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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rush Limbaugh: Hungry School Kids Should Eat From Dumpsters!

(If U-Tube Video doesn't show click on read more.) Here is a little more on diving, this time from Rush.  Perhaps Rush could do some civic good by teaching these school children a class on how to dumpster dive, using the head first technique.

The Art of Dumpster Diving

(If U-Tube Video doesn't show click on read more.) There are two sides to the question of dumpster diving.  One side is that is reduces our dependence on the mass consumer culture and helps the planet by recycling what would otherwise be landfill and energy waste.  The other side of the question is that it is sad that it becomes a necessity in this down economy.

The Good Death


The article below is revised and republished from another blog I ran in the past. 

Where to begin regarding death?   It isn’t just a matter of first impressions.  It’s also a matter of what road I travel down.  The poet Frost settled that question.  Yes, one can always begin again.  I’ve done that more than once in my life.  But eventually one begins to run out of beginnings.  When that happens it becomes more profitable to begin at the end.

So perhaps, in the interest of time, dear reader, even though I think (perhaps erroneously, as God may decide) that I still have a few beginnings left, I will begin at the end for your benefit.

The presence of that end is still only theoretical, but it looms larger as time passes.  You see, I have arrived at the place where I leave the door unlatched at night.  Not the door to the outside, but rather the door to the inside.

I live, you see, in a room in a rooming house, with one door to the outside, and one door into the rooming house.  I’ve reached that age where someone living, single, in a boarding house has to contemplate the idea of being found more than one day dead.  Probably not any time soon, and not the greatest concern in my life, but a real thought none the less.  I doubt I would rest dead for long , as I have a great deal of the only true wealth in life—friends.  And many of my family live in this metropolitan area.  Never the less I have developed the habit of making my discovery easier, giving that the other denizens of this  rooming house may not be as motivated to discover me as my friends, and my friends may not think of my absence for two or three days. Maybe it’s a final vanity.

Then again I should not underestimate my friends.  I was too ill one day to go to a Sunday mass and a friend who missed me came to knock on my door.  That is a comfort.  But never the less I make it easy to be found as a reminder to myself of the fragility of human life.

In Catholic tradition we are to contemplate the four last things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell.  The contemplation of these four last things is a preparation and reminder in life, of what is truly important, as we do not normally posses in life the beatific vision (the vision of God).  It is the habit that prepares us for what we can the “Good Death.”

Bishops in the middle ages traditionally kept a skull on their desk, a a reminder of death, so that they, in their teaching office, would remind others of the four last things.  Others, myself included, wear a scapular, given by the Virgin Mary to a saint with a promise of eternal life to all who wear it faithfully.  I believe its function is like that skull—to remind us of what is truly important.

The preparation for death is a life’s work.  Trivial measures like my unlocked door are only the smallest part. It would be much preferable, by tradition, to die surrounded by friends and family, in your bed, talking with them to the end.  To have your friends alerted by concerned rooming house residents is a signed that death has come like a thief in the night. 

But then again death does come often like a thief in the night.  And even if it has come in that manner we hope for an otherwise good death.  For the most essential part of a good death is to die at peace with good, and at peace with any who welcome your peace.  To restate this in Catholic terms, a good death is  most of all to die in a state of Grace.  To die aware of your sins and having sincerely asked for forgiveness and taken all possible steps to make amends.  To die blessed by sacraments and prayer. To die in love with God and man.

But in this modern age, death has been cheapened. It has been cheapened by life being cheapened.  We took a rather bad turn for the worse in the mid-twentieth century with the mass genocides of World War Two. (Not only the Nazi holocaust, but fascist blood purges and the Japanese “Rape of Nanking” in China. And the fire bombings of Japan and Dresden by the United States followed by our use of atomic weapons, all on civilian populations. Yes, earlier still we had the poison gasses of World War One and the Armenian massacre, but World War Two was a high water mark in the disregard for human life.

You see it has often been said that life is sacred, but I remind you here that death is sacred.  Death is the summing up of a life.  If we take a human beings death away from them we have rejected the entire dignity of human life.   To do this on a mass scale is the opposite of preparing for a Good Death.  We have rejected repeatedly everything that is good in death and made it evil.  We are then preparing ourselves for an Evil Death.

In contemplation of what has changed about the attitude towards life and death in modernity I watch a good number of films about World War Two and read a good number of films.  Yes, I read a good deal of religious literature, especially the bible.  But I find seeing the attitude towards death in modernity through the door of World War Two shocks me out of any complacence on the subject.  The study of that war is like the door we open to find the dead roommate. 

I read somewhere recently a statement shocking it its ignorance.  A writer claimed that none of us will die without anything.  No one, he claimed, dies naked.  But the Nazi’s perfected the mass looting of everything from those about to die.  I suggest, dear reader, you read Ellie Wiesel’s book, Night.  A survivor of Auschwitz, he reveals to us the absolute inhumanity of the process in the camps.  Those being sent to the “showers” to die from poison gas piled up the last of there possessions.  They were stripped naked. When I think of this my mind goes next to the crucifixion of Our Lord, when the soldiers gambled for his clothes and placed him naked on the cross.  

Indeed, we actually posses nothing at the time of our death, even if we have not been so mistreated.  For nothing we have owned in our life means anything.  I have often contemplated the manner of Nelson Rockefeller’s death.  One of the wealthiest men in the world, dying of a hearth attack in an emergency room, the gurney he was on was shoved aside by mistake (presumably) and he died alone and without emergency treatment.

Now we face another challenge to the dignity of life and death.  We faced in Iraq, and now increasing in parts of Afghanistan, though a sort of mass slaughter terrorism a new phenomena: Genocide by National Suicide.   In Iraq, for a while, it became commonplace to consider a natural death as a blessing from God.  A natural death is no longer expected.  That made the whole country of Iraq akin to a Nazi death camp.  And now we see a national slaughter occurring in response to the Libyan uprising.

In the face of such a death, a death resulting from others trying to remove everything that is good in death, only the most focused contemplation on God can alleviate our terror.  And the induction of such terror is an attempt to prevent us from a death focused on love of God and man.  So in Middle East today, and elsewhere in the world, we are facing the phenomena of man attempting to kill God, to kill him in the human death, in the name of religion.  Putting aside differences we may have on Middle Eastern politics, we can I think agree on the evil of that.

So dear, I come to the painful moment.  The moment of the end, when I must ask you to contemplate your own death, and prepare your thoughts on the subject. God Bless you all.  

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

99ers Dine in Dumpsters UNEMPLOYED DIVE FOR THEIR DINNER

Hey I'll admit.  Years ago at the end of the 1960's I did a little dumpster diving.  It is amazing what good food can be there.  But this should not be the solution to our unemployment problem.  Congressman Jackson is asking all of us who are unemployed to send our resumes to Congress.  More on other posts on my blog. 

01.12.11: Jesse Jackson Jr on Placing the Resumes of Unemployed People i...

Please help yourselves and your fellow unemployed Americans by answering Jessie's call.  Especially if you are a 99er or long term unemployed, someone forced into early retirement, or a veteran, send your resume.  Even if you are working part time or temp or newly unemployed but want a permanent full time job, send it. Write your story--why or how long you have been without work, our your work history, or how little money you have to live on.  Jessie says we need as "Jobs Party".

Veterans Resumes for Congress

The last couple days, as you may know dear readers, I have been commented on Congressman Jessie Jackson Jr.'s efforts to get resumes emailed to Congress. He is trying to get resumes and the stories of the unemployed into the Congressional Record, and in the faces of other Congress people so that Congress will be forced to act on the unemployment problem.  Right now Congress is debating cutting all job training and cutting many programs that have created jobs, while doing nothing new to create jobs.

One of the groups hard hit is Veterans, especially Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Congressman Jackson has set up a special email address for veterans  Alittle more on this can be found at: http://woundedtimes.blogspot.com/2011/02/unemployed-veterans-congress-wants-your.html.  The email address for veterans is resumesfromveterans@mail.house.gov.  


For non-veterans continue to use: resumesforamerica@mail.house.gov

For information about how to format your resume for Congress: http://www.house.gov/cao-hr/app_form.shtml

Once again, if you send a nice letter to Congress about your life, your job situation, unemployment, etc, and you send me a copy at j.f.drake@hotmail.com, or leave it as a comment on this article, you are sharing with other Americans even before it gets published in the Congressional record.  Please send me copies of your cover letters.

Send Congress Your Resume


Yesterday I published a letter I sent to Congress with my resume.  As I reported Congressman Jessie Jackson Jr. has asked that all the unemployed send Congress there resume.  My friend Sally Metcalf has sent Congress her resume and given me permission to publish it on my blog. Tell everyone you know who is unemployed to to send Congress their resume and their story and then if they send me a copy of the cover email I will publish it if suitable, until I run out of time and room.  Not only those looking for work, but the "discouraged unemployed" who would start looking if they felt they stood a chance.  Also those working part time or temp who want full time work, and those forced into early retirement by unemployment.  Have them all send there resume.

 The email address for Congressional resumes is: resumesforamerica@mail.house.gov  However after you send it there you may want to send copies to other Congresspeople to make sure they read it. We don't want it to get stuck in HR.  If you want to send me a copy of your story either post it as a comment to one of the unemployment stories or email it to j.f.drake@hotmail.com. 


Letter to Congress;
My name is Sally Metcalf and I'm unemployed. Lest you think I'm a freeloader living at ease on my unemployment benefits, know that my benefit check totals $940 per month. I can't quite live on that (could you?) and have wiped out my savings (what little I had after two protracted layoffs since the economic crash in 2007). I am on the brittle edge of homelessness.
I cannot afford health and dental insurance, which are sorely needed, as teeth are going bad and I have an inherited blood disorder that, if not carefully treated, could render me disabled or dead.  
I'm doing my best to maintain health and steadily apply for work; and I'm doing a great job. I've availed myself of all WorkSource's excellent trainings on how to find a job and am resourcefully applying these strategies. Being naturally proactive, I even started an in-home support group of mature job seekers; and share every opportunity I discover that is relevant with my fellow job seekers.
This is what I'm doing. Now what about YOU!
Inconceivable sums have been delivered by my Federal Government into the hands of US corporations on the assumption they would hire the unemployed. These businesses are sitting on the money or investing it in off-shore enterprises and the economy is solidly rebounding. Yet, still,they are not hiring. So much for the Republican notion that corporations need no oversight by the Fed to do the right thing. Corporations are misusing my tax money and acting fallaciously while millions of talented Americans suffer loss and degradation. I demand you call corporations to account and force them to hire! And to hire US citizens!
I am 62 years old. Never in my working career have I met with such severe age prejudice as I, and many other older Americans, do now. We are severely hampered by a host of false assumptions and myths about our employability.
A recent statistic stated that unemployment for college grads is at 4.3%. I hate to think what that statistic is for those over 45, who are a huge portion of the present workforce. Can you even accurately track it, given that so many of us have run out of unemployment benefits? I demand that businesses be required to hire proportionately to the ages of those unemployed, and that the longest unemployed be given hiring priority.
Point blank, for me, running out of benefits means that I (given my health issues and lack of resources) would become homeless and die on the street. I demand affordable national health care immediately.
Every couple of months an article in the Seattle Times states that those who are older and unemployed will likely never work again, as no one will hire us—especially those of us who have been out of work longest. We are somehow tainted by our own unemployment. Can you imagine the grief and suffering this means for hundreds of thousands of worthy Americans. There is a long-standing prejudice that the unemployed are shiftless, that is, unemployable. I demand that these destructive myths and prejudices be shattered and that the unemployed be valued, promoted, and actively sought out for their tremendous potential to contribute to a successful and vital America.
My most recent job was with a recruiting firm. They rarely considered presenting candidates for job openings who were unemployed. This is a common requirement of corporate hiring authorities; and, frankly, in this economy, it is nothing less than tragic. I demand that employers be summarily reeducated and hiring preference be forcefully shifted to those who are unemployed.
In recent years, more US corporations, freed by trade agreements to pursue profit without counting the cost to their own country, have shifted overseas causing literal ghost towns to arise where industry once thrived. Instead of an industrious producer in the global market, the US has become a consumer nation, a debtor on a hopeless scale. I demand we rebuild business at home, employing increasing thousands, until production and sales once again outstrip consumption and debt.
Lastly, other nations are dealing with severe unemployment more successfully and actively than we are. For example, Germany instituted a job-sharing program to bring greater numbers into the workforce. I demand we focus our most brilliant and resourceful minds on inventive and effective solutions for how to get Americans back to work and ACT now to do just that. To this end, I demand that employment security departments across the country be vitalized with the support needed to develop and institute viable new solutions to unprecedented joblessness.
If you need to fund the demands I'm making, stiffly fining employers and corporations for not meeting these hiring requirements would suffice. Demanding that stimulus money be returned by businesses that have not been hiring commensurate to their funding might produce results as well.
It takes bold strategy and solid moral muscle to move wealthy corporations who've been encouraged throughout the last presidency to put self-service and greed first in the idolatry of profit at the expense of the nation. In the time of the Great Depression and FDR, his New Deal morally reeducated and restructured business and society to provide for the disenfranchised and for those without hope or opportunity. I demand a New Deal! Let's put America back to work! And I want a piece of the action. I can make a powerful difference in this recovery. Give me a job!
 Truly,
Sally Metcalf 

Nonprofit Specialist

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What is Faith

For those of us who are Christian, or any kind of monotheistic believer, faith is a core element of our spirituality. Paul abjures us to the virtues of "Faith, Hope and Charity".

It is generally thought that conversion, religious commitment, begins with belief and that belief and faith are the same.  But are those things true.

Many Jews say that your religion is what you do, not what you believe, cited the medieval theologian, philosopher and physician, Moses Maimonides. What they mean is that your commitment to the practice of your religion is more important than conventional notions of belief.  At the other end of the spectrum on this question, many Evangelical Christians think that salvation is assured by answering an altar call and never wavering in belief, while the practice of ones faith is a small matter, since Jesus died for our sins. It's difficult to square that with the Epistle of James or many parts of the Gospels that call on the believer to do good works and avoid sin.

The Greek word for faith that the New Testament generally used was not in fact synonymous with belief, but  more like what we mean when we say faithfulness in a marriage. If that in fact was all that the New Testament meant, it would be saying essentially the same thing as Maimonides.  However in my Catholic faith, as usual, it is both and as the meaning, which I concur with. To explain what I mean I shall start with three examples of modern Christians.

First  is Dorothy Day, one of the founders of the Catholic Workers, whom I never tire of holding up for emulation.  After years as a left wing journalist and New York city activist Dorothy Day found herself on Long Island living with her boyfriend.  She saw the religious sisters running a soup kitchen for the poor and in that saw a commitment to immediate practical help for the poor that was usually lacking in American leftist organizations. She began to spend time with the sisters and in Church, and finding herself pregnant by her boyfriend, she had the child baptized, even though he left her over the baptism. It was only after that that she herself converted.  So Dorothy first became involved with the works of the church, then the prayer, then the sacraments, and finally converted and believed.  Her belief and faith followed her conversion through the "Acts of the Apostles" so to speak. Dorothy then moved back to New York and began helping the poor, where she meet Peter Maurin who urged her to help him found a newspaper and organization for Catholic workers, which they did.  Dorthy's faith seldom if ever wavered from that point, and she always said she accepted all the teachings of the Church. So for her her conversion began through works, and continued with both believe and a faith walk through works.

The second is Mother Teresa of Calcutta, famed for her ceaseless work for the poor of India.  Mother Teresa was already a religious sister in a teaching order when she received her call to help the poor directly from Christ himself, who walked up to her as a poor beggar in a railway station and asked for her help. Yet after her death it was discovered in her diaries, that while she never abandoned her faith, she was racked with doubts.  She wrote that since her original call she never again was aware of Christ save in the Eucharist or the faces of the poor whom she helped.  She confessed to many moments of struggle and near despair over her belief.    So for Mother Teresa it was the practice of the Sacraments and the work with the poor that kept her faith alive, rather than her prayer life.  And yet she advocated a strong daily prayer life always beginning with contemplation. She believed, but the walk of the faith sustained her belief.
Finally there is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor.  Bonhoeffer was a vigorous opponent of the    the Nazis as an evil contrary to Christian teaching.  Bonhoeffer was in America studying under his friend  Reinhold Niebbuhr who had become close to the African American church in Harlem.  Bonhoeffers experience in New York was radically different than what was soon happening in Germany to which he returned in 1931 .  He delivered a radio address attacking Hitler and advocated church resistance to the persecution of the Jews.  While he spent two years in London, he returned to Germany to teach at an underground seminary for the "Confessing Church". After much persecution he returned to the United States, in 1938, but regretting it, he returned to Germany, even though he knew  this would likely lead to his eventual arrest or even death.  Eventually arrested he was imprisoned and executed a mere three weeks before the Soviet liberation of Berlin. For Bonhoeffer his faith walked wavered, but compelled him back to become a martyr. 


When I think of these three Christians I think that faith and action are bound firmly together.  I love my Evangelical brothers and sisters who are motivated by that first call to belief, and I know that in practice most of them have as much walk in their faith as belief.  And I also know that most of my Jewish brothers and sisters have a strong faith rooted in Abraham, not merely a walk. But few of us have the degree of faith that my three Christian heroes have, and I hope we all seek to have both their belief and there works. 





My Resume for Congress

This morning while watching C-Span I heard Congressman Jessie Jackson Jr make an announcement in the House of his desire for the unemployed and the "99er's" to send there resume and story as a cover to Congress. This apparently is not his first request, and I found a story at Huffington Post on this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-thornton/rep-jesse-jackson-jr-rece_b_809589.html . Jessie has gotten over 15,000 resumes already.  For those of you who want to send congress the story of your job search and your resume the address is resumesforamerica@mail.house.gov


I'm not going to post my resume here, but here is the letter:


Dear Congress,

I am 60 years old, too young to be retired, too old to be unemployed. In the current economy and at my age and health my chances of re-employment diminish.  I wasn't planning to retire early, but rather late, because of my small amount of savings.  Now, when I do get a job again, I will have to postpone retirement even longer.  I had almost no contacts about employment in spite of applying for about 6 to 12 jobs a week since I lost my job.  My economic circumstances had gradually eroded so that I had to start living in a rooming house. 

Since I returned to Seattle,in 1993,  I have largely worked in either retail or parking and had worked for Ampco Parking for 13 years.   I haven't had even 72 hours of work since I lost my job last September, and am almost completely dependent on my unemployment check. My bills are piling up. I am planning to start selling my book collection and some of my Videos and DVD's.  I am planning to discount my landline and depend solely on my cell phone. 

I have lived a diverse and interesting life.  Like Obama, I was once a community organizer.  I organised A Tenants Union in Santa Cruz, CA once, and then worked in organizing low income workers and neighborhoods, helping their causes and providing services.   I have always been someone to volunteer, stating in high school or get involved, and to think of the needs of others. I volunteer at my church on movie nights, as an usher, and on the Peace and Justice Committee.

I have also been a journalist in the past.  Now write two blogs and do other online writing. One of the blogs is about my unemployment and life in the margins of America, drawing perspective from the Catholic Worker movement and the social teachings of the church and the bible. My other blog is about the arts.  Although I have my own political and religious bias expressed in my blogs, I have my non-Catholic, even non-religious friends, and many conservative friends.  In fact some of my blog followers are conservatives to disagree with my solutions, my way of interpreting the social teachings of the church, but admire my concern for the poor and sympathize with my situation. I will probably post a copy of this email for them to read and put a link from my Facebook page to the blog post. 

 Now I am one of those in need, going to food banks, getting my coffee at Jack in the Box for 55 cents by asking for the senior discount, cutting every corner and buying only what I absolutely need. I hang out in lines with desperate looking characters. 

 I am uninsured, as Cobra was too expensive for me when I lost my job and I have what was supposed to be a sprain to the finger, but which was probably X-Rayed from the wrong angle, and seems like a permanent injury and deformation.  While I can work and use my hand, I can't type with my small finger, or close it completely.  Short of going back to the ER and getting more unpayable bills, without benefits I have no means to treat it. 

I am hanging in their with the support and prayers of a great church community, my family and friends, my Facebook friends and blog readers. I try to be thankful to God every day for each little thing he provides me and to focus on the bigger issues --like the struggles of the Egyptian people, our nations problems, everyone else who is poor or unemployed.  I am hoping, that like the 1930's, we will end the decade as a less selfish, more cooperative, more optimistic nation that when we entered these hard times.  I will pray for our nations leaders tonight, that all of you get granted the wisdom to help our suffering people. 

I have attached, saved in SkyDrive, my general purpose resume. I have of course have other resumes, but my general one tells my story.  

God Bless you and God Bless all the poor and unemployed,

Joseph Drake


So dear readers, I'm going to ask that as you send your letter and resume to Congress, you send them to me also, so that I can publish as many of them as possible. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

No Recovery for the American Worker  — The American, A Magazine of Ideas

The American Enterprise Institute, in it's magazine, points out that this is the weakest American economic recovery from any post WWII recovery, and that the recovery has barely benefited the workers, which raises a question of its durability. It also points out that adding the officially unemployed, the discouraged unemployed and the underemployed together we have a 17% real unemployment rate. That is more nearly Great Depression levels than recovery levels.

No Recovery for the American Worker — The American, A Magazine of Ideas