Saturday, 4 May 2013

Now I know why I am not happy.

I bought a packet of Lay’s “Classic” potato chips (crisps) this morning. The prose on the back side of the packet was stunning, viz:

“It all starts with farm grown potatoes, cooked and seasoned to perfection. So every LAY’S (r) potato chip is perfectly crispy and delicious. Happiness in every bite (r)”

Wow – the potatoes are “farm grown”.  What a shocker! 
Wow – there is Happiness in every bite (r)”.
Now I know why I am sometimes unhappy. It’s because I do not eat sufficient amounts of Lay’s “Classic” potato chips (crisps).

Friday, 3 May 2013


On Thursday evening, May 2nd, I was with my dear friends Ron and Charlotte Thompson who live in the Gulf Gate area of SRQ.  I met Ron and Char five years ago  through the agency of my St.. James's Cambridge secretary Judy Beers. Judy knew them in Wakefield, MA.  (I often bless Judy for this introduction).  Also with us was Ron's sister Karen and her husband Den who moved to SRQ about a year ago.

This morning I had breakfast (and a long and fruitful conversation) with Tom Dillon from Pittsfield MA. Tom, a Roman Catholic, would often attend liturgies at St. Stephen's (Episcopal) Parish in Pittsfield where I was Rector.  He now has a second home here in Bradenton, FL and we try to get together when he is in the area.

This afternoon I had along Skype conversation with one of my very best friends Joe Schorge. Joe hails from Cheshire MA.  He and his parents and siblings were part of the St. Stephen's community.  Joe has lived and worked in the U.K. for many years and is now a U.K. citizen.  He and his partner Marleise have a lovely young child "Rafie".

A few days ago I had an equally long conversation with the Revd. Gwen Sears  - "Deacon par excellence". We worked together for sixteen years at St. Stephen's.

These conversations reminded me of the following:

(Source )

Thus ended our little talk: yet it left a pleasant impression. True, the subject was strange enough; my sisters might have been shocked at it; and at my freedom in asking and giving opinions. But oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one's deepest as well as one's most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort -- the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person -- having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

The words (starting with "Oh, the comfort") are often attributed to George Eliot.

In fact they are by Dinah Maria (Mulock) Craik (1826-1887).  the quote is from her novel, A Life for a Life, published in 1859,

In  the novel a woman refers to a long Sunday afternoon conversation she'd had with a male friend following Sunday morning church, at which the minister had spoken out against the death penalty.

That's the context  - a mid 19th Century woman having a a safe conversation with a man. (That makes me think that novelist Dinah Craik was bold, advanced, wise and brace for her era).

And her words are so true

Here they are in their most familiar form:

Oh, the comfort -- the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person -- having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

I am grateful for the friends (those named above and others) with whom I have that comfort.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Jeremy Kyle: a bloviating and bullying popinjay?

For my sins I have used a few afternoons to watch the “scandal” T.V. shows on American T.V.  Truthfully, I need to know what folks are watching, hearing and reading if I wish to get out of my elitist cultural bubble and get some street cred. in my ministries. (Lord above - that sounds pompous!).

These cheaply made shows specialise in paternity tests, in cheating husbands or wives, and in the abuse (physical or sexual) of minors..
Everything gets resolved with a polygraph or DNA tests. If only life were so simple and uncomplicated!


Afternoon T.V. has the infamous Maury Povitch and Jerry Springer shows which should not be taken too seriously.

Both Springer and Povitch specialise in the salacious aspects of life (but I think that Jerry Springer has his tongue firmly in his cheek).

Then there is Steve Lycos (former Marine and Policeman) – who now has his own show, though he was once no more than a bouncer for Jerry Springer.

Lycos (who sometimes can be quite wise) specializes in words such as “get the hell off my stage”. He is at his worst when he screams at his hapless guests.

British/Australian hostess Trisha Goddard has excellent credentials, but her show sinks to the lowest common denominator of dealing with  sex/infidelity/abuse etc. This is a pity – she could with her experience and education have a show which truly helped folks in dysfunctional distress.

Down in the gutter is the Jeremy Kyle show.  Kyle (a Brit) is in my opinion, a bloviating and bullying popinjay.

I cannot for the life of me understand why Kyle has an American show.  I fervently hope that he will soon return to the United Kingdom, and revert to his first career as an insurance salesman.

I think that Kyle's show is utterly odious.  Here is how it is described  by a U.K. Judge (in September 2007).

Manchester Judge Alan Berg [6] described The Jeremy Kyle Show as trash which existed to "titillate bored members of the public with nothing better to do". He went on to say: "It seems to me that the purpose of this show is to affect a morbid and depressing display of dysfunctional people whose lives are in turmoil. It is human bear-baiting".

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Dogs, Cats, Pets, Veterinarians

Penne had her annual check up this morning.

As we entered the “Animal Medical Clinic” she began to tremble all over, even as she wagged her tail. 

When we went through the door leading to the examining room she bounded up to the scale at the end of the corridor, and hopped on it as if this were an everyday routine.  She weighed in at 36.9 lbs, “perfect”: said the vet, for her age and size. 

Our regular vet, Dr. Steve K. is very sick so we had a locum, Dr. Barbara McN.  I must say (even though I like Dr. K) I felt that Dr. McN had more simpatico for Penne
Penne had her three years Rabies Vaccination, her annual Leptospirosis and Bordetella Vaccinations, and her two years Parvo Vaccination. 

She did not flinch as the Doctor administered these shots, and she retained her dignity and poise when the Veterinarian did something rather inelegant at her south end. 

The Doctor determined (thank goodness) that my fabulous dog is free from heartworm.

Although Penne can sometimes be so very nervous, once we lifted her onto the examining table she relaxed so very beautifully
Penne emerged from her annual physical with flying colours.

I emerged minus $232.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Hello to American Republican Party and Tea Party members; to U.K..and Canadian Conservative party members; and to Australian Liberal party members. Please read this article. Then write an essay on why governmental regulation of business is so unimportant for business, but so vital for workers.

Toll in Bangladesh building collapse climbs to 290

SAVAR, Bangladesh (AP) — Crews bored deeper Friday into the wreckage of a garment-factory building that collapsed two days earlier, hoping for miracle rescues that would prevent the staggering death toll from rising much higher, as angry relatives of the missing clashed with police.
Some of those trapped under fallen concrete in the Rana Plaza building were still alive, rescue workers said, but they were so badly hurt and weakened that they will need to be extricated within a few hours if they are to survive.
Rescue workers had to cut off Mussamat Anna's mangled right hand to pull the 18-year-old garment worker free from the debris Thursday night.
"First a machine fell over my hand and I was crushed under the debris. ... Then the roof collapsed over me," she told an Associated Press cameraman from a hospital bed Friday.
Brig. Gen. Mohammed Siddiqul Alam Shikder, who is overseeing rescue operations, said the death toll at the building had reached 290, and that 2,200 people have been rescued. The garment manufacturers' group said the factories in the building employed 3,122 workers, but it was not clear how many were inside it when it collapsed Wednesday in Savar, a suburb of Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka.
Hundreds of rescuers, some crawling through the maze of rubble, spent a third day working amid the cries of the trapped and the wails of workers' relatives gathered outside the building, which housed numerous garment factories and a handful of other companies.
Police cordoned off the building site, pushing back thousands of bystanders and relatives, after rescue workers said the crowds were hampering their work.
Clashes erupted between relatives of those still trapped and police officers, who used batons to disperse the mobs. Police said 50 people were injured in the clashes.
"We want to go inside the building and find our people now. They will die if we don't find them soon," said Shahinur Rahman, whose mother is missing.
An army rescue worker, Maj. Abdul Latif, said he found one survivor still trapped under concrete slabs, surrounded by several bodies. At another place in the building, four survivors were found pinned under the debris, a fire official said.
The rescue workers said they were proceeding very cautiously inside the crumbling building, using their hands, hammers and shovels, to avoid more injuries to trapped survivors and avoid further collapses.
Police say cracks in the building had led them to order an evacuation of the building the day before it fell, but the factories ignored the order.
A military official, Maj. Gen. Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardy, told reporters that search and rescue operations would continue until at least Saturday.
"We know a human being can survive for up to 72 hours in this situation. So our efforts will continue non-stop," he said.
Some people have been pulled out of the wreckage alive, though severely weakened, more than a day after the collapse.
Forty people had been trapped on the fourth floor of the building until rescuers reached them Thursday evening. Twelve were soon freed, and crews worked to get the others out safely, said Brig. Gen. Mohammed Siddiqul Alam Shikder, who is overseeing rescue operations. Crowds at the scene burst into applause as survivors were brought out.
The odor of decaying bodies at the site is a constant reminder that many garment workers were not so lucky.
Thousands of workers from the hundreds of garment factories across the Savar industrial zone and other nearby industrial areas have taken to the streets to protest the collapse and poor safety standards.
Local news reports said protesters had smashed dozens of vehicles at one strike Friday. Most of the other protests were largely peaceful.
The disaster is the worst ever for Bangladesh's booming and powerful garment industry, surpassing a fire five months ago that killed 112 people and brought widespread pledges to improve the country's worker-safety standards.
Instead, very little has changed in Bangladesh, where wages, among the lowest in the world, have made it a magnet for numerous global brands.
Bangladesh's garment industry was the third-largest in the world in 2011, after China and Italy. It has grown rapidly in the past decade, a boom fueled by Bangladesh's exceptionally low labor costs. The country's minimum wage is now the equivalent of about $38 a month.
Officials said soon after the collapse that numerous construction regulations had been violated.
Abdul Halim, an official with Savar's engineering department, said the owner of Rana Plaza was originally allowed to construct a five-story building but added another three stories illegally.
Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir has said the building violated construction codes and that "the culprits would be punished." Local police chief Mohammed Asaduzzaman said police and the government's Capital Development Authority have filed separate cases of negligence against the building's owner.
Habibur Rahman, police superintendent of the Dhaka district, identified the owner of the collapsed building as Mohammed Sohel Rana, a local leader of ruling Awami League's youth front. Rahman said police were also looking for the owners of the garment factories.
Among the garment makers in the building were Phantom Apparels, Phantom Tac, Ether Tex, New Wave Style and New Wave Bottoms. Altogether, they produced several million shirts, pants and other garments a year.
The New Wave companies, according to their website, make clothing for several major North American and European retailers.
Britain's Primark acknowledged it was using a factory in Rana Plaza, but many other retailers distanced themselves from the disaster, saying they were not involved with the factories at the time of the collapse or had not recently ordered garments from them.
Wal-Mart said none of its clothing had been authorized to be made in the facility, but it is investigating whether there was any unauthorized production.
U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the collapse underscored the "urgent need" for the Bangladesh government, as well as the factory owners, buyers and labor groups, to improve working conditions in the country.
Human Rights Watch says Bangladesh's Ministry of Labor has only 18 inspectors to monitor thousands of garment factories in the sprawling Dhaka district, where much of the nation's garment industry is located.
John Sifton, the group's Asia advocacy director, also noted none of the factories in the Rana Plaza were unionized, and had they had been, workers would have been in a better position to refuse to enter the building on Wednesday.
AP Writers Muneeza Naqvi and Tim Sullivan in New Delhi, Stephen Wright in Bangkok, Kay Johnson in Mumbai, Matthew Pennington in Washington and AP Retail Writer Anne D'Innocenzio in New York contributed to this report.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

"Sequestration" a primer for readers outside the USA, a call to action by American Chrsitains.

At long last I discovered why the current Congress and President induced fiscal crisis is called “sequestration”.

It means that funds which have been approved in a budget (and God knows when the USA had a budget) could be sequestered by the treasury, and thus not released for spending, in effect making huge cuts in government expenditures.

This mad cap idea was agreed in the Budget Control Act of 2011.  

The thought was that the sequestration idea was so crazy, and the automatic ($85 billion) cuts so unthinkable, that the Senate, House and President would come to agreement for a budget for 2013.

(It was a bit like the President Obama, House Majority Leader Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Reid saying “we’ll get into a car together, set the cruise control to 85 mph, but there will be no hands on the steering wheel or foot on the brake until we are about to drive over a cliff, and at that point one of us will grab the wheel and step on the brakes”)

In the event not one of the three stepped on the brakes, or grabbed the steering wheel.  The car drove over the “fiscal cliff”.

Obama gave great speeches about driving, but did nothing. 

 Reid said “I am not sure if I should use the brakes and slow us down, or grab the wheel and make a u-turn, so I’ll do neither.  

Boehner (sitting of course in the back of the car) grinned and said “well, we Republicans have just gotten everything we wanted, drastic cut in expenditures, without a single penny of additional taxes”.

Sequestration has happened. Funds which Congress has allocated will not be released.

The President had forecast grim consequences if sequestration happened.  

The first consequence noted by the press (and there were many others which the press chose to ignore) was the furloughing of Flight Controllers, and the subsequent delays for flights.  

The House and Senate cobbled together a quick legislative fix, and the President leaned over backwards to sign it.  

[This does not involve the releasing of additional funds to the Federal Aviation Authority, but it gives the FAA the authority to  switch around already allocated funds  -  so for instance, monies which the FAA had requested for infrastructure (airport improvements etc) could instead be used to pay salaries.]

In the meantime the consequences of sequestration “on the ground” have begun to bite.

Here is an article from Utah – a State which is hardly a place for bleeding liberal hearts, in fact it is one of the most conservative of States.

And more to the Christian point here is an article by Margaret, an Episcopal Priest in what is most likely the poorest place in these United States.  Margaret’s article has done the rounds, but I include it so that American Voters can use it as they write their Senators and Representatives.


My name is Margaret. I am the Episcopal priest serving the Cheyenne River Reservation. It is a difficult job, at best, but I have never felt more fully alive than when serving the good people of South Dakota.

Here is my concern: The "Sequester" cuts have cut to the bone here on the Reservation. Our Social Services workers will be working without a direct office supervisor, and will be expected to absorb the work load of their supervisor when she is laid off beginning May 1. They already each have over 150 clients. I have heard one serves more than 260 clients --adding more is going to make a difficult job impossible.

But more importantly, the clients themselves have been cut off --they have received no monies since the beginning of March. They are coming to my door asking for heating fuel, food, clothes, diapers. Children are at risk. There are no Tribal programs that can assist these folks, they are mostly disabled, elderly with grandchildren in the home, or are desperate for work. Last night, after a funeral, I delivered left over food to people's homes. Funeral food to a family of six of baloney sandwiches, biscuits, two apples, two oranges and some chocolate cake.

I cannot afford to feed all the people who come to my door asking for help. I have emptied my own freezer, my own cupboard in order to help these desperate folks.

I would like to invite you and any one else who is interested to come and stay here for ten days. Just ten days. I would like you to open my door and hear the stories, see the faces, see the desperation and despair. I would like you to feed the people from my freezer --and when it is empty explain to them why it is they have to go hungry and cold.

I would like you to attend the funeral I would probably do sometime in that 10 days and see the faithfulness, the generosity, the generational grief. I would like you to come with me on home visits and see the extreme poverty out of which that faithfulness and generosity and grief springs.

In the last six months, I have done 40 funerals --six infants, two teen suicides, and many, many folks under the age 40.

And food, shelter and heat are not the only problems here --the Indian Health Services were also part of the Sequester cuts. And the cuts are affecting the Head Start programs.

Have you all become so twisted up in your political lives that you have forgotten the people you have been called to serve?

I think so.

Look, it's really easy --have no cap on Social Security payments --everyone pays, all the way up. Including you. Don't make me pay 25% and more on taxes while the ultra-rich pay 15%. Don't give yourself healthcare benefits and raises and then deny them to others.

Don't punish the children and the elderly and the poor and the disabled by cutting the programs that at least keep them alive at poverty levels. 
Oh, and by the way, don't sacrifice the environment for monetary gain --that will kill us all. 

I'll say it again: Don't exempt yourselves from the burden the poor must bear every day.

I can only say I am shocked and depressed by my own government. Do better than this. The people you are supposed to serve deserve better.

Shocked and depressed,
The Rev. Margaret Watson