunes are accounted by us only as parts of our distress. Knowing to what violent resentments and incurable animosities civil discords are apt to exasperate and inflame the contending parties, we think ourselves required by indispensable obligations toAlmighty God, to your Majesty, to our fellow-subjects, and to ourselves, immediately to use all the means in our power, not incompatible with our safety, for stopping the further effusion of blood, and for averting the impending calamities that threaten the British Empire.
Thus called upon to address your Majesty on affairs of such moment to America, and probably to all your Dominions, we are earnestly desirous of performing this office with the utmost deference for your Majesty; and we therefore pray, that your Majesty's royal magnanimity and benevolence may make the most favourable constructions of our expressions on so uncommon an occasion. Could we represent in their full force the sentiments that agitate the minds of us your dutiful subjects, we are persuaded your Majesty would ascribe any seeming deviation from reverence in our language, and even in our conduct, not to any reprehensible intention, but to the impossibility of reconciling the usual appearances of respect with a just attention to our own preservation against those artful and cruel enemies who abuse your royal confidence and authority, for the purpose of effecting our destruction.
Attached to your Majesty's person, family, and Government, with all devotion that principle and affection can inspire; connected with Great Britain by the strongest ties that can unite societies, and deploring every event that tends in any degree to weaken them, we solemnly assure your Majesty, that we not only most ardently desire the former harmony between her and these Colonies may be restored, but that a concord may be established between them upon so firm a basis as to perpetuate its blessings, uninterrupted by any future dissensions, to succeeding generations in both countries, and to transmit your Majesty's name to posterity, adorned with that signal and lasting glory that has attended the memory of those illustrious personages, whose virtues and abilities have extricated states from dangerous convulsions, and, by securing happiness to others, have erected the most noble and durable monuments to their own fame.
We beg leave further to assure your Majesty, that notwithstanding the sufferings of your loyal Colonists during the course of this present controversy, our breasts retain too tender a regard for the kingdom from which we derive our origin, to request such a reconciliation as might, in any manner, be inconsistent with her dignity or her welfare. These, related as we are to her, honour and duty, as well as inclination, induce us to support and advance; and the apprehensions that now oppress our hearts with unspeakable grief, being once removed, your Majesty will find your faithful subjects on this Continent ready and willing at all times, as they have ever been, with their lives and fortunes, to assert and maintain the rights and interests of your Majesty, and of our Mother Country.
We therefore beseech your Majesty, that your royal authority and influence may be graciously interposed to procure us relief from our afflicting fears and jealousies, occasioned by the system before-mentioned, and to settle peace through every part of our Dominions, with all humility submitting to your Majesty's wise consideration, whether it may not be expedient, for facilitating those important purposes, that your Majesty be pleased to direct some mode, by which the united applications of your faithful Colonists to the Throne, in pursuance of their common counsels, may be improved into a happy and permanent reconciliation; and that, in the mean time, measures may be taken for preventing the further destruction of the lives of your Majesty's subjects; and that such statutes as more immediately distress any of your Majesty's Colonies, may be repealed.
For such arrangements as your Majesty's wisdom can form for collecting the united sense of your Americanpeople, we are convinced your Majesty would receive such satisfactory proofs of the disposition of the Colonists towards their Sovereign and Parent State, that the wished for opportunity would soon be restored to them, of evincing the sincerity of their professions, by every testimony of devotion becoming the most dutiful subjects, and the most affectionate Colonists.
That your Majesty may enjoy a long and prosperous reign, and that your descendants may govern your Dominions with honour to themselves and happiness to their subjects, is our sincere prayer.
John Hancock
New-Hampshire,John Langdon,
Thomas Cushing.
Massachusetts,Samuel Adams,
John Adams,
Robert Treat Paine.
Rhode-Island,Stephen Hopkins,
Samuel Ward,
Eliphalet Dyer.
Connecticut,Roger Sherman,
Silas Deane.
New-York,Philip Livingston,
James Duane,
John Alsop,
Francis Lewis,
John Jay,
Robert Livingston, Jr.,
Lewis Morris,
William Floyd,
Henry Wisner.
New-Jersey,William Livingston,
John De Hart,
Richard Smith.
Pennsylvania,John Dickinson,
Benjamin Franklin,
George Ross,
James Wilson,
Charles Humphreys,
Edward Biddle.
Delaware Counties,C├Žsar Rodney
Thomas McKean,
George Read.
Maryland,Matthew Tilghman,
Thomas Johnson, Jr.,
William Paca,
Samuel Chase,
Thomas Stone.
Virginia,Patrick Henry, Jr.,
Richard Henry Lee,
Edmund Pendleton,
Benjamin Harrison,
Thomas Jefferson.
North-Carolina,William Hooper,
Joseph Hewes.
South-Carolina,Henry Middleton,
Thomas Lynch,
Christopher Gadsden,
John Rutledge,
Edward Rutledge.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

That Second Kind of Christmas

Author John Steinbeck wrote  to his friend, politician Adlai Stevenson in November 1959. At this time, it had been discovered that certain game shows had been rigging their outcomes, John wrote to his friend about the fact that maybe America itself was being rigged by a pervasive corporate and political immorality and being effectively dulled by increasing gluttony and want.

New York
Guy Fawkes Day

Dear Adlai,

Back from Camelot, and, reading the papers, not at all sure it was wise. Two first impressions. First, a creeping, all pervading nerve-gas of immorality which starts in the nursery and does not stop before it reaches the highest offices both corporate and governmental. Two, a nervous restlessness, a hunger, a thirst, a yearning for something unknown—perhaps morality. Then there's the violence, cruelty and hypocrisy symptomatic of a people which has too much, and last, the surly ill-temper which only shows up in human when they are frightened.

Adlai, do you remember two kinds of Christmases? There is one kind in a house where there is little and a present represents not only love but sacrifice. The one single package is opened with a kind of slow wonder, almost reverence. Once I gave my youngest boy, who loves all living things, a dwarf, peach-faced parrot for Christmas. He removed the paper and then retreated a little shyly and looked at the little bird for a long time. And finally he said in a whisper, "Now who would have ever thought that I would have a peach-faced parrot?" 

Then there is the other kind of Christmas with present piled high, the gifts of guilty parents as bribes because they have nothing else to give. The wrappings are ripped off and the presents thrown down and at the end the child says—"Is that all?" Well, it seems to me that America now is like that second kind of Christmas. Having too many THINGS they spend their hours and money on the couch searching for a soul. A strange species we are. We can stand anything God and nature can throw at us save only plenty. If I wanted to destroy a nation, I would give it too much and would have it on its knees, miserable, greedy and sick. And then I think of our "Daily" in Somerset, who served your lunch. She made a teddy bear with her own hands for our grandchild. Made it out of an old bath towel dyed brown and it is beautiful. She said, "Sometimes when I have a bit of rabbit fur, they come out lovelier." Now there is a present. And that obviously male teddy bear is going to be called for all time MIZ Hicks.

When I left Bruton, I checked out with Officer 'Arris, the lone policeman who kept the peace in five villages, unarmed and on a bicycle. He had been very kind to us and I took him a bottle of Bourbon whiskey. But I felt it necessary to say—"It's a touch of Christmas cheer, officer, and you can't consider it a bribe because I don't want anything and I am going away..." He blushed and said, "Thank you, sir, but there was no need." To which I replied—"If there had been, I would not have brought it."

Mainly, Adlai, I am troubled by the cynical immorality of my country. I do not think it can survive on this basis and unless some kind of catastrophe strikes us, we are lost. But by our very attitudes we are drawing catastrophe to ourselves. What we have beaten in nature, we cannot conquer in ourselves.

Someone has to reinspect our system and that soon. We can't expect to raise our children to be good and honorable men when the city, the state, the government, the corporations all offer higher rewards for chicanery and deceit than probity and truth. On all levels it is rigged, Adlai. Maybe nothing can be done about it, but I am stupid enough and naively hopeful enough to want to try. How about you?



(Source: America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction; Image: John Steinbeck, via lettersofnote.com .)

For more fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos; visit the Letters of Note archive here.

Friday, 11 March 2016

The Economics of Star Trek by Rick Webb

The Economics of Star Trek
The Proto-Post Scarcity Economy
self-sealing stem bolt
by Rick Webb

"I promise this is about Star Trek. Sort of. Bear with me a moment.
I’ve been reading a lot about robots lately. When I read about robots, and the future, I can’t help but think about it in economic terms. And that inevitably turns my mind to the branch of economics called post scarcity economics. Traditional economics, of course, deals with the efficient allocation of inherently scarce materials. Post scarcity economics deals with the economics of economies that are no longer constrained by scarcity of materials — food, energy, shelter, etc.
The thing that never sits quite right with post scarcity economics, though, at least the very little that I’ve read, is that it’s always sort of an all or nothing affair: you either don’t have enough of anything or you have enough of everything. Thinking of this as a mental exercise is kind of fun, I think, but in reality it seems to me that getting from point A — a scarcity economy — to point B — post scarcity — is going to be a long, complicated journey as somethings become more abundant in some places, while other things are still scarce.
What is needed is some sort of interim-, or proto-post scarcity economics.
More and more I find myself thinking we are, as a race, constrained by the economic models we have. We have capitalism, of course, the proverbial worst model except for every other one that dominates much of our planet right now. It’s definitely a scarcity-based system. Then we have the centrally planned systems of Communism and Marxism, not particularly effective, as it turns out. We have European-style socialist capitalism, but that’s still capitalism, and scarcity-based, albeit with a much more robust safety net than we have here in the US. Some Americans seem to think that a robust safety net somehow nullifies the distributed planning of capitalism. I’ll listen to them again when our schools are decent and our life span starts increasing again magically.
The key here, to me, is to start thinking about how economics would work when we decouple labor from reward. Does that make a system inherently communist? I don’t think it does. People work. They get paid. It is market driven, and not centrally planned. In reality,the market already basically dictates this, for who can claim that a Wall Street banker works more than a teacher? The only thing we really need to do is take this to a logical extreme:that people can still get paid doing zero work. This fear seems to be at the heart of most people who say that Europe is communist: if we give people so much welfare, some of them might stop working! Quelle Horreur!
It seems to me that with the rise of machines and robotics, advances in mining technology, energy technology (both fracking and green energy technologies), the obesity epidemic in the US, etc., that there are plenty of reasons to believe that we may be at the beginnings of a post scarcity economy. We have a surplus, no doubt. Of course, we still have legions of people in the world that are starving, and even people still here at home. But we actually have the capacity to feed them, to feed everyone, even now, even if we don’t have the will. It’s not a matter of scarcity; it’s a matter of the organization of labor and capital.
Take a mental journey for a moment with me: what if, one day, technology reaches the point that a small number of humans — say, 10 million — can produce all of the food, shelter and energy that the race needs. This doesn’t seem like insanely wishful thinking, given current trends. There’s no rational reason why the advances in robotics, factories, energy and agriculture couldn’t continue unabated for long periods of time. Of course I’m not saying they will, but rather, they could.
So, then, take that journey. What, then, of labor? In today’s terms, a ‘healthy’ economy now is one at or near full employment. A healthy economy now is one where everyone has a job. But in our mental exercise, those jobs are actually unrelated to a healthy economy, at least from strict economic terms. Everyone’s fed and housed and tons of people simply don’t need to work. Right now, we have them working making shit we don’t need. Is that any better than them not working?
I give you we’re in some fringe areas of economics here, but I have always wondered: is there any economic proof that we need full employment to reach full satisfaction of needs? To my knowledge, there isn’t. There’s a body of economics that goes into standards of living, and the increased standard of living. And here we get to our shitty world of unabated consumerism,Thorstein Veblen’s conspicuous consumption and George Battaille’s accursed share — the inevitable destiny of all economies to eventually produce more than they need, and, thus, waste it.
Seems to me that if we could think beyond capitalism and think of a new model, we could break out of this pointless cycle of more and more consumption of shit we don’t need and model things in another way..."

To read the entire article, click this link.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

"Teach Yourself." (poem)

My maternal grandmother (we called her Nanny) was a smart lady without a complete formal education; she only went to the fourth grade in a very rural Alabama schoolhouse.  Besides the experiences that life gave her, she read books bought at second-hand shops to educate herself.  This included the set of encyclopedias that she read for enjoyment each evening (I do that too!).   She thought there was nothing limiting you from learning something new - the sky is the limit!

Mary sits in her chair.
She’s worked all day.
She stretches to the shelf,
Grabs an encyclopedia,
Begins to read.
A fourth-grade education,
Then the cotton fields.
A bakery worker
And then a housekeeper.
She smiles as she reads.
Her eye follows her finger,
Her finger leads the words.
The nation of Finland,
The lifecycle of a fly,
Flowers of the Amazon,
The French Revolution.
She stops to think.
She gives herself a gift,
No one can take it away.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Easter Recipes from the South

Southern Baptists never acknowledged Lent in the 1970s but they loved a tooth-grittin’ly sweet dessert anytime.  Christians observing the Lenten season was as foreign to these parts as the Chinese language.  It was planting time down here in the South, and you couldn’t plow a cornfield or plant a garden fasting on fish or giving up fried foods – that’s what they did up in the big cities and the North. 

Girdle-Buster Pie 

20 Oreo cookies, crushed
¼ cup melted butter
1 quart vanilla ice cream, softened
1 small can evaporated milk
2 TB butter
½ cup sugar
2 squares bitter chocolate
½ tsp vanilla
Whipped cream
Toasted slivered almonds

Combine cookie crumbs and melted butter; pack into pie pan to make a crust, then freeze.  Spoon in vanilla ice cream; store in freezer.  Combine milk, butter, sugar, chocolate, and vanilla in a saucepan; cook over low heat until sauce is smooth, stirring frequently.  Let cool.  Serve pie topped with sauce, whipped cream, and slivered almonds.

(Source: New Holiday Cookbook: Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers, 1974, Mrs. Sara Martin Conkle, Chelsea HS, Chelsea, Alabama)

I remember when I was young if there was a get-together in the South, there was a three-congealed-salad minimum.  During Easter, it sometimes went up to five or six. And our ladies in blue hair religiously enforced it.

Sunshine Salad

1 3-oz. Package lemon gelatin
1 3-oz package orange gelatin
2 cups boiling water
1 ½  cups cold water
1 no.2 can crushed pineapple
2 bananas, diced
40 miniature marshmallows
2/3 cup sugar
2 TB flour
1 egg, beaten
1 cup whipped cream

Dissolve gelatins in boiling water; stir in cold water.  Chill until thickened.  Drain pineapple; reserve juice.  Add pineapple, bananas, and marshmallows to gelatin; mix well.  Place in shallow, oblong baking dish; chill until firm.  Mix sugar, flour, egg, and I cup reserved pineapple juice in double boiler; cook until thickened, stirring constantly.  Cool; fold in whipped cream.  Place on top of salad.  Grate cheese on top of dressing, if desired.

(Source: New Holiday Cookbook: Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers, 1974, Kathleen Burchett, Area Supvr of Home Economics, Jonesville, Virginia)

Ham was the usual meat dish for Easter in our South.  Some folks say that lamb is an alternative Southern meat for Easter, but that has to be a recent thing.  Lamb was a practically unknown dish in my part of the rural South.  As my Granny would say, “Them’s what they eat up North, that’s why they wear them fleece coats.”  Ham was the traditional dish because hogs were killed in the fall; and by Easter, the hams were smoked and cured to perfection. Anyway, we farm folks would eat plain ham, but some folks – those in the Southern part of the county, the descendants of the plantation people would sometimes serve ham with Jezebel Sauce.

Jezebel Sauce

1/3 to ½ small box dry mustard
1 large glass apple jelly
1 large glass pineapple preserves
½ small jar horseradish
2 tsp coarsely ground pepper

Mix mustard and apple jelly well.  Add remaining ingredients; mix thoroughly.  Place in decorative jars; tie ribbons on jars.  Tie on recipe card and serving suggestion for ham, roast pork or sausage.  Store in refridgerator; will keep indefinitely.

(Source: New Holiday Cookbook: Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers, 1974, Mrs. Emely Sundbeck, Manor HS, Manor, Texas)

Monday, 31 March 2014

Old Gardening Superstitions of the South

Plant corn when the dogwood blooms but never on May first, second and third; those are barren days.

Plant root vegetables in the dark of the moon and plant leaf vegetables in the new moon.

The first thunder of spring wakes up the snakes and tells you winter is busted.

You are sure of a rough winter if the grape or nut crops are heavy.

Snakes will not come around a place where gourds are growing.

Weeds won’t grow back if cut in March during the dark of the moon.

Ninety days after the first katydid is heard, there will be a frost.

To make peppers grow, you must be hot and mad when you’re planting them.

When it rains on June 2nd, there will be no blackberries.

Plant cotton among your cucumber plants and insects will not attack your cucumbers.

It is bad luck to haul off or burn sassafras wood.

Never point at a watermelon with your first finger or the watermelon will drop off the vine.  Point at it with all your fingers.

Slips from plants should be stolen, only the stolen ones will grow.